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City Attorney Says Vasquez's Sign Doesn't Violate Campaign Laws

Opinion memo says the sign is displayed legally, and the city cannot suppress political speech.

The City Attorney says a complaint about a political sign placed at a downtown Lemon Grove redevelopment construction site has no merit.

The campaign sign supporting City Council candidate Racquel Vasquez that hangs at the Citronica One project site does not violate campaign laws or local ordinances, nor does it constitute a conflict of interest, says City Attorney Jim Lough.

A complaint filed Wednesday by Jack Moore, the leader of a citizen’s group whose members include City Council candidate Lou Melendez, asks the city to reprimand Vasquez, a Lemon Grove planning commissioner, and Citronica One developer Hitzke Development Corp., over the signage, alleging it to be proof of influence peddling and future favoritism.

Lough says the matter is one of free speech.

Lough’s written opinion, dated Nov. 1 and addressed to City Attorney Graham Mitchell, states:

The fact that the Developer has received approvals from the Planning Commission does not prevent the developer from displaying political signs. The City cannot suppress political speech as a condition of seeking governmental permits or funding. The last approval by the Planning Commission of a request by the Developer was in January 2009. The remoteness of this approval would prevent any application of campaign laws to this situation as discussed below.

[The entire opinion can be read by clicking on the pdf in the media box.]

Contacted prior to the City Attorney’s decision, Moore said he expected little, if anything, from the city in response to his complaint.

“The incident cannot be remedied. But it should be documented,” he said in an e-mail to Patch. “Ms. Vasquez as a planning commissioner or council member should recuse herself of any issues regarding Hitzke Development since we now know they are active supporters. Public trust is compromised. Public money is involved.”

Vasquez says she’s confident the community knows where she’s coming from.

“Signs of support can be seen throughout Lemon Grove,” Vasquez said in an e-mail to Patch. “And it is because the people know where I stand regarding these key issues—public safety, quality neighborhoods and economic development—and they know my value system.”

Moore's group, formed in April 2011, seeks to act as a local government oversight committee. Melendez recently described it as an independent taxpayers committee.

James Davis November 02, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Thanks for clearing the matter up Mr Lough and Mr Mitchell. Mr Moore did bring up a valid point in that some awareness was brought to the matter. Now for that election....
LemonGroove November 03, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Does this "citizen's group" have a name?

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