By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor
November 1, 2018 (El Cajon) - El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho today signed a settlement to end his latest legal battle with the city he represents, after his fellow Councilmembers voted unanimously on Monday to sue Kalasho for illegal use of city resources in his campaign to unseat incumbent Gary Kendrick.
The City had intended to bring the matter to the attention of the County of San Diego District Attorney, the California State Attorney General, and the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Kalasho was accused of illegally sending electronic mailings with the official El Cajon city seal and logo alongside his name, as well as publishing his designated official city of El Cjaon address on his campaign mailings. (See example, right.)
The settlement was signed by Kalasho, El Cajon Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis, and Elizabeth A. Mitchell for City Attorney Morgan L. Foley. It stipulates that Kalasho is permanently enjoined during his tenure as a public official for El Cajon from using the city’s e-mail, logo or seal or any other resource of City property for campaign purposes or any other unauthorized use.
In addition, the stipulation requires that Kalasho or his agents shall not use any images of the City’s logo or seal on campaign flyers or materials, websites, social media, letterhead or his campaign golf cart. He may use the City’s e-mail, logo and seal, address and telephone in connection with his official city business, but “without criticism of colleagues or opponents and without making promises of otherwise campaigning.”
Kalasho also agreed to immediately remove all images of the City’s logo from his campaign materials, websites, social media, letterhead and other advertising uses.
There is no mention in the court brief whether Kalasho will be required to reimburse the City for its cost of litigating the matter.
In a Sept. 5th letter to Kalasho, El Cajon City Manager Mitchell wrote, in part, “I was made aware of two possible FPPC violations related to our campaign. To protect the City and you from regulatory action, I ask that you correct these issues.” Mitchell then detailed the specific concerns which included use of the address and phone of City Hall on his campaign website, and a depiction mimicking the City’s letterhead.
“As we discussed about a month ago, candidates may not use the City’s seal on campaign materials, per the City’s Municipal Code. To be safe, your campaign letterhead should not appear as City letterhead (i.e. remove the City seal and any address or phone numbers belonging to the City. Thank you in advance for your cooperation in complying with this request,” the letter states.
When Kalasho ignored the letter and continued to use his e-mail address and the city seal and logo, Mitchell sent him another letter on Oct. 3rd where he specifically warned Kalasho, “As a reminder, I spoke to you about a similar issue in August 2018 and on September 5, 2018, I provided a letter regarding the matter after another complaint was lodged. A copy of that letter is attached.”
The letter continues, “This letter serves as a notice to immediately cease use of the City’s seal or logo in your campaigns, advocacy against other candidates, or for any other non-authorized, or non-official business. Further, the use of the City’s e-mail account for personal reasons must cease. Any further use of the logo or seal may require the City to seek a court injunction or to take other measures.”
Shortly after the council on Monday voted to allow the City to sue Kalasho (who wasn’t present), Kalasho posted on his Facebook page Monday afternoon, accusing his detractors and opponents of political brinksmanship – in spite of the letters sent to him by Mitchell in early September and October.
“My opponents have directed the city attorney to sue me for sending out newsletters from my city email! Basically restricting my communications with my constituents,” Kalasho (photo, left) wrote. “Look at this text between The San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Karen Beth Pearlman and myself. See the media doesn’t care about real issues, they want the tabloid Headlines. How can someone drain the swamp when it’s this murky? #DirtyPolitics.”
(Pearlman had sent a text to Kalasho right after the decision saying, “Hi Ben, the city will be sending a letter to the FPPC, the district attorney, the Attorney General’s office about your misuse of City resources as a part of your campaign. The city is also suing you for this. I am inviting you to weigh in. Thank you so much for considering.”
Kalasho then responded, “How do you feel about Bill Wells and Gary Kendrick receiving $20k in contributions from Waste Management while they’ll be voting to renew their contract [with the City of El Cajon].”
Kalasho referenced a situation last year when he had taken a donation from Waste Management for his private chamber of commerce prior to a vote on a council matter involving the waste material disposal corporation. The City was forced to organize a revote at a cost of nearly $4,000 on the matter with Kalasho recusing himself due to the donation.)
By the time ECM received news of the settlement, the offices of the City of El Cajon’s law firm, McDougal, Love, Boehmer, Foley, Lyon & Canlas were closed. ECM is honoring Kalasho’s previous requests not to be contacted whatsoever for comment on any news stories involving him.
Councilman Bob McClellan (photo, right) said to ECM that he was happy that Kalasho decided not to fight the City of El Cajon over the use of unauthorized use of the city’s seal and logo. “I’m really glad that we were able to solve this. However, it will remain to be seen if he really follows through with the court order that he agreed to.”
“Although he has referred to me as ‘soulless’ and he knows that I have disagreed with him in the past on his positions, I hope we can move forward.” McClellan said. “I’ve always tried to get along with everyone.”
Gary Kendrick, the incumbent councilmember who is running for re-election against Kalasho due to the onset of the new re-districting rules approved last year, kept his comment about the settlement short.
“Nobody is above the law,” Kendrick concluded.
Follow Paul Kruze on Twitter and Facebook: @PaulKruzeNews