Leisure World Contribution Prompts Suit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two Leisure World homeowners on Thursday sued the Laguna Hills retirement community for donating $542,000 to the fight against building a commercial airport at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Warren T. Finley and Donald H. Rez, both trustees of Leisure World estates, filed suit in Orange County Superior Court asking that the Yes on Measure S campaign be barred from spending any more of the funds, which came from mandatory property assessments at Leisure World.

The suit also requests that the donations be returned in full to Leisure World's Golden Rain Foundation, which oversees the spending of the funds.

"They are upset with the idea of spending mandatory assessments for a countywide political campaign," said Darryl R. Wold, attorney for Finley and Rez, who also represents airport supporters.

A co-chairman of the Yes on Measure S campaign accused airport supporters of filing the suit because they fear losing the March 26 election. Passage of Measure S would repeal an earlier ballot measure endorsing a commercial airport at El Toro.

"They're afraid, they're running scared," Bill Kogerman said.

An attorney and spokesman for Leisure World did not return phone calls seeking comment. Neither could Finley or Rez be reached for comment Thursday.

Many of Leisure World's residents are opposed to a commercial airport at El Toro, fearing traffic, falling property values and noise from planes flying overhead.

Homeowners' assessments are traditionally used to pay for improvements at the retirement community. Wold said he is unaware of any other instance in which homeowners' assessments were used for political purposes.

"The bylaws [at Leisure World] do not permit it," Wold said. "The bylaws do not include political contributions as a reason for which the assessments are levied."

But Kogerman said the donations were proper.

"We received donations that were given in good faith," Kogerman said. "This is nothing more than a harassment lawsuit."

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