Former Orange County Supervisor Bill Steiner is being sued by the city of Orange, which alleges that he and others violated a local campaign contribution law in an alleged scheme to get Steiner's son and another candidate elected to the City Council.
Also named as defendants are the Airport Working Group's political action committee and its chairman, Barbara Lichman, and treasurer, Corliss Delameter.
According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Superior Court, Steiner, Doy Henley and John Vedder Croul funneled $33,000 through the political action committee to support Steiner's son, Scott, and Joanne Coontz in November's City Council races.
The lawsuit alleges that the three men and the PAC violated the city's Campaign Reform Ordinance, which limits individual contributions to $500 per candidate. Political action committees can use no more than 25% of their total campaign expenditures to support or oppose council candidates in Orange in the year preceding each election.
The suit says Bill Steiner made two contributions, of $10,000 and $5,000, a week before the Nov. 7 election to the PAC. Henley allegedly contributed $13,000 the same day. Croul contributed $5,000 on Nov. 2, according to the suit. Orange officials allege that the PAC put 100% of its expenditures into council races in that election cycle. The PAC used the money on mailers and other campaign services for Scott Steiner and Coontz, the suit says. Steiner lost; Coontz was reelected.
Orange City Atty. David De Berry credited Shirley Grindle, a longtime political reform activist from Orange, with finding the alleged violations.
Grindle could not be reached on Friday. In 1978, she wrote the first campaign finance reform law in Orange County. In 1993, she helped write a law barring county employees from accepting gifts from anyone doing business with the county.
The Orange suit says that from November 1999 to November 2000, the PAC spent 100% of the money it raised from Bill Steiner, Henley and Croul on the council races of Coontz and Scott Steiner.
Neither Steiner, Henley nor Croul returned telephone calls. Lichman referred a reporter to PAC attorney Dana Reed. Reed said the contributions were used to "oppose" the campaigns of two of Steiner's and Coontz's election opponents, Mike Alvarez and Carolyn Cavecche, who are viewed as opponents of an airport at El Toro. He said the mailers used against Alvarez and Cavecche "clearly stated [they were] from the PAC, and the source of funding was fully disclosed."