Malibu Campaign Watch Commission: Decision on John Mazza ad

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A complaint was filed by Jeff Jennings with the commission against John Mazza’s ad that appeared in The Malibu Times and the Malibu Surfside News, dated March 18, 2004. Andrew Stern also filed essentially the same complaint. There were responses in support of the ad by Mr. Mazza, Robert Adler and John Carrigan. The ad states the following:

The risk of re-electing Jeff Jennings and Ken Kearsley and letting our City Council turn Malibu over to the commercial developers is too great. They have already demonstrated that they are willing to give away your property rights to enhance the property values of the Malibu Bay Company. They ignored concerns about the lack of traffic mitigation, parks and ball fields. They fired Malibu Planning Commissioners Adler and Roney when they would not support the City Council’s decision to approve the Malibu Bay Company Agreement….

Mr. Stern stated that he was the only person to remove Mr. Adler from the Planning Commission and he submitted the statement he made at the time as the cause of firing. The complaint is that the ad clearly refers to Jeff Jennings and Ken Kearsley, both of whom note that they had nothing to do with the firing. The Commission reviewed the ad, the material submitted by both sides.

While Mr. Jennings challenges all the statements in the ad, the Commission determined that the only factual statement is “They fired Malibu Planning Commissioners Adler and Roney when they would not support the City Council’s decision to approve the Malibu Bay Company Agreement.” The other statements are opinion or characterizations of events. The Commission’s decision not to comment on those statements is not a reflection of the truth or fairness of those statements. The Commission focused solely on the statement that purported to be fact.

In the opinion of the Commission, the ad is inaccurate because it implies that Jennings and Kearsley fired the planning commissioners, which they did not. Because the ad names only Jennings and Kearsley, and then goes on to use the pronoun “they,” the reader can only infer those are the persons being discussed.

Whatever the reason for the firing, planning commissioners serve at the will of the councilmember who appoints them. In this case, the councilmembers who fired them were the ones who appointed them, and neither Jennings nor Kearsley fired the commissioners they appointed, one of whom resigned and another of whom still serves on the planning commission.

Campaign Watch Commission members Evon Gotlieb, Ed Guthman, Alan Haber, Barbara Inatsugu, John Jalili, James Q. Wilson

The Malibu Campaign Watch Commission is comprised of volunteers, unassociated with any candidate, organized to render the collective opinion of its members with respect to the veracity of claims made in candidate campaigns brought to the attention of the Commission. More information about the Commission is available on the Elections Page of the City’s website www.ci.malibu.ca.us. The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the Commission and do not constitute opinions of the City of Malibu.