By Miriam Raftery
October 29, 2012 (La Mesa)—The owners of Hunter’s Carpet in La Mesa have sent a letter to Council candidate Laura Lothian, with a copy to the City Attorney, contending that Lothian’s campaign falsely represented the carpet company’s property as an eyesore.
“The picture you promote as “typical trash” in the city is a gross misrepresentation,” the owners wrote. “Evidently it’s your practice to be deceitful during your political campaigns,” the letter added, noting that the tactic is “similar to your last election campaign.” Lothian displayed a photo of the property in campaign materials touting a need to eliminate blight.
But owners Lyn, Alan and Danie Hunter say that as a service to their customers, they take in old carpet and place it in the store’s dumpster. “The trash is serviced daily Monday through Saturday and on occasion there is an overflow which is removed the same day or the following day,” their letter indicates.
In the letter, dated September 28, they asked Lothian to remove the photo from her campaign materials. ECM has asked Lothian for a response but has not received a reply.
Lynn Hunter said she learned of the problem when a customer brought in a postcard displaying the photo. The image was also used in a Patch.com blog post by Lothian and on her website. In a phone call today with ECM, Hunter said she received a response from Lothian that the photo had been removed off the website, but she is not aware if Lothian is continuing to distribute the post cards or not.
In the 2010 election, when Lothian ran for mayor, she told ECM that she was inspired to run in order to clean up the city, citing trash and graffiti as key problems she hoped to correct.
A local merchant, Michelle Tackett, accused Lothian of piling up trash for a photo shoot at a lot across from her business in the 2010 campaign. Lothian denied the allegation.
“I never piled up trash. I did not import trash nor did I move trash from one spot to another…There was no stunt there,” Lothian told ECM in an e-mail after the incident, adding that Google Satellite photos confirmed trash “visible from space” 24 hours before the photo shoot. Satellite photos provided to La Mesa Patch, however, were undated.
Trash issues aren’t the only ethics questions Lothian has faced.
The Fair Political Practices Commission ruled a mailer feature Lothian and others was illegal; Peter Cuthbert, who organized the flyer, was fined $2,500. Lothian denied knowledge of the mailer, however Cuthbert told media that Lothian had approved the mailer in principal and provided her biography, though did not review the final content. Council candidate Ian Schiff, also featured on the mailer, confirmed that Cuthbert did inform him of the mailer and obtained his biography, though did not send final content for review.
During the 2010 election, questions also swirled around an incident in which Lothian’s daughter, then 19, was arrested for violating La Mesa’s social host ordinance for a drinking party involving numerous minors at the candidate’s home. Lothian denied knowledge but further, accused another candidate of libel and insisted that her daughter was never arrested.
ECM obtained police records through a public records search at the time, which revealed that Lothian’s daughter was indeed arrestedfor a violation of 10.38.030(a) L.M.M.C.-Social Host Ordinance. She later pled guilty to an infraction under a plea agreement reached.
An ECM investigation in 2010 also found that Lothian and/or her former husband, Matthew Lothian, faced numerous tax liens, collections, foreclosure and eviction following Matthew Lothian’s conviction for fraud in a telemarketing scam. Lothian had children with him and stayed with him for 12 years after his conviction, but denied any involvement or knowledge of the crimes. The couple later divorced in 2002 following his bouts of depression and alcoholism.
She has rebuilt her life as a successful realtor in La Mesa, a community she likens to “Mayberry” for its friendly small-town environment. Lothian serves on the parking commission and has been an advocate of beautifying and cleaning up the historic downtown village.
A fiscal conservative, Lothian says she is “empathetic to the struggles of businesses.” In her 2012 campaign, her website lists as her priorities “to better our community, decrease crime, increase property values and attract and retain high quality residents and businesses.”