|Barich cops to role in Cotati flyer
Officials, citizens claim former Cotati councilman uses false quotes in anti-Measure G flyer circulating the city
You knew it was only a matter of time before political lunacy reared its head in Cotati over Measure G, the proposed half-cent sales tax on the June 3 ballot.
Some citizens have legitimate concerns about Measure G on the June 3 ballot. And those people – such as Cotati Jewelry owner Patty Minnis and Loud and Clear owner Neville Hormuz – are expressing their opposition and going about trying to beat Measure G in a manner that has been completely above board.
Minnis tried, unsuccessfully, to get arguments against Measure G on the ballot. She submitted arguments to Cotati Deputy City Clerk and Elections Officer Tami Taylor after the Cotati City Council unanimously approved placing the sales tax increase on the June 3 ballot. But her arguments were rejected because they exceeded the state-mandated word count limit of 300 words before the deadline, which was the close of the business day on March 10.
She resubmitted her arguments, which she said were under the 300-word limit, after the business day was over. Needless to say, Minnis was unhappy about the situation. She briefly considered legal action but opted to take her case directly to the people. She and others opposing the measure have mailed their arguments to citizens stating their arguments.
“The deadline passed. The city’s playing games and don’t want any arguments against it. I don’t have the time or energy to take them to court,” she said. “We decided the best, easiest and cheapest way was to mail it (the list of arguments) out to everyone individually.”
For her part, Taylor said she’s adhering strictly to state guidelines.
“My job is to review the argument for compliance with the elections code,” Taylor said. “We reviewed the argument against and counted it according to word count standards that come from the elections code, so I don’t have a lot of flexibility. The election code says what I am required to do. I don’t have the option to change anything.”
Hormuz spoke before the Cotati City Council voicing his opposition, and he submitted letters to The Community Voice (his second letter will appear in next week’s edition).
Now for the political lunacy.
Another flyer, of which Minnis and Hormuz have no part, has a headline reading “Who’s behind Measure G, the massive one percent Cotati sales tax increase?” The author of the flyer, George Barich, when contacted Wednesday by The Voice, claims it is a newsletter, not flyer.
The document features pictures of Cotati Mayor John Dell’Osso, council members Mark Landman, Susan Harvey, John Moore, Cotati matriarch and historian Prue Draper, City Manager Dianne Thompson, Sally Tomatoes owner Gerard Giudice, Cotati Police Chief Michael Parish, Cotati Chamber of Commerce member Andre Morrow and Joan Simon. Underneath each picture is a quote attributed to each person pictured, vowing their support for higher taxes. There is no name attached to the document. It says it is “Paid for by local citizens and local businesses owners who want to publish what The Community Voice newspaper will not.”
The biggest problem is those supposedly quoted say the quotes are completely fabricated, and The Community Voice has obtained an email in which Barich, recalled from the council in 2009, admits his role in it.
Barich claims all the quotes are true and says those who deny them are lying.
Simon, who also says she was misquoted, sent Barich an email the morning of May 6, which read: “You are not nearly as clever as you think you are. The alleged “quote” from me in your current flyer being distributed is totally bogus – especially since I was against the Smart train. You really are a sad, lonely and pathetic person to go to these lengths. I’m actually starting to feel sorry for you.”
Barich returned her email later that day. His response reads: “You haven't seen clever yet. Your bogus recall campaign, full of lies, never seemed to bother you? But to progressives, the end justifies the means. You never were against the SMART train or you would have come out and condemned it at City Hall. I also thought the photo of you was quite flattering, considering it was taken 20 years ago. The least you could have done was thank me for not using the one I took of you walking around the neighborhood last year.”
Parish and Barich had an incident at the last city council meeting on April 22, where they had a discussion outside chambers. Parish is quoted in Barich’s document as saying, “If we don’t raise more taxes, I may have to take a pay cut. Furthermore, I can and will arrest anyone calling me or any city council member a liar during a city council meeting.”
When contacted about the accuracy of this quote, Parish said forcefully, “That is something I have never said.”
All those who were contacted denied the quotes attributed to them. Giudice was quoted in the document as saying, “I did what a lot of businesses have done, moved my business out of Cotati. So naturally, I support this higher tax.”
Landman said this document is a violation of city election laws, which state anyone who passes out political flyers must list whose responsible for the content and who is funding it. Giudice said he is the victim of libel and slander and plans on taking legal action against the culprit.
“Anyone who knows me knows I love Cotati,” Giudice said. “We do a lot of things in Cotati with the city. The only reason I moved my business to Sonoma Mountain Village was because I needed a bigger place. That quote attributed to me is…silly.”
Landman agreed and said he’ll push for this matter to be sent to the district attorney.
“That flyer is slanderous, libelous and clearly intended to damage the reputation of Cotati,” Landman said.
I would suggest to Mr. Landman and to the police chief Mr. Parish that they look at the section of Government Code titled the Ralph M. Brown Act before making what will be costly errors. Citizens do not give up any right to know what their government is doing and have the right to criticize any action or omission of the legislative agency.
As for Chief Parish?s contention that his quote was ?something he never said?, I can confirm that Barich emailed me and spoke with me immediately after it happened because he thought the threat was very real. Your reporter adding the term ?forcefully? is like a person raising his voice expecting the lie to be believed.
I would suggest to Mr. Landman that he is also on very weak legal grounds. First off, most of this is ?he said, she said? anecdotal evidence. Slander of a public official must meet a much higher standard than that of a private citizen. Unless a certain amount of money has been spent, one does not have to form a political committee but can identify themselves in just the way Mr. Barich has.
As for Ms. Simon?s response, once again she has misinterpreted what was stated in print. No where in her quote does it say she supported or opposed the SMART train. I would suggest that your reporter get a copy of the flyer before he writes his next biased article.
My final suggestion is that those involved politically should be aware that some of us make contemporaneous notes when you open your mouths, such as Barich did with Guidice when they were both at a tire shop. You may not even remember what you say.
This is not political lunacy. The article, if you can call it that, describes the intense hatred one side has against anyone with a valid, documented opinion that does not agree with the status quo. Those in support of yet another sales tax increase on Cotati businesses and those who patronize them are like a cornered wild animal fighting for its existence.
I would say that if Barich?s contention in his reply is correct, that the city paid to send out letters to the public endorsing this tax increase, that IS a violation of elections law and the FPPC needs to be notified. Barich, on the other hand, only put out an ?educational piece? as it neither endorsed nor opposed the tax hike. Don?t believe me. Read it for yourself.
The City is once again conducting damage control as a result of the fallout of not one, but two, letters mailed to every resident in Cotati which were clearly pro tax propaganda pieces mailed out at the taxpayer's expense which were filled with intentional inaccuracies. I personally complained to the city council and asked for an accounting, but I was met with silence. Mr. Landman is out of line to suggest he overhears every comment that I hear or read after 16 years being active in city affairs on and off the record. I was listening to Diane Thompson try to brainwash me in my office at City Hall when Mark Landman had not even been heard of at City Hall. She and I discussed many topics in her office and in mine, in private, while Mr. Landman and Joan Simon were nowhere to be found.
The City of Cotati is wildly corrupt. We are contacting the State Attorney General to investigate the use of the city attorney for any and all personal legal services provided to the city council members and Chamber members, and the threats made by the police chief to arrest me if I am recording him by audio, and that he promised to personally arrest me if I call him or anyone else a liar during a council meeting again.
People should, and are, outraged by these abusive acts. Within days of the police chief and city council members walking door to door and bullying citizens with lies and scare tactics that they city might need to dissolve the police department or dis-incorporate the city, I was contacted by phone and in person by citizens that the city was out of control. Some citizens admitted that they were simply scared and feared retaliation if they were not supportive of Measure G. This was nothing less than a public relations disaster for our city. A fact sheet from the citizens was desperately needed and we went right to work.
Only one person quoted on the flyer has contacted me asking me for a retraction or offered their views to be published in the next newsletter to come out soon. If the people quoted do not support the tax hike and I have their quote wrong, I am more than willing to print a correction. But like many things in life, you don't get a do over when you speak in public where other people can hear.
I want to thank everyone for their support and confidence that I will take the facts to the community. My attorney has advised me that I am on solid legal ground and we will vigorously defend any lawsuit intended to punish free speech where no defamation of character has taken place.
If anyone supports or objects to higher taxes, let's work together on the next newsletter as a collaborative effort. Maybe we should include some quotes from people against higher taxes. Let's talk. If any member of the city council or city staff would like me to tag along with them on their walks through the neighborhoods so the community can listen to different perspectives on higher taxes in general in the spirit of civil and honest discourse, please let me know.