Ashbaugh continues questionable use of city email
October 26, 2012
Following the filing of a campaign misconduct complaint against incumbent San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh, the candidate for reelection once again made personal use of his public email account.
The city attorney’s office announced Tuesday that it is evaluating the legal complaint submitted by two challenging council candidates, as well as two mayoral candidates, charging Ashbaugh with three violations of state and city election code, including improper use of city email. The same day Ashbaugh used his city account to email mayoral candidate Steve Barasch, one of the complainants, about campaign matters.
Ashbaugh wrote Barasch Tuesday saying that he would suspend his response to an inquiry by the mayoral candidate because Barasch had signed the misconduct complaint. After a response from Barasch, Ashbaugh emailed him again Wednesday saying, “Game on, Steve.”
City Attorney Christine Dietick received the email exchange and sent a response to all council and mayoral candidates later Wednesday hinting that Ashbaugh had continued to violate election code.
“No campaign related communications should be conducted using city resources, including city computers and e-mail address,” Dietrick wrote in capital letters.
Dietrick acknowledged the exchange between Ashbaugh and Barasch and said it could not continue by way of city email.
“It appears from an exchange between candidates that was forwarded to me earlier today that there may still be confusion on this issue,” Dietrick said. “Please immediately cease any further debate or discussion of campaign related issues utilizing City e-mail addresses.”
Despite Dietrick’s response, Ashbaugh told CalCoastNews that it is debatable whether or not he again misused his city email account.
“I’ve since been informed that such an email should have been sent from my personal email account,” Ashbaugh said. “I think the matter is debatable, frankly.”
Ashbaugh also said that the issue of improperly emailing Barasch had less significance than the need to settle a conflict of interest matter between the two candidates. Ashbaugh said a conflict of interest issue arose when Barasch signed the complaint against him, thus preventing Ashbaugh from following through on Barasch’s inquiry.
“I do not perform such services only for constituents who support me,” Ashbaugh said. “When and if his complaint is resolved — and I expect that it will be resolved soon — then we can return to the original subject of our email conversation.”
Though Ashbaugh did not say he had misused his city email in the exchange with Barasch, his campaign website did announce Wednesday that the incumbent “owns up” to the improper use of his city account outlined in the complaint.