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Phony phone calls may be nothing new

December 11, 2002

June Casagrande

This year's City Council election may not be the first instance

that a deceptive campaign telephone message has been used in a local

campaign.

In 2000, Pat Beek's run for the District 5 seat, which includes

Balboa Island, was marred by a phone message similar to one in the

last election that misidentified a candidate as being endorsed by

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Greenlight, Beek said this week.

"The night before the election, I had people calling me saying,

'Did you hear this?'" Beek recalled.

The message, she said, claimed to be from a man named Barry Stone,

who urged voters to support "the real Greenlight candidate, Robert

Schoonmaker." But Beek was the Greenlight candidate in that district.

Residents Barbara Yeager and Maryanne Towersey received the

message and told Beek about it, both confirmed on Tuesday.

Further, Beek added, the message said: "Don't vote for Pat Beek.

She is having secret meetings with the Irvine Co." -- an allegation

Beek said is and was "absolutely untrue."

"That's particularly bad because people hear something like that

and don't know whether it's true," said Beek, who serves on the

city's Arts Commission.

Councilman Steve Bromberg, who was just named Newport Beach mayor

at Tuesday's council meeting, said on Tuesday that he had not known

about the message and had nothing to do with it.

Unlike the message that was used in the race between Rick Taylor

and incumbent Gary Adams, final numbers suggest that the Schoonmaker

message may have had an effect on the outcome of that council race.

In that election, Bromberg earned 44.4% of the vote; Beek earned

41.8%. Schoonmaker won 13.4%, enough to have possibly tipped the

scales of the election.

Those involved in the election generally agree that the

Taylor-Adams race was not as close, and therefore a deceptive message

used in that campaign likely did not affect the final outcome.

In that race, a phone message told voters that Ron Winship was the

Greenlight candidate, when Taylor was.

Campaign consultant Dave Ellis, who worked on Adams' campaign,

later admitted to creating the message, but said he never authorized

using it. He said it must have been an accident of the voicemail

service provider that caused the message to go out to some voters.

Ellis also did some work on Bromberg's campaign in 2000.

Ellis is out of the country this week and could not be reached for

comment, according to his office.

Greenlight spokesman Phil Arst said the messages are an outrage

and that they create an uneven playing field for Greenlight that

undermines fair representation of the voters.

"This further proof of campaign deception raises the concern that

the majority of the City Council used Mr. Ellis as their political

spin doctor in order to overcome Greenlight candidates representing

the residents," Arst said.

"One must question the legitimacy of the City Council to represent

the people. One must be concerned about their level of integrity in

managing the city," he said. "Some drastic changes are needed."

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at

june.casagrande@latimes.com.

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