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Lake Forest Violated Law, Suit Says : El Toro: City acted as a political committee in suit challenging Measure A, so it must report money spent as campaign contributions, airport proponents say.

October 14, 1994|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lake Forest city officials violated campaign disclosure laws by failing to report the money they spent on attorneys when they sued to keep the El Toro airport initiative off the ballot, airport proponents charged in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court on behalf of the Yes on Measure A Committee, alleged that Lake Forest was acting as a political committee when the city hired attorneys last summer and sued "for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the election."

On Aug. 25, a judge rejected the city's lawsuit, which attempted to remove Measure A from the November ballot. The initiative, sponsored by a coalition of business and political leaders, would require the county to build a commercial airport at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station when the base is closed in 1999.

The money paid by the city to the law firm of Burke, Williams and Sorenson should have been reported as a campaign contribution, Measure A proponents charged in the lawsuit filed Thursday.

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Lake Forest City Atty. Jerry Patterson is a member of the law firm. A city employee said that Patterson, City Manager Gaylord Knapp and Mayor Marcia Rudolph were at a Planning Commission meeting Thursday and unavailable for comment.

The lawsuit on behalf of the Measure A Committee, which also included committee employee and voter Catherine Kirkpatrick as a plaintiff, was filed by Brad Hertz, an attorney with a firm led by Dana Reed.

Measure A spokesman Dave Ellis said Reed is the treasurer for the Yes on Measure A Committee and another political committee formed to promote the initiative.

The Measure A lawsuit contends that municipalities such as Lake Forest "are not exempt from the filing requirements of the (state) Political Reform Act." The lawsuit asks the court to order the city to file campaign disclosure statements to reveal "expenditures made or incurred for campaign activities in opposition to Measure A."

Fair Political Practices Commission spokeswoman Lynda Doherty in Sacramento declined to comment on law applicable to municipalities. However, Hertz said that commission attorneys advised him the Measure A committee's lawsuit had merit.

"We received advice from (the commission) in letters and phone conversations that litigation expenses pertaining to a lawsuit to remove a measure from the ballot are political expenditures and thereby reportable," Hertz said.

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