By Miriam Raftery
August 31, 2018 (El Cajon) – On his campaign literature, El Cajon Councilman Ben Kalasho has made some inflated claims about his record. Here’s how the facts compare to the claims.
“In just 2 years on the Council I brought…
- Marriott Hotel
- Live Nation (performing arts center)
- Animal Shelter
- El Cajon Elves (programs giving seniors gifts and other toiletries during the holiday season)
- Electric charging stations”
- Council approved the Marriott Courtyard hotel project back in July 11, 2014, years before Kalasho was elected to the Council. A final development agreement was approved on August 13, 2015, before Kalasho took office. So Kalasho’s claim that he brought the Marriott to El Cajon is false.
- Council and staff have been debating the future of the East County Performing Arts Center for nearly a decade. In August 2016, city staff began discussions with Live Nation ECPAC Aug. 2016 city staff started discussion with Live Nation, before Kalasho took office. In December 2017, when the El Cajon City Council voted to approve a draft agreement with Live Nation to manage the theater, Kalasho was absent. ECM’s article at the time noted that Kalasho’s opponent in the upcoming election, Councilman Gary Kendrick, was a “driving force to save the theatre.” Thus Kalasho‘s claim that he “brought” Live Nation to town is also false.
- El Cajon voters approved a tax measure to fund construction of the new Animal Shelter in 2004, 13 years before Kalasho was on the Council. On July 14, 2015, the City Council voted to approve the shelter’s design and on May 10, 2016, Council approved preconstruction services with the contractor. Kalasho did vote to approve the final contract and budget on the night that he was sworn in, but by no means did he single-handedly bring about an animal shelter that had been over a decade in the planning before his election.
- Kalasho did propose that the Council fund El Cajon Elves, a program he started to give toiletries and gifts to seniors during the holidays. However, Council did not approve funds for his request, because a nonprofit beauty pageant founded by Kalasho had just had its nonprofit status revoked by the state after it was revealed that he never obtained a federal tax identification number while fraudulently representing the pageant as a nonprofit. Kalasho had also previously been found by a jury to have committed fraud involving a business that he owned. Council instead approved allocation of funds to the Salvation Army to help seniors. Kalasho did, however, post on social media video of himself and his wife dressed as elves delivering gifts to seniors at a retirement home, but it’s disingenuous to claim this was an action he brought in an official council capacity.
- A proposal to bring charging stations to El Cajon was proposed by city staff, not Kalasho. Council did vote unanimously to approve the proposal, with Kalasho voting in favor. But it’s an overreach to claim he alone was responsible for this action.
Claim: Kalasho also promised that if reelected, he will “bring the Hampton Hotel to the old police station.”
Fact: The City Council approved a development agreement for the Hampton Inn on the old police station site back on August 11, 2015, over two years before Kalasho joined the Council. Demolition of the old police station has already begun to make way for the new hotel. So, this statement is false.
Claim: Kalasho also makes broad promises of other things he says he will do if reelected, such as hiring seven more police officers, adding three more patrol cars, and park rangers for all city parks.
Fact: It is unclear how he would fund these promises, particularly since he also calls for lowering sales tax. Perhaps he hopes to raise revenues by making el Cajon “more like Santee (i.e. shopping and amenities).” It’s too early to tell whether any of these claims could become reality.
Claim: He also broadly promises to “bring in companies such as Tesla, Intel and Apple to our city” to hire locals, but provides no details on what incentives he has in mind to interest such major tech companies in El Cajon. We put this in the category of wishful thinking – don’t we all wish this one could be true?
Claim: He also states he would “fire a bunch of high paid city employees.”
Fact: Hiring and firing of most employees is not done by the city council and some workers are protected by union contracts. Kalasho could potentially make an argument to fire or replace a non-protected worker but could not do so unilaterally.
Claim: His platform calls for introducing a plan to help the homeless by getting them city jobs such as cleaning graffiti.
Fact: He previously proposed this action, but Council rejected hiring homeless for city jobs.
Claim: Kalasho says he wants to improve factors that keep home values high.
Fact: While this could happen, he provided no specifics on how he would accomplish this.
Claim: Kalasho says he would “end the special interest groups corrupting City Hall.”
Fact: Ironically, Kalasho’s Middle Eastern Chamber of Commerce took a four-figure payment from Waste Management and Kalasho failed to recuse himself from a City Council vote on trash hauling fees involving Waste Management. As a result, the city had to issue new notices to all residents involved at considerable city expense and held a new vote with Kalasho recusing himself due to his conflict of interest.
Claim: He claims his Chamber created “hundreds of local jobs.”
Fact: Kalasho provides no substantiation of any jobs created. While it’s likely that support of small businesses may have helped some create jobs, recent controversies cast doubt on the Chamber’s current effectiveness. His Chamber, formerly the San Diego East County Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, was forced to change its name after a court finding that Kalasho violated another organization’s trademark. A civil case currently pending includes evidence deemed admissible and true by a judge that Kalasho and his wife, co-owners of the privately-owned Chamber, comingled their personal assets with the Chamber’s assets and with assets of the pageant.
A bench warrant for the arrest of Kalasho’s wife, Jessica, was issued today in San Diego Superior Court after she failed to show up at a debtor’s exam to answer questions after the couple was accused by attorney Jimmie Parker of hiding substantial assets in anticipation of a possible civil judgment against them.
Kalasho himself has been a lightning rod of criticism recently with numerous citizens calling for his resignation at recent Council meetings. He recently left the Democratic Party and is registered with no party affiliation after drawing heavy criticism from people in both Democratic and Republican Parties over a civil case alleging that he engaged in sexual harassment of young women in his beauty pageant and fraudulently took out fake identities on social media to harass and defame a local businessman, an attorney and two beauty contestants. He pled guilty to two counts of workers’ compensation fraud in 2016 and remains on probation until October 1, 2018.