Petrilla, Chadd and Daichendt Violated California Elections Code
September 2, 2014 • by OC Political Watchdog
OC Political Watchdog received a press release today confirming Orange County Superior Court Judge Kirk Nakamura just ruled that Rancho Santa Margarita City Council Candidates Jesse Petrilla and Donald Chadd, and developer Joseph Daichendt, made six illegal statements in their official Ballot Argument in Favor of Measure Z—a controversial ballot initiative seeking to rezone a portion of the RSM Auto Center. The judge ordered the Registrar of Voters to remove the false statements before they are printed and distributed to voters with their sample ballots.
Measure Z is opposed by every Mayor in the City of Rancho Santa Margarita’s history – and by a majority of the current City Council. William Furniss filed a petition with the court seeking to have the false statements stricken so that voters would not be misled. William Furniss v Pat Healy and Jesse Petrilla – Petition for Writ of Ma… Ex Parte App and Memo of PA Reply Brief In Support of Writ of Mandate.
Furniss argued, and the Court agreed, the statements were illegal in violation of Elections Code section 9295(b)(2) because they were each false and/or misleading. Furniss v. Healy – Order Granting and Denying Petition for Writ of Manda…
The statements rejected by the court undermine the core arguments used by the developer for months in support of Measure Z. The court ruled the following six statements were false and/or misleading:
- “Even though the property is located at the busiest intersection in RSM (Santa Margarita Pkwy/Empresa), 3 auto dealerships closed at the location…”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed three auto dealerships have not previously opened and then subsequently closed at this location. Only one Nissan dealership ever failed and closed at the subject property – Family Nissan – which closed on May 16, 2008. Therefore, the statement was illegal because it misrepresented history and created the false and misleading impression there was a long history of three auto dealerships that failed and closed at this location.
- “…and the site is in its 7th year of Vacancy, despite the extensive efforts to attract a new dealership.”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed the property isnot vacant – and has not been vacant for at least the past 18 months. Photographs submitted to the court proved nearly all the Subject Property is being utilized by the current occupants (RSM U-Haul and Rancho Santa Margarita RV’s & Vehicle Sales).
- “Auto industry experts, including one hired by the City, all agree that no automobile manufacturer is interested in re-occupying the site and this situation is not going to change.”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed no auto industry expert hired by the City ever agreed with that statement – and because “all” auto industry experts do not “all agree” that no automobile manufacturer is interested in re-occupying the site and that this situation is not going to change. For example, the auto industry expert hired by the City (The London Group) issued a formal report confirming the subject property was viable for auto-related uses and there was no basis to change the existing zoning.
- “The City then unlawfully refused to place this measure on the ballot and had to be ordered to do so by the Orange County Superior Court.”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed the City never unlawfully refused to place Measure Z on the ballot.
- “[T]hree of the five Council members…wanted to deny you a right to vote.”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed that on July 23, 2014, the one and only time the City Council was ever asked to consider whether to put the initiative petition to a vote, a unanimous City Council voted to put Measure Z on the November 4, 2014 General Election ballot. Every Mayor in the history of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita has officially opposed Measure Z (including current councilmembers Gamble and Beall) –and their efforts to warn residents about the negative impacts of Measure Z did not evidence an attempt to deny voters the right to vote as Daichendt, Petrilla and Chadd improperly stated.
- “The vote on the Council to block the productive use of this property was not unanimous…”
- Judge Nakamura invalidated this statement because the evidence showed the City Council never voted to block the productive use of this property. On January 8, 2014 — the City Council merely voted to reject the property owner’s application for a re-zoning (thereby keeping in place the existing Auto Center zoning which is 100% consistent with the Rancho Santa Margarita master plan as the subject property was always master planned to be part of the Auto Center and has never been utilized for any other purpose).
Furniss stated, “As a long-time community activist and local businessperson, I felt it was my responsibility to set the record straight and protect the residents of our award-winning master planned community.”
A comprehensive report analyzing and detailing the impacts that would result if Measure Z was implemented was presented to the City Council on July 23, 2014 – which report confirmed:
- Traffic Congestion on Santa Margarita Parkway would increase by 3,200+ cars daily.
- Potential $540,000 annual loss of City revenues ($5,400,000 over 10 years).
- Loss of this dealership site would compromise the continuing viability of the remaining Auto Center.
- Potential $1,500,000 annual loss of City revenues if the entire Auto Center closes ($15,000,000 over 10 years).
- The City could be forced to consider raising taxes and cutting vital services to residents.
For these reasons, Mayor Carol Gamble, Mayor Pro Tem Brad McGirr, Councilman Tony Beall and Planning Commission Chairman Mike Vaughn stated in their official Ballot Argument against Measure Z, “As your Mayor and City Leaders, we believe this initiative to re-zone a portion of the RSM Auto Center is the single greatest threat to our City’s award-winning master plan and your quality of life – ever.” Argument Against Measure Z
Mike Winsten was the successful attorney who represented William Furniss. Winsten was pleased with the outcome, stating, “This is an important victory for RSM residents – and for the credibility of the electoral process.”