UPDATED: Mailer Puts San Juan Capistrano Back into Election Mode

Just before Thanksgiving, residents received a serving of local politics.

A mailer sent to San Juan Capistrano residents just before Thanksgiving. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo
A mailer sent to San Juan Capistrano residents just before Thanksgiving. Patch photo credit: Penny Arévalo

EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated to include comments from San Juan Capistrano Councilman Sam Allevato. Originally posted at 11:44 a.m. Dec. 2, 2013.

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, San Juan Capistrano residents were treated to an election season-type mailer, accusing one political faction in town of courting lawyers to file big-bucks lawsuits against the city.

The flier comes from San Juan Cares, a new group in town saying it just wants to report the facts.

So who is San Juan Cares? The front man is Robert Ferguson, a member of the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission who says he’s a neutral third party in the midst of two warring factions in town, the council majority and a group of disgruntled citizens looking to recall one of them, Councilman Sam Allevato.

“I started San Juan Cares because I was tired of the tone, tenor and personal attacks in our local politics,” Ferguson told Patch. “There are no sides here. It is the political environment, and anyone that would support bringing civility to it I welcome.”

But he surrounds himself with people who are clearly partisan – in support of Allevato – and even out-of-town political operatives. Ferguson’s mailer, a glossy, full color four-pager, attacks the people behind the Community Common Sense newspaper and the Capistrano Taxpayers Association but has no issues with Allevato or the council majority.

When San Juan Cares announced its formation, an email went out to the media from David Ellis, a Newport Beach political consultant known more for his efforts on the Orange County Fairgrounds Board of Directors.

When asked why he was involved, Ellis told Patch he was simply helping Ferguson out with “logistics, like email.” He also acknowledged putting together the group’s website.

Ferguson said Ellis’ involvement communicates that San Juan Cares “is about facts and figures, not people,” he said.

But in emails publically available through City Hall, Ellis does go on the attack himself. In response to a nay vote council minority members Derek Reeve and Roy Byrnes cast against monument signs at the Reata Park and Event Center which are to include a flag, Ellis called them “communists.”

Subsequent emails between Allevato, Ellis, former sheriff Brad Gates and political consultant Eileen Padberg show them strategizing in July how to use the Reata sign vote.

“We should take some shots now - letters to the editor from outraged citizens just so that we can reprint articles/columns in direct mail,” Padberg writes.

Ellis has also requested all emails between Byrnes and Reeve and a number of Common Sense and Capistrano Taxpayers Association members.

Allevato told Patch he has nothing to do with San Juan Cares.

"My campaign group is Friends of Sam Allevato Against the Recall 2014. I am registered with the city, county and state," Allevato said. "All of my contributions will be reported on time, and I choose only to run a positive campaign, based on the truth."

Allevato does know Ellis and consults with him about political matters. In another email, Ellis, Padberg and Allevato are discussing a newsletter Newport Beach sends out. Ellis recommended it for San Juan Capistrano.

“It is very much an advocacy piece masked in the façade of an official city mailer,” Ellis writes. But, at least in Newport Beach, no one complains about the tax dollars spent on it.

Yet another out-of-towner, Rancho Santa Margarita Councilman Steve Baric, is also involved. The pre-Thanksgiving mailer identifies three locals by name, one of them Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Jim Reardon.

Reardon’s name appears on a wheel of fortune for having cost Capo Unified $600,000 in legal fees and judgments, a claim that came up during his run for office in 2012 and which he disputes. When Reardon contacted Ferguson about the matter, he said he got an email from Baric the next day, representing San Juan Cares as general counsel.

“I am disappointed to be have my name dragged into a matter that doesn’t presently concern me,” Reardon said. “The allegation -- or implication -- contained in the hit piece is false. It was discussed publicly in the 2010 election, and again in 2012 when I was elected to the school board. …

In response, Baric emailed and warned Reardon to stop harassing Ferguson, Reardon said.

When Patch asked specifically about the mailer, Ferguson could not be reached. He earlier said he has yet to raise enough money to accomplish his goals. When asked how much he’ll end up spending, Ferguson replied: “Whatever it will take that I can raise.” The group placed more generic advertisements in the Capistrano Dispatch and Patch.

The mailer also includes a not-so-flattering, bare-belly photo of Clint Worthington, the face of Allevato recall attempt. Worthington said he cannot talk about the photo, which depicts him in an intimate moment with an unidentified woman on a beach.

“I would love to talk about the photo, but I can't,” he said. “However, take a close look at the photo. What is wrong with it? She is prepared. She has her beach stuff out. Beach clothes. Beach chair.  Look at me.  I have my standard white T-shirt, Levi's, sock and shoes on. I am laying directly on the sand, not on the towel. I have no beach ware. Why would she have her head buried in my shoulder?”

However, Worthington wouldn’t go as far as saying the photo is doctored.

Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Jonathan Volzke, wrong again. Ambush school is owned by CUSD, not the City. Fire Station 7 Is owned by the OCFA, not the City. RMV Riding park is guess what, owned by the City. No you can't enter RMV Riding Park through the City. I am sorry that you missed the part in the name where it is called a PARK. Thanks Brad Gates and Sam Allevato for yet another boondoggle. Another reason you can't trust Sam.
Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 07:25 PM
So Jonathan Volzke, any chance you want to say what your ties are to David Ellis ? Or, are you still going to claim you don't know him ?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 02, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Donna, I just posted a story about maintenance costs at Reata Park here: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/reata-park-could-eventually-cost-300k-a-year-to-maintain The City Council is scheduled to discuss this tomorrow. If you want to read all the nitty-gritties, you can go here: http://sjc.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=27736&view=&showpdf=1
Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Donna Fleiming, Brad Gates was the Chief Negotiator for the boondoggle RMV riding Park. Sam Allevato voted to purchase the park after Brad Gates "negotiated" the deal. FYI, Brad Gates never filled out conflict of interest forms like very one else is required to do. Why not? Yet another reason to not trust Sam Allevato .
Donna Fleming December 02, 2013 at 07:43 PM
JV. You were a good reporter. Right about reporting both sides. However, sometimes only one side is coming foreward. Woodward & Bernstein acted on less information than we have on this comment board. There are still Liddy's and Mitchell's out there manipulating politics on the city and state level.
Sunshine December 02, 2013 at 08:03 PM
Did Sam and Brad Gates work together on the police force?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 02, 2013 at 08:10 PM
You can read Steve Baric's letter to Trustee Reardon here: http://sanjuancares.org/2013/12/02/bullies-common-sense-trying-trample-first-amendment-rights/
Jonathan Volzke December 02, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Clint, I have no ties to David Ellis.
Sunshine December 02, 2013 at 08:21 PM
And Sam is clueless as to what's going on around him concerning his buddies and the recall, Jonathan.
Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Jonathan Volzke, from what I read, the emails are telling quite a different story about your relationship with David Ellsi.
Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 02, 2013 at 08:28 PM
That's not accurate. As I said in the story, it's indirect. None of the Allevato emails that are to or CC Ellis include JV. JV does send an email to Sam who forwards to Ellis. JV clearly consults with Sam (for example, on the news rack issue) and Sam clearly consults with Ellis and Padberg, but at least in these emails, they don't all get together in "one place."
Clint Worthington December 02, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Penny, isn't Steve Baric a Rancho Santa Margarita City Council member?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 02, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Yes, that's ID'd in the story above.
Alberto Barrera December 02, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Much politics, such anger, very pointless, wow.
Sunshine December 02, 2013 at 09:29 PM
Penny, I just read the article about Reata park and asked a few questions about it on the thread. I guess my water bill will go up since the recycled water for the city is on my monthly bill even though I have to rent the park out to use it. If the recycled water was in the city budget like it is for most OC cities, I wouldn't be paying for it as it would be included in maintenance costs and payed for with the revenue. Now we residents will pay for it and not be reimbursed with incoming revenue. Out door concerts and parties? Great...more noise, traffic, and drunk drivers. My advice...SELL it to a private party who knows event planning. SJC shouldn't be in the event planning business. Get the government out of stuff like this. I'm thinking Obamacare.
Angus Kevin Mckay December 02, 2013 at 11:30 PM
Donna did you make it out ok?
Donna Fleming December 03, 2013 at 01:27 AM
I did not attend the meeting. I hope others did and we will learn more thru them. Since some of us use our name and not a nom de plume, it makes one feel a bit vulnerable. Thanks for checking to see if I am alive. There sure is a lot of anger over the recall, the park purchase, the water bills, and poor city management. Lots of money involved too. I wonder where all of this is leading. It feels like watergate. There have been too many closed door meetings at the city council. There is power and money men pulling strings. Sounds like a great novel.
Donna Fleming December 03, 2013 at 01:38 AM
Sunshine....this whole thing (the land purchase) by the open space commission, under the guise of revenue generated by parties and concerts does sound like the Obamacare rollout. What a mess of an investment. I agree. Sell it, pay off the water over billing. Disband the open space commission. Recall Allevato. If there is any money left (doubtful), the city should consider a small boutique hotel for events. There are city owned hotels and properties. Then they can do all the events they want near the Mission, the train, and the freeway. We can thank Clint for the recall if only to draw our attention to the mess our city is in. It is far more than just the water rate over billing and water rate structure. Land deals using city dollars arranged behind closed doors. No wonder our water bills went up in 2010. All the pieces fall into place.
Donna Fleming December 03, 2013 at 01:46 AM
Albert....These comments are not pointless. Our community is taking an interest and some control back from our city council. When elected city officials do not do what they were elected to do, when they go beyond their authority, then we citizens have an obligation to call them on it. Our taxes, are being used for things we did not agree to.
Sunshine December 03, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Jonathan, ask Sam who is paying Dave Ellis. The guy doesn't work for free.
Sunshine December 03, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Penny, you're doing a good job, but we need higher octane. Too many unanswered questions. Too many strange acquaintances, too much money involved. Too many connections within an entrenched establishment of city officials and rich developers and companies like the Rancho Mission Viejo Development Company. Too many interesting characters sticking their noses and bank accounts into the anti recall effort. Too much resistance to lower the water bills or get off this damnable tiered system, randomly and illegally calculated. These rich developers screwed the Great Park and now they are coming down to SJC. A great opportunity for an investigative reporter who really wants to seek the truth.
bill odel December 03, 2013 at 11:52 AM
And we expect new business to come to this city with this kind of stuff going on. The chamber can't like this. It's not good for any business.
Jonathan Volzke December 03, 2013 at 12:21 PM
Thanks, Penny.
Donna Fleming December 03, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Any day I expect a stranger to ride into San Juan Capistrano and paint the town red.
bill odel December 03, 2013 at 02:58 PM
I just hope they buy the paint at a local retailer.
thejellyfish December 03, 2013 at 10:25 PM
Nothing will be resolved with Allevato on the city council. It is best if he just steps down, get the appeal stopped, and negotiate settlements with the lawsuits so we can all go forward. With the Allevato Attitude of appeal, appeal, appeal, nothing will be resolved. The links between Allevato and Ellis is disgusting.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 03, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Not stepping down. Just became mayor. Story coming up soon (if I can focus on both writing and what's being said).
thejellyfish December 03, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Did you really expect anything different from the three amigos? I would suspect that the arrogance of Allevato is about ready to boil over.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 03, 2013 at 11:08 PM


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