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ELECTIONS / L.A. CITY COUNCIL : Fund-Raiser Suing Dib Also Alleges Defamation

April 16, 1993|JACK CHEEVERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles fund-raiser has stepped up his legal battle with City Council candidate Al Dib, leveling new allegations that Dib slandered him in a radio interview by calling him incompetent.

Robert L. Kaplan also contended that Dib's wife tried to damage his business, urging at least one other local candidate not to hire him and making defamatory remarks about him to his employees.

Dib was campaigning door-to-door Thursday afternoon and was not available for comment, said his political consultant, Harvey Englander. Dib's wife did not return telephone calls.

Englander denied that Dib or his wife, Marianne, made any defamatory statements. He called the disagreement between Dib and Kaplan a business dispute and labeled Kaplan a publicity hound.

Kaplan last month filed a lawsuit against Dib, alleging that Dib refused to pay him $15,000 in fees for his efforts to raise campaign funds for Dib earlier this year.

Dib acknowledged that he owed Kaplan money, but not nearly as much as claimed. Dib also said he offered to settle with Kaplan, but the fund-raiser refused.

The dispute attracted attention because political consultants rarely sue clients amid a campaign, preferring to spare them such embarrassment. Instead, they quietly go to court after an election if debts have not been settled.

Dib hired Kaplan in February to raise campaign money for him in his bid to succeed retiring Councilman Ernani Bernardi in the 7th Council District, which encompasses the northeastern San Fernando Valley. A former produce wholesaler, Dib faces six other contenders in Tuesday's election.

Dib fired Kaplan March 19, saying he had raised only a fraction of the money expected. Kaplan said he performed all his contractual duties and that Dib was wrongly withholding his fees.

In charges added to the suit this week, Kaplan accused Dib of defaming him during a KIEV radio talk show April 3.

According to Kaplan, Dib told listeners that Kaplan "was not capable or qualified" to be a fund-raiser. Kaplan of West Los Angeles has raised funds for a number of nonprofit groups and political figures. He currently is raising money for mayoral candidate Joel Wachs. Kaplan said that Dib's comments damaged his business reputation.

Kaplan also charged that Marianne Dib contacted Dennis Zine, a City Council candidate in the 3rd District in the southwestern Valley, and tried to persuade him not to hire Kaplan.

Zine, asked about Kaplan's statement, said that Marianne Dib called him several weeks ago "and said 'this is off the record' and she asked me how I felt about Kaplan and his services. She was obviously not happy with the bill for the funds that they raised."

Zine, who had already hired Kaplan, said that Kaplan's fund-raising efforts for him "have been extremely successful and effective."

"I've had no problems with the guy. He's been honest, he's been direct," Zine said. Without Kaplan's services, Zine said, his campaign would not have raised enough in small contributions to qualify for city matching funds.

Kaplan said Marianne Dib also contacted at least two of his employees and tried to get them to stop working for him.

Kaplan described Al Dib's alleged actions as "not very councilmanic" and charged that the Dibs were trying to sabotage his business.

"It's completely inappropriate to talk about something that's in litigation on the radio," he said. "If Dib was really serious in saying this is just a business dispute . . . why then would he take to the radio and slander and defame me, question my abilities?"

Englander, Dib's political consultant, said the new legal documents had not been received, but denied any impropriety on the part of the candidate or his wife.

Englander said Dib did say in the radio interview that "he did not believe that Kaplan performed his contractual responsibilities in a lot of areas." But Englander denied that the statement was slanderous.

"There's a thing in the law called 'The truth is the best defense,' " Englander said.

Englander said Dib's wife made no defamatory remarks to Kaplan's employees. The consultant said he did not know if she spoke to Zine.

Englander called Kaplan a publicity seeker and charged that he was improperly using the legal dispute to attack Dib politically.

"It has escalated beyond anything reasonable on his part," Englander said.

"He's taken a contractual dispute and made it to influence an election, when it does not belong there."

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