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ORANGE COUNTY

Group Behind Tustin Mailer Lists False Donor

Law firm head says she never heard of or contributed to an organization that sent a brochure slamming a City Council candidate.

October 31, 2002|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Orange County prosecutors are being asked to investigate a political mailer sent to Tustin residents by a group that falsely lists its address as that of a major Southern California law firm and its largest contributor as the firm's co-managing partner.

The downtown Los Angeles address given by Education Alliance of Orange County, whose name is similar to a well-known Tustin-based group, is the same as attorneys Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. In a campaign report filed with the city Oct. 24, the group listed the firm's co-managing partner, Marjorie Lewis, as a $3,000 donor.

Lewis said she had never heard of the group nor given it any money. She said she was unaware of the mailer until Monday, when she received several messages from the firm's attorneys in Orange County wanting to know why she'd get involved in the Tustin council race, where six candidates are vying for two seats.

"Someone very deliberately sought to use my name," Lewis said. "I'd like to get to the bottom of it."

Mark Bucher, who has operated The Education Alliance for several years from offices in Tustin, said he prepared a complaint Wednesday for Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. William Davis, the treasurer for Education Alliance of Orange County, listed a private mailbox business in Tustin as his address, but gave Bucher's address to postal officials.

Bucher said his group had nothing to do with the new group or its mailer, and knew nothing of Davis. "This isn't dirty campaigning, it's criminal," he said.

The mailer, sent earlier this month to absentee voters, alleged that council candidate Doug Davert had assaulted two women at a Tustin Unified School District board meeting in 1997. The mailer showed photographs taken from a videotape -- one of a man threatening a woman and a second showing the man being removed by a security officer.

"We cannot allow this to happen in Tustin," the mailer said. It noted in smaller print that the event depicted wasn't the meeting Davert attended. The mailer alleged, however, that "numerous eyewitnesses" saw Davert assaulting the women.

Davert, who served five years as a city planning commissioner, admitted in an interview Wednesday that he shouted at a woman during a March 1997 meeting held to discuss changes in school boundaries. He said he was offended after she accused him of making racist remarks.

"I got in her face and said, 'You'd better think before you call me a racist,' " he said, describing the incident as a 30-second altercation. There was no physical exchange, he said, though he did "use some profanity." Davert was asked to leave the meeting during a break and did.

"I can handle a vicious hit piece but now these people [behind the mailer] are hiding," he said. "I have an impeccable record as a citizen. I'm incensed. The subterfuge is mind-boggling."

Calls to the south Orange County phone number listed by Davis weren't returned Wednesday. The group reported collecting $7,050 in contributions, including small amounts from North Tustin activist Dessa Schroeder and Carol McCauley of San Diego, who attended the 1997 meeting.

Both women were quoted in the mailer complaining of Davert's "frightening conduct," Davert said. Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.

School board trustee Jane Bauer said she was called in May or June by a "Bill Davis" of the Education Alliance asking her to provide a quote for the mailer. She declined. Bauer said she was upset, however, when three other trustees sent letters to voters in recent days defending Davert and denying that he'd behaved badly at the meeting.

"He's a loose cannon," she said.

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