Stung by bitter campaign rhetoric, the Mission Viejo Co. swamped the city with letters Tuesday defending the company's role in the ongoing battle to recall Councilman Robert A. Curtis.
The mailers, sent to 37,889 registered voters, signal a change in strategy for the development company, which so far has given $57,000 to a recall committee trying to unseat Curtis in a Feb. 27 special election.
Mission Viejo Co. spokeswoman Wendy Wetzel said this is the first time that the development firm has paid for a political mailer.
The company made an exception "because we have been attacked by Mr. Curtis in his mailers," Wetzel said. "We felt it was time to set the record straight."
The three-page letter rebuts Curtis' claim that the Mission Viejo Co. is the power behind the attempt to recall him.
"Some say that Mission Viejo Co. should simply ignore Curtis' distortions and mudslinging," wrote David A. Celestin, the development firm's vice president of planning. "However, we cannot remain silent when Curtis tries to use us as a diversion for trying to push through an annexation without letting the citizens of Mission Viejo vote on the issue."
The company has accused Curtis of trying to annex Aegean Hills, a community of 7,000 people bordering Mission Viejo, without voter approval.
"The Mission Viejo Co.'s 'motive' in supporting the recall is very simple--we've invested 27 years of our time, effort and reputation in the concept of the planned community," the mailer said.
Curtis called the letter "an act of desperation. This shows that the Mission Viejo Co. is out of the closet and now openly trying to influence the voters of Mission Viejo."
Curtis, a slow-growth advocate, said the development company has used the annexation issue as a smoke screen "because this is their last hope in removing a critical voice against them in the council. Anybody who has seen them building knows that they are only motivated by profit."
Wetzel said the company was responding to a Curtis mailer that was filled with inaccuracies.
Curtis recently sent a letter to voters, accusing the Mission Viejo Co. of wanting to "cram thousands more dwelling units and over 25,000 more people into our city. . . . If the company gets what it wants, it will destroy the master plan for our community and dramatically increase our tax burden."
Wetzel said 1,483 additional units are planned, adding: "Mr. Curtis has just been making up numbers. There is no danger to the master plan."
Councilman Norman P. Murray said his only problem with the letter "is that the Mission Viejo Co. didn't send it out two months ago. . . . I think their letter is very important because so much inaccuracy has been said during this campaign, it's time to clean things up."