‘Malibu Citizens’ lose the round


A Reporter’s Opinion

For weeks, the question has been, “Will he or won’t he?” Will the judge make the group, “Malibu Citizens for Less Traffic on Pacific Coast Highway” (MCLT) and its founder Gil Segel produce their bank records or not?

The answer came Friday in the courtroom of Judge Robert. H. O’Brien. The answer was, Yes, those bank records can be subpoenaed, and, according to the attorneys involved, that’s what the next step will be unless the matter is appealed and stayed.

Segel, the MCLT and their attorney, Brad Hertz, had gathered all their fire power in the papers they filed with the court. They charged that the cases filed by the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the city of Malibu were all “smoke and mirrors ” and nothing more than the result of a “vengeful losing candidate,” “an overzealous state agency” and “a biased city attorney” who were all “determined to teach Malibu’s slow-growth advocates a lesson. . . .” As if that weren’t bad enough, they charged that unholy trio of trying “to chill their constitutional rights and to make them think twice before speaking out about development and traffic in the city of Malibu.”

They also dramatically charged that the state “protests too much . . . [i]n trying to defend its heavy-handed investigation (complete with nighttime raids of witnesses’ homes and other stalker-like tactics reminiscent of Big Brother. . . .” By this, I assume they meant they were quite unhappy that the state was very determined to see that no one ducked its subpoenas

Segel and MCLT also told the judge they took great offense at what they charge was “the level of distortion by Jennings of his own voting record.”

Their papers also indicated a new addition to their enemies list — the name of present Malibu Planning Director Craig Ewing, who was referred to in their papers as “a close Jennings ally.” I’m sure this came as a great surprise to Jennings and Ewing. Has Ewing joined that august company of previous Planning Directors Joyce Parker, accused of being a pro-growth, pro-Jennings planning director, and her predecessor, Bob Benard, also charged with harboring pro-development sympathies by the Keller-Van Horn axis? Without deciding whether this was some sort of congenital anomaly in planning directors that suddenly turned them pro-development in middle age, the judge confined himself to the narrow issue of the subpoena and said, and I paraphrase, “Give ’em the bank records.”

He did that despite a series of arguments and a parade of declarations under oath from the MCLT and its compatriots.

The arguments ran this way:

Judge, you shouldn’t consider the state’s court documents.

Judge, the city’s brief and related documents shouldn’t be considered either.

Judge, we didn’t do it.

Judge, the ads weren’t false and misleading, but even if they were, it doesn’t matter legally.

Judge, the fact that the ads said “political advertising” doesn’t mean anything.

Judge, the fact that some of the donors may have mistakenly associated MCLT with the Tom Hasse campaign doesn’t mean anything.

Judge, just because MCLT and the Road Worriers used some of the same words in their ads or shared some of the same members is of no legal significance.

Judge, Gil Segel swore that the state made false and misleading assertions but is offended at the state’s claims that the MCLT ads contain false or misleading information. He also wanted MCLT to remain anonymous and that desire for anonymity had nothing to do with avoiding any reporting obligations under Malibu’s campaign regulations or the Political Reform Act.

Judge, Joanne Segel, Gil’s wife, said in her sworn declaration she didn’t know why her name was on a receipt for an advertisement attacking Jennings placed in the Surfside News, other than she was standing at the counter the same time as this fellow and the Surfside News employee just mistakenly assumed that she was the contact person for that fellow. Nor was she involved in another ad attacking Jennings placed by a neighbor of hers. She merely carried the ad and the check down to the Surfside News and she was just acting as a messenger.

And when one of the Surfside News employees said in a sworn statement that she appeared nervous when placing the ads and said something like, “You didn’t see me do this,” or, “That never happened,” what she really meant — and I quote directly from her sworn declaration — “I do not recall being nervous or making such comments, but to the extent I did seem nervous or make such comments, it would have been because I did not want anyone else to see me placing the ads, and I did not want to lose my anonymity with regard to the ads. To the extent the FPPC intends to imply that I was nervous or anonymous because I was doing something wrong, I resent the implication.”

And it goes on and on.

Come on folks. Just admit you made a mistake, and you’re sorry and you won’t do it again.