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Sybert Agrees to Pay $1,000 to Settle Dispute Over Sign Vandalism

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to draw the curtain on a videotaped sign-trashing incident that might be the final act of his political career, failed Assembly candidate Rich Sybert has agreed to pay $1,000 to settle his civil dispute with Thousand Oaks.

As a result of the out-of-court settlement, Sybert will pay Thousand Oaks $350 for each of the two Tony Strickland for Assembly placards he was caught ripping apart in the city during two late-night sprees in April, as well as $200 for legal fees and $100 for a victims’ restitution fund.

The Harvard-educated attorney and Oxnard toy company executive had faced up to $2,000 in city fines after Thousand Oaks filed a civil complaint against him June 12.

The settlement clears the 46-year-old Sybert of any further liability for the incidents, which violated the city’s political sign ordinance, according to Thousand Oaks officials.

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Sybert, who badly lost the Republican primary to Strickland earlier this month (earning 4,503 votes to Strickland’s 16,972), said he was glad to resolve the dispute with his current hometown. The primary defeat was Sybert’s third in a row--he lost two congressional races earlier this decade--and Sybert says he is through with politics.

“I’m happy to settle this, of course,” Sybert said. “Frankly, I think it was a little bit of piling on to even bring this, but I’m happy about the settlement.”

Thousand Oaks officials said they considered their actions appropriate. Not punishing such a well-publicized violation of the city sign ordinance would have sent the wrong message to the public, said Deputy City Atty. Tim W. Giles.

“There’s a reason for the law on the books, and we’re going to enforce it,” Giles said. “That’s why we decided to prosecute this case.

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“I certainly wouldn’t consider it [excessive],” he added. “If you look at the language Mr. Sybert agreed to as part of the settlement, you will see what he admits took place.”

Besides Sybert’s admission of responsibility, the settlement says that Sybert was on public property, that the signs in question were illegally placed and that Sybert campaign officials had notified Thousand Oaks about the signs beforehand.

It goes on to say that Thousand Oaks officials were aware of the illegal signs and were taking action to enforce their sign ordinance but that Sybert was apparently unaware of that.

The Strickland campaign notified the media in April that a 19-year-old volunteer from Pepperdine University had witnessed Sybert--Strickland’s main GOP rival in the 37th Assembly District primary--tearing down Strickland placards in Thousand Oaks.

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Sybert immediately ridiculed the charges in a Times interview, saying, “I checked with my wife, and she’s pretty sure the guy next to her Monday night was me.”

The following day, Strickland released the videotape showing Sybert moving about in the darkness, ripping down signs on four occasions in Camarillo and Thousand Oaks. Sybert quickly admitted he had lied and said he was “embarrassed and ashamed” by what he had done.

Sybert said he tore down the signs out of frustration and tried to convince voters he was still the best candidate to replace Nao Takasugi (R-Oxnard), who cannot seek reelection because of term limits.

But Sybert wound up being trounced by Strickland, a 28-year-old aide to Assemblyman Tom McClintock, despite Sybert’s outspending all challengers. He then announced his political career was over.

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“This settlement allows me to move on with my life,” Sybert said. “I’m tired of seeing my name in the newspaper.”


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