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Placentia : Mayor’s Sales Pitch in Newsletter Stirs a Flap

The current issue of the Placentia Quarterly, dubbed the “official city newsletter,” carries its typical selection of news, such as city recreation classes and announcements about upcoming events.

But the 1985 fall issue also includes a front-page “message from the mayor” endorsing three upcoming ballot measures. Mayor George Ziegler’s request for a “yes vote” on issues that some residents oppose via a city-financed newsletter has some people questioning whether city money was used inappropriately.

“The mayor has used my tax money in order to defeat an issue that I disagree with him about,” said Rena Hagmaier, a former Planning Commission member and a resident of Placentia for 27 years.

City Administrator Roger Kemp said that a city resolution, passed in December, 1982, which states that the newsletter could not be used by any council member “for political purposes” was geared to prevent incumbents from using the quarterly to enhance their positions for reelection.

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City Atty. John Harper said the policy is “subject to a great deal of interpretation” but the mayor’s message is “potentially inappropriate. Public money shouldn’t be expended to support any side of a political issue.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Maurice Evans said he received a letter from Hagmaier and would review it “just like we check any letter that comes in.” Evans said he will know by early this week whether he’ll appoint an investigator to check the allegations. Evans said, “We haven’t even looked at it. It’s still on my desk.”

In the newsletter, Ziegler urges support of improvements to athletic facilities, the consolidation of local and statewide elections and a 2% utility tax.

The tax increase, which City Council members approved in February, won a place on the ballot as an advisory vote after residents collected 3,419 signatures, of which 3,111 were validated, asking for a referendum on the tax increase. The city attorney told the Right to Vote Committee, which spearheaded the drive, that the state constitution excludes tax issues from the referendum process. The council later decided to place the issue on the ballot as advisory, which means a final decision is still left up to the council.

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Hagmaier is one of five residents who placed an opposing argument to the utility tax increase on the Nov. 5 ballot.


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