As Election Draws Closer; Lines in Sand are Drawn
By Terry Miller
As is always the case during an election, some objectionable mudslinging and misinformation finds its way, especially via social media and through the good ol’ U.S. mail.
Recently the Chinese chat group ‘WeChat’ has targeted candidate April Verlato. The anonymous posters’ attempts to discredit the candidate by claiming she was a ‘bully’ were later quelled when another comment feared a libel lawsuit. Meanwhile Verlato said she has no plans to file a suit but needless to say was disturbed by some of the allegations therein.
An out-of-town group known as California Homeowners Association out of Willows, California is encouraging people to vote for Bob Harbicht, saying he will bring “Government transparency.”
Arcadia Councilman Thomas Beck said:
“I am disturbed by the attacks that have been leveled on at least two candidates for Arcadia City Council. In my memory this has not been done in the past and it is not the ‘Arcadia Way’ of doing things.
“When I learned that Bob Harbicht was being attacked [referring to a previous incident] I spoke to the person I thought was behind it and to his credit I have not seen any more attacks on Bob.
“Now I am seeing outright libelous statements that are not true being made against April Verlato. I have tried to get it stopped but have been unsuccessful. This all makes me very sad. We Arcadians are better than this type of campaigning. I understand having differences of opinion but attacking and name calling of a candidate has no place in Arcadia.”
We discovered that Harbicht’s campaign has been helped significantly by one “California Home Owners Association,” allegedly out of Willow, California, but the money trail leads to Nevis LLC, the developer who wants a major Hillside development in Arcadia.
We checked with the Secretary of State and supporting documentation which show that the California Homeowner’s Association is a PAC – “political action committee”- out of Sacramento that recently received $26,850 from Nevis Capital, LLC. The direct beneficiary of this is Bob Harbicht.
Nevis Capital, LLC is owned by Ta Jen Lee, aka, Jeff Lee. He is a Pasadena resident and developer in Arcadia.
He owns the hill above the Highlands which he has been trying to develop for the last 15 years. The residents of the Highlands have been fighting this development as it would result in the excavation of the hillside and removal of 32 healthy oak trees for a single home.
The California Homeowner’s Association acts as a shell so that a candidate does not have to report contributors on their campaign finance disclosure statements.
California Homeowner’s Association disclosure statements show that $15,000 were spent on the mailer for Bob Harbicht and another $10,000 are being spent for online advertising for Bob Harbicht.
Arcadia Weekly contacted Jeff Lee of Nevis Capital LLC. Lee confirmed that he did contribute a large sum of money to a PAC but said he “donates to a lot of PAC’s and is never sure where the money goes…” We asked him if he supported Bob Harbicht. Lee emphatically said, “Do I support him? Absolutely… Will I vote for him? Absolutely!” But he denies being directly tied to Harbicht’s latest mailer. “ This is how PAC’s work,” he said.
Lee also made reference to the denial of a project of his on Canyon. Lee says the denial of a single home on his 100 acre hillside property there is leading his company into exploring “pre- litigation against the city of Arcadia.”
Lee said there is a big misconception about Asian developers in Arcadia particularly. Lee said his design concept is for “reasonable development” not giant mansions. Lee , who has lived in Arcadia 20 years, says there is considerable ‘discrimination ‘ in Arcadia, particularly with Asian real estate developers. Lee says that Caucasian, long-time Arcadia residents are resentful of the Asian developers and builders.
Candidate Verlato said, “I cannot compete with the kind of money that can be raised by developers for Bob Harbicht. Nor would I accept money from developers.
“Anyone who believes that Bob Harbicht will be ‘fair and impartial’ when a project by Nevis Capital/Jeff Lee is before City Council is fooling themselves. Do you really think that Jeff Lee is going to take a chance and contribute $26,850 to a candidate that will vote in the best interests of the residents even if it means denying Jeff Lee his project? Developers don’t care about our Community. They only care about their Return on Investment.”
A group called “Arcadia Neighbor Mutual Help Group” also encouraged voters to “come with their ballot” on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, and invited Sho Tay to “explain the procedures and background of candidates…” The message on WeChat also said, “Arcadia is our home. Let’s Vote for home Development.” The group alleged additional misinformation: “… city council … scheduled a closed session discussion among themselves next Thursday (the public can watch but cannot comment) at 9 a.m.”
Mayor Gary Kovacic commented on this misinformation:
“This public meeting is not a ‘closed session’ and, as clearly stated in the Notice for the meeting: ‘There will be a time reserved for those who wish to address the City Council’ regarding the proposed changes to the city’s single-family residential zoning regulations.”
We contacted Chief Deputy City Clerk/Records Manager Lisa Mussenden at the city of Arcadia regarding the legality of people bringing their ballots to an “informational” meeting. While Mussenden said there is nothing inherently wrong with people bringing ballots to a meeting, it is entirely another matter if someone helps them fill it out. Only a designated person may submit a ballot on behalf of a resident. Anyone interfering with the ballot is violating state voter regulation laws, Mussenden said.
The Arcadia Weekly emailed Bob Harbicht for comment, but as of publication time there was no reply.