3 Deny Signing Pro-Hahn Cards

Times Staff Writers

Three Jewish civic leaders charged Friday that their signatures were forged on cards indicating they support Mayor James K. Hahn for reelection when they do not.

The leaders, including Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, joined Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss to denounce the campaign’s use of those cards to justify listing their names in Hahn-for-mayor advertisements in Jewish newspapers.

“It’s dishonest and manipulative,” Weil said.

Weil, developer Ira Smedra and dentist Irving S. Lebovics inspected copies of endorsement cards provided to The Times by the Hahn campaign and confirmed that the signatures were not theirs.


“Mine was a total forgery. Not only was the signature forged, but the printed part was forged too,” Weil said.

“It was nowhere near my signature,” said Lebovics, chairman of Agudath Israel of California, an Orthodox communal organization.

He and the others called on Hahn to identify who forged the signatures and to take action against that person.

“At least acknowledge it, if somebody has done something wrong in your campaign and you need to clean house,” Lebovics said.

Hahn told reporters at City Hall that he had no knowledge of any names forged on endorsement cards.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Hahn said. “If somebody says they didn’t sign it, I respect that.”

Asked whether he would investigate the allegations, Hahn dismissed the complaints. “It’s a pretty minor thing to say you want to launch an investigation over,” he said.

The mayor also defended the use of the names in the newspaper ad. “We did have signed cards indicating that people were supporters,” Hahn said. “If that’s not the case, if people changed their minds, we would certainly respect that. But the information was provided to us, that these were people who had signed cards who said they supported us. We had a strong indication that the people were supporting us.”

Hahn campaign strategist Kam Kuwata said later that the Hahn campaign had received the endorsement cards from Joseph Klein, a leading supporter of Hahn from the city’s Jewish community who died last June.

“What we did was get a group of commitment slips from Joe,” he said.

The forgery allegations were first reported Friday by the Jewish Journal, which identified a fourth civic leader, Michael Rosenberg, who also said his signature was forged. Rosenberg, a businessman and president of the Hancock Park Residents Assn., could not be reached Friday for comment, but he told The Times recently that he had not endorsed Hahn, even though his name was listed in the Hahn ad.

Weil and Lebovics said they were so frustrated by the Hahn campaign’s use of their names that they agreed to join Weiss, who is backing Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa for mayor, at a news conference Friday in the Fairfax district.

Hahn and Villaraigosa are both vying for the support of the city’s Jewish voters, who made up about 14% of the electorate March 8. Villaraigosa won 27% of the Jewish vote, while Hahn received 17%, according to a Times exit poll.

“It’s wrong to make a false claim of an endorsement,” said Weiss, who also attacked the Hahn campaign for bringing up Klein’s name. “It’s unconscionable to blame a deceased person for your own transgressions.”

Kuwata bristled at that criticism.

“I’m not blaming anything on anybody,” Kuwata said. “And I’m not going to be lectured by a guy that goes around breaking the ethics code.”

Kuwata was referring to allegations made Thursday by the director of the Ethics Commission that Weiss’ 2001 campaign had not properly filed its mailers with the city.

Klein, a Hahn appointee who was chairman of the city Planning Commission, was close to many of the civic leaders who claimed their signatures were forged. And, on Friday, they angrily denounced Kuwata’s reference to his role.

“Respectfully, Joe Klein was a man of impeccable integrity,” Weil said.

Lebovics said Klein was his mentor. “Mr. Klein is dead.... He was a very straight guy. It wasn’t him,” he said.

Klein was also defended by his brother-in-law, Stanley Treitel. “Not him. He wouldn’t do that,” Treitel said, adding he was not happy with the Hahn campaign’s explanation.

“A person who’s not here can’t talk, can’t defend himself. It’s really not right. And it’s not right for the family. So we have to uphold his reputation, which was impeccable,” Treitel said.

The controversy stems from an advertisement published last month in two newspapers, the Jewish News and Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, that listed 111 civic leaders, including Weil, Lebovics, Rosenberg and Smedra, under the heading: “We support the reelection of our Mayor Jim Hahn.”

Six of those listed -- Rabbi Avraham M. Weiner, Aaron B. Litenansky, Walter Feinblum, Weil, Lebovics and Rosenberg -- signed a Feb. 28 letter to Hahn protesting the use of their names.

“The only problem is that we did not give our endorsement to your reelection campaign,” the men wrote in the letter released Friday by Villaraigosa’s campaign. “Please remove our names from any future lists that are scheduled to be used by your office.”

The six said they supported former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg in the March 8 election.

“In your first campaign for mayor, some of us did support you on the reputation of a now dear departed mutual friend, Joe Klein,” the six said. “However, that was 3 1/2 years ago, and there was no follow-up call to re-solicit support from us for your current campaign.”

When asked recently about claims that some of those listed in the ads were not Hahn supporters, campaign spokeswoman Julie Wong faxed to The Times copies of four endorsement cards that had “Jim Hahn for Mayor 2005” as a heading and a box checked that says: “Yes, I support Jim Hahn for reelection. Use my name on a list of Jewish community leaders for Hahn.”

Smedra said he inspected an endorsement form with a signature purported to be his and said it was “not even close” to his real signature. “How do I feel about it? Not happy,” he said. “It’s obviously the wrong thing to do.”

Smedra, who contributed this year to Hertzberg’s campaign, said that he gave money to Hahn four years ago but that no one from the Hahn campaign had contacted him this time.

Likewise, Lebovics said he supported Hahn four years ago but backed Hertzberg this year.

Villaraigosa attacked Hahn over the incident.

“I’m appalled that the mayor would refuse to take responsibility for the acts of his campaign operatives and instead blame a dead man who cannot speak out to defend his own name,” Villaraigosa said.

Meanwhile, Hertzberg decided Friday not to seek a recount of the vote after an attorney for his campaign inspected ballots with ink “over-markings” made by city workers to make sure the marks made by voters could be read by vote-counting machines.

“We pretty much came away believing that while there were inconsistencies in how staff handled ballots, with some more aggressive than others in over-marking ballots, there was no evidence of wrongdoing, no vote tampering or vote fraud,” said Fred Woocher, an attorney for Hertzberg.

The decision not to seek a recount also came after the city clerk’s office announced Friday that a tally of 14,000 vote-by-mail ballots not counted on election day and a required manual recount of 1% of the precincts left Hertzberg in third place with close to the same margin he had on election night.

Hertzberg trailed Hahn by 5,800 votes on March 8. The new tally had him trailing Hahn by 5,847 votes, with 15,000 provisional ballots left to be counted.

In the new tally, Villaraigosa received 32.9% of the vote, Hahn 23.7% and Hertzberg 22.2%.

Also Friday, sources close to state Sen. Richard Alarcon, the fifth-place finisher in the mayor’s race, said he was scheduled to meet with Hahn at a San Fernando Valley restaurant late Friday to talk about whether he might endorse Hahn.