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Conroy Critic Makes Point With Paint

May 27, 1994|ERIC BAILEY and FERNANDO ROMERO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

ORANGE — Some people grumble at their local legislator in a letter. Others pick up the phone to gripe.

But a disgruntled constituent of Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) has skipped the usual routes and spray painted an opinion on the doors of the lawmaker's district office.

The message was the work of a tagger with a sense of the sardonic. The object of scorn was a bill Conroy introduced this week calling for paddlings of juveniles caught scrawling graffiti. That proposal has earned Conroy nationwide media attention and prompted public reaction ranging from hearty applause to outright ridicule.

His most pointed critic was right back home in Orange County.

Conroy's staff arrived Thursday morning at the district office in Orange to discover the words "Spank Me" scrawled on both office doors by the taunting tagger.

Police were called in and promised a full investigation, but no suspects have been apprehended. Conroy was less than amused but didn't miss the opportunity to give his bill a boost.

"It's disgusting," he said in a news release distributed within hours of the discovery. "However, if the punks who did this think that this is going to stop me from passing my paddle law, they've got another thing coming. . . . If these criminals want a fight, I'll give 'em one."

Conroy wouldn't hazard a guess who might have been behind the vandalism. Local youths? Disgruntled Orange County Democrats? "I don't have any idea," he said Thursday. "I'm surprised it took them this long. We've been expecting it."

Conroy was happy that "at least they're aware of what I'm trying to do," but he lamented that the episode demonstrates once again "just what the attitude of people is today. That's why we need a little public humiliation like that proposed in my bill."

The legislation, which faces stiff opposition in the Democrat-dominated state Legislature, calls for juveniles convicted of defacing or destroying property with graffiti to be punished by being struck as many as 10 times with a wooden paddle wielded in court by a parent or a bailiff.

Conroy's office is tucked in the back of a shopping mall.

"The owner of the complex is not happy," said Ann Conroy, the assemblyman's wife.

But she was not surprised by the graffiti message. Indeed, she said, "I would think it would be a natural reaction (to her husband's proposal). It is targeted toward vandals and I would think they would try to retaliate."

Graffiti, she said, is common in the area. The mall and a business complex behind it have been constantly defaced by vandals, which is one of the reasons her husband's bill has received an "overwhelmingly positive response" among his constituents, she said.

Except one with a spray can.

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