REDONDO BEACH — A Superior Court judge has ordered the city to delete portions of a campaign statement by Councilman Ray Amys from the official sample ballot that is scheduled to be published next week for the May 14 municipal election.
Torrance Superior Court Judge Frank Baffa ruled Tuesday that portions of the statement referring to City Council candidate Kay Horrell, who faces Amys in the District 2 runoff, were misleading and deceptive. The judge ordered City Clerk John L. Oliver to remove the seven lines of the 31-line statement that make reference to Horrell or her beliefs.
"What citizen in his right mind would want those problems for a community?" Baffa said of remarks in Amys' statement that implied that Horrell would encourage traffic congestion, parking problems and excessive development. "No one."
In Draft Copy
Horrell requested the court action last week after she read a draft copy of the sample ballot, which includes voter information as well as campaign statements by each City Council candidate. Horrell charged in court documents that Amys' statement would "materially and substantially mislead the voters."
Amys contended in his statement that Horrell, whom he never mentioned by name but referred to only as his "opponent," favors "tourist trap- and carnival-type development" along the city's harbor and pier areas. He also stated that Horrell supports "more density, condos, high rise, traffic congestion (and) parking problems" in the city.
Amys stated further that his characterization of Horrell is "understandable" because Horrell owns a real estate office and is a past president of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce. Horrell, a real estate broker, has also been a member of the city's Planning Commission.
In making his ruling, Baffa said it was improper for Amys to make sweeping statements about Horrell's position on development and other issues simply because of her real estate and business connections. "It doesn't mean you can categorically say that is her position, period," he said.
Attorney Stevan Colin, who represented Amys, had argued that Amys' ballot statement accurately reflected Horrell's views and that a court order to block publication of the statement would "impose prior restraint on free speech."
Baffa, while emphasizing that he was firm in his decision, urged Colin to appeal the decision if he was dissatisfied. "We are concerned about free speech, but there are times you have to turn to the courts," Baffa said. "If you disagree, I urge you to go to the appellate court." Baffa said judges "need some guidelines" from the higher courts.
Amys said after the ruling, however, that he would not appeal. "The court has ruled," he conceded.
In court documents, Colin and Amys referred to Horrell's voting record on the Planning Commission, which they said substantiated claims made in the ballot statement.
But Horrell and her attorney, Randall C. Kimose, disputed those arguments, stating in court documents that Amys' had misrepresented Horrell's Planning Commission votes.
"I believe that voters have more of a tendency to believe the statements in the voters' pamphlet than the statements made in the candidate's own political mail," Horrell said in a court deposition. "It is, therefore, critical to a fair election and an informed electorate that the statements in the voters' pamphlet be truthful."
Amys, who said he may include the deleted portions of the ballot statement in a private political mailing, called the ruling a "bad precedent" that "opens a can of worms" for future city elections. "It is going to get down to nit-picking between candidates," he said. "Now any candidate's statement can be challenged and that causes confusion."