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AGOURA HILLS : Recall Group Asks D.A. to Probe Flyers

Leaders of a movement to recall the Agoura Hills City Council have asked the district attorney to investigate whether the city broke the law by mailing flyers to residents explaining why the council passed a controversial utility tax.

The city’s mailing of the flyers appears to have been an illegal use of taxpayers’ money to prevent the recall, the group maintained.

“If it’s true, it’s illegal and it’s wrong, and steps should be taken to make sure it never happens again,” said Barbara Murphy, a leader of the recall effort.

“While city personnel maintain that this flyer was mailed to all residents . . . for information purposes, it was not sent out until the council was served with a notice of recall,” wrote another group leader, John Sandberg Jr., in an Aug. 6 letter to the district attorney.

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City officials insist they mailed the flyer to keep residents abreast of the city’s fiscal situation and not to stop the recall.

The recall group, Citizens Against New Local Taxes, will hold a petition drive Saturday, Murphy said. The drive will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the intersection of Kanan Road and Thousand Oaks Boulevard.

If citizens can collect 2,454 signatures--20% of the city’s 12,026 registered voters--by Dec. 7, the council would then be required to hold a recall election, City Clerk Pat Manning said.

The group filed its notice of intent to recall July 14 with the city clerk, after the council voted unanimously the day before to pass a 4% tax on electricity, gas and telephone service to help close a budget deficit of nearly $1 million. The recall group says the city did not need the utility tax, but the city says it had no choice.

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Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, said the office routinely neither confirms nor denies matters involving special investigations.

Councilman Ed Corridori, who was named in Sandberg’s letter along with Councilwoman Louise Rishoff--as being behind the plan to mail the flyers, said the decision was not linked to the recall effort.

“It was something we had talked about and decided to do long before we were served with any notice of recall,” Corridori said. “I don’t know what else to say about it.”

Jeanette Turvill, a spokeswoman for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said Monday that according to state law, “no public officer shall expend, no candidate shall receive public monies for the purpose of seeking elective office.”

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Recall elections, she said, are considered ballot initiatives, “not elections for candidacy.”

State law also prohibits mass mailings of 200 or more pieces of mail that feature an elected officer, she said.

“If this particular flyer did not feature a public official, that might not necessarily butt up against the mass-mailing provisions,” she said.


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