Foes of Los Angeles City Council candidate Tamar Galatzan accused her Monday of unfairly promoting her candidacy by sending mailers touting her work as a sitting school board member.
Galatzan's lawyer, Stephen Kaufman, said there was nothing improper about the mailers, which do not mention Galatzan's council candidacy. He said she was merely trying to communicate with her constituents about school issues.
"These mailers are independent of her council campaign," he said.
The three mailers, which Kaufman said were paid for with money from Galatzan's school board campaign committee, began arriving just before voters began casting mail-in ballots for the 2nd Council District special election, which will be held Sept. 22.
Galatzan, a lawyer who was elected to the Los Angeles Unified School District board in 2007 after receiving $2.2 million from a campaign committee controlled by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, is one of 10 candidates running for the council seat vacated when Wendy Greuel became city controller.
A copy of one of the mailers obtained by The Times does not include information about who paid for it and bears a return address of Galatzan's school board district field office in Lake Balboa.
The piece includes a photograph of Galatzan and asks constituents to return a survey ranking school issues that are most important to them.
"In the less than three years I have been on the Board, we're starting to see Valley schools turn the corner. There is much, much more to do, but we're making progress," Galatzan writes in the mailer. "Just one example: I led the effort to ensure that every Valley school now has up-to-date computers."
The mailer immediately prompted criticism by the campaigns of several of Galatzan's council opponents, who initially questioned whether the mailing and postage were paid for by the school board office -- which Kaufman dismissed as "absolutely false."
Candidate Frank Sheftel said the mailer was "suspiciously timed to when the absentee ballots come out" and accused Galatzan of "taking advantage of her position to get a little more name recognition." Candidate David "Zuma Dogg" Saltsburg called the flier "purposely deceitful."
John Shallman, a consultant to former Paramount Pictures Corp. executive and candidate Christine Essel, accused Galatzan of "raising unlimited and undisclosed special interest money through one of her political committees to promote her candidacy for city council."
"It's corruption plain and simple -- and just another example of her singular focus on her political career and not the children of the LAUSD," Shallman said.
Eric Hacopian, a consultant to council candidate and state Assemblyman Paul Krekorian (D-Burbank), said one of the questions in Galatzan's feedback survey was about whether one of her priorities should be fighting cuts to education by the state Legislature. "Who do you think that's directed toward?" he asked.
"The city is well known for having some of the strictest laws for what you can and can't do," Hacopian said. "When you are obviously spending money from an account that is not intended for the purpose of this campaign then you are playing fast and loose with the rules."
A city ethics official said the office could not comment on the legalities of a specific case, but said the office would closely monitor candidates' compliance with the laws. If an individual is using money from an unrelated campaign account to explicitly advance their candidacy, it could be in violation of the city laws and would be something the office would look at, the official said.
Kaufman did not immediately have details about the mailer's cost, who prepared it or how many received it.
"Tamar continues to take her duties and responsibilities as school board member very seriously and this was one way she sought to communicate with her constituents about issues of importance to the school district," Kaufman said.