As a candidate for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District board, Marcus Allen Frishman would prefer to talk about water rates rather than his age, job title or convictions for disturbing the peace and auto theft.
But, then again, it is a political campaign.
Frishman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Calabasas City Council last year, is hoping to unseat 16-year incumbent Glen Denis Peterson in the race to represent Division 2 on the west Los Angeles County water district board.
Both candidates are campaigning on a promise to keep water rates down amid fears that new development may translate into higher costs for local homeowners.
But the more immediate question voters will have to decide is: Who is Marcus Allen Frishman? Or is it Marcus Allen De Rothschild, as it appears on his driver's license?
With Frishman, there are no easy answers, according to his opponent, court records and Frishman himself.
For starters, the talkative, friendly, 40-something candidate refuses to divulge his age. Court records say Frishman was born in 1959, while his 2000 voter registration form lists his birth year as 1964.
"I never tell people my age," he said when asked about the discrepancy. "I think it boxes you in."
His job title also has been the source of some controversy. Officially employed as chief deputy to state Board of Equalization member Claude Parrish, Frishman's business cards refer to him as "deputy board member."
Peterson sued to stop the county registrar of voters from placing Frishman's self-described occupation on Tuesday's ballot. The parties settled the matter by agreeing that "state board member deputy" was more accurate.
Frishman, who has worked for Parrish for four years, said deputy board member is the title he routinely uses because he is chief of staff. He said it is printed on his state identification card.
"My [actual] title is 'deputy to board member,' " he said. "I drop the 'to' on my business card for grammatical sake."
As for his criminal convictions, Frishman acknowledges some problems in his past, but stresses that they were minor incidents.
Court records show that Frishman has two criminal convictions, one for disturbing the peace and the other for auto theft.
"I kept a rental car too long," Frishman said, referring to the latter case. "Technically, the charges were dismissed.... I paid no fine. I paid no restitution."
Court records show that in 1990 Frishman rented a BMW 325i in Arizona, reported it stolen the next day and filed an insurance claim for $1,000 worth of property left inside the car.
A year later, police found the car -- and Frishman -- at a Beverly Hills eatery. Frishman, who gave his name to police as Marcus Allen De Rothschild, was charged with felony counts of grand theft, insurance fraud and the unlawful taking of a vehicle.
He pleaded guilty to the last count in exchange for dismissal of the other charges, records show. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, placed on three years' probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution. He never paid the restitution, records show.
Asked about the name De Rothschild, Frishman said that is how he is identified on his driver's license. He said he picked the name "out of the air" as a youngster.
"It's not an alias," he said. "When I was a kid, I did some acting and some modeling. My driver's license says Marcus Frishman De Rothschild. My full legal name is Marcus Allen Frishman. I have not used the name [De Rothschild] since the mid- or early 1980s."
In 1995, Frishman's felony conviction was retroactively reduced to a misdemeanor. But Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Kamins rejected Frishman's petition to expunge the conviction.
Kamins agreed with the prosecutor's finding that Frishman's crime "involved premeditation and sophistication," and also the probation officer's conclusion that Frishman "knew exactly what he was doing," according to court records.
In hindsight, Frishman acknowledged that the incident "was a bad thing, a bad decision.... I was in college at the time."
The second case involved a car-honking incident in 1992 that escalated out of control, Frishman said.
"I was at my girlfriend's house," he said, recalling the episode. "I honked my horn. I woke some guy's baby up. He pounds my window as hard as he can and rips off my antenna. I backed up so he wouldn't touch my car. So it looks like I'm going to run him over."
While still on probation in the auto theft case, Frishman was charged with misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon and disturbing the peace.
In a plea bargain, he was convicted of disturbing the peace and sentenced to 300 hours of community service. Frishman took so long to complete his service -- 2 1/2 years -- that the court commissioner assigned to the case threatened to throw him in jail for 60 days, records show.
Meanwhile, a public records check on Peterson, a 52-year-old retired real estate agent, turned up only a minor traffic citation. Of his opponent's record, Peterson said, "I fear for the district if they have an ex-criminal at the helm."
But Frishman remains confident. He said voters must decide what they believe about him and whether his past is relevant in this election.
"I have never, ever misrepresented who I am," he said.