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Losing Candidate Faces Fine for Removing Rival's Signs

June 13, 1998|KATE FOLMAR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

THOUSAND OAKS — A week after voters rebuffed him at the polls, former Assembly candidate Rich Sybert now faces up to a $2,000 in fine for tearing down his political rival's signs.

The city attorney's office filed a civil complaint Friday accusing Sybert of "unauthorized removal of political signs" in violation of Thousand Oaks' political sign ordinance.

Four times in April, Sybert was recorded on videotape shredding the signs of opponent Tony Strickland.

Sybert, a lawyer and toy company executive, initially denied involvement in the nighttime vandalism, saying he was at home in bed with his wife when the signs were defaced. Sybert later admitted his actions and complained that Strickland's signs were bigger than allowed by law and that he was motivated by frustration.

Sybert shouldn't have taken the matter into his own hands, said Thousand Oaks Deputy City Atty. Tim W. Giles, who filed the complaint seeking the $2,000 fine.

"Self-help is not the right remedy," Giles said. "We want people to know that this law is on the books and we are enforcing it."

Sybert's lawyer, James F. Sweeney, said a $2,000 punishment is excessive and that he will attempt to negotiate a settlement.

"Two thousand dollars is the maximum fine permitted by law; this violation does not seem to merit the maximum fine," Sweeney said. "Obviously Mr. Sybert has suffered greatly--both personally and professionally--as a result of his actions. I think that fact needs to be taken into consideration."

He added: "I think [Sybert] would very much like to return to private life and be left alone. The sooner he can do that, the better for him and his family."

Sybert, a Republican who lost two bids for a congressional seat before vying for the 37th District Assembly seat, received 7% of the vote in the June 2 primary.

Strickland, a legislative aide who won the Republican nomination, also said it's time to let the matter go.

"As I've said from the beginning, let the voters decide," he said. "The voters decided on June 2. Now I just want to put all this behind me and work on the issues and the general election."

Times staff writer Miguel Bustillo contributed to this story.

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