Lawsuit wants Newport council candidate Fred Ameri’s given name on ballot

A Newport Beach resident is seeking a court judgment mandating that City Council candidate Fred Ameri use his given name instead of his nickname on the November ballot.

Ameri, whose given name is Farrokh Ameri, is running to replace termed-out Councilman Keith Curry representing District 7, which includes Newport Coast and Newport Ridge. Also vying for the seat are local attorney and Finance Committee member Will O’Neill and attorney Phil Greer.

Ameri, who was born in Iran, is a 19-year Newport Beach resident, a retired business executive and a former city planning commissioner.

Resident William Stewart filed a lawsuit Monday in Orange County Superior Court against Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley and Newport Beach City Clerk Leilani Brown.

Stewart’s attorney, Bruce Peotter, brother of Newport Councilman Scott Peotter, wrote in court documents that the state election code mandates that a candidate’s legal name be used on the ballot and that Kelley and Brown should be required to amend the document to list Ameri’s given name.

“Farrokh Ameri’s name must appear on the ballot, not a fictitious name that will mislead voters,” the lawsuit states.

Ameri, who said he does not know Stewart, said he is angry that he’s being accused of being dishonest. He said the lawsuit is a way to “distract people from the real issues facing the city.”

The suit lists several Irvine police officers, a U.S. District Court clerk who processed Ameri’s naturalization papers in 1989 and several notaries who Stewart believes, based on court records, know Ameri as Farrokh instead of Fred.

Stewart also points to misdemeanor charges filed against Farrokh Ameri in 2004 alleging driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, reckless driving and driving with a blood-alcohol level higher than the legal limit. Ameri pleaded not guilty in 2004, and all charges were dismissed that year, Orange County Superior Court records show.

“That’s part of the evidence that he’s not using his legal name,” Bruce Peotter said Wednesday. “It’s part of the argument that someone can avoid scrutiny by using a name that people can’t research. If you’re a regular old citizen doing background searches, you’re not going to find them in public records because you don’t have the right name.”

Ameri said he is widely known as Fred and that it’s not a nickname he invented to mislead voters.

“These are racist allegations, and for me, as a person that has lived in this county for 55 years and Newport Beach 19 years without having a single negative spot on my record, this hurts me emotionally and physically,” he said.

Stewart also is requesting that Ameri’s candidate statement, which will appear in documents received by voters, remove what Stewart interprets as a reference to other candidates for elected office.

Stewart takes issue with Ameri’s statement that since he is providing the funds for the majority of his campaign expenses, he is “the only independent candidate.”

The California election code says any candidate’s statement “shall be limited to a recitation of the candidate’s own personal background and qualifications and shall not in any way make reference to other candidates for that office or to another candidate’s qualifications, character or activities.”