City attorney reviewing Ashbaugh’s alleged campaign misconduct

October 24, 2012

John Ashbaugh

The San Luis Obispo City Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that it is evaluating the complaint made by four candidates for public office against councilman and candidate for reelection John Ashbaugh.

Council candidates Kevin Rice and Matt Strzpek, as well as mayoral candidates Steve Barasch and Donald Hedrick, accused Ashbaugh of three violations of state and city election codes: use of city email for electoral matters, solicitation of a donation in excess of the $200 limit and late filing of a campaign disclosure.

The city attorney’s office said that in accordance with municipal code it would respond to the complaint by Nov. 1 as to whether or not City Attorney Christine Dietrick intends to file a civil case against Ashbaugh.

While misuse of a city email account constitutes a breach of state government code and could lead to California Fair Political Practices Commission action, the latter two violations, if determined to have occurred, would require the city attorney to act directly. San Luis Obispo Municipal Code 2.40.100, as voted into place by Ashbaugh in January 2010, states that a candidate must pay a penalty of three times the amount of any unlawfully solicited donation. Likewise, a candidate faces a penalty of $100 per day for each day late one files a campaign disclosure.

As documented in the complaint, Ashbaugh requested by way of city email that County Supervisor Adam Hill contribute a $200 check and two bottles of wine. Together the donations exceed the $200 individual limit, a regulation for which Ashbaugh voted three times to enact.

The complaint additionally provides documentation of Ashbaugh filing his campaign disclosure for the period ending June 30 on August 3, three days after the July 31 deadlines.

Despite evidence of the violations, Dietrick taking civil action against Ashbaugh would come as a surprise to some. Despite state and federal investigations into the city employees allegedly covering up illegal acts , Ashbaugh has repeatedly stated his overwhelming support for staff.

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Whoa, there folks! Get ahold of yourselves. It is this kind of absurd sensationalistic accusations and nit-picking that destroys city councils. There are important issues to discuss in this election, yet some people feel it is necessary to make a HUGE media firestorm over minor mistakes of no ultimate consequence. Two bottles of wine over the limit? Clicking on the wrong e-mail account?

I can only imagine what kind of a mess it will be if these vengeful, mean-spirited, extremist political operative game players get elected to office. Remember the problems Pismo used to have? Or did you watch the telecasts of the Oceano CSD meeting of last year?

Well, I’m concerned that you haven’t seen anything yet if a guy like Kevin Rice cons his way into office. You want drama in your SLO city councils? Crazy meetings that have everyone talking about the next day? Well, Mr. Rice is your man for the job then. You can then cancel HBO and netflix because you will get all the comedy and drama you need from your SLO City Council.

Settle down. The rules are quite clear. Politicians need to adhere to them — even Ashbaugh. All this sorta crap was simply swept under the carpet for years by the local media. Now CCN is doing the reporting they should have been doing all along. People like Ashbaugh either need to follow the rules or they need to stay out of politics.

Stop using so many usernames, Mr. Rice!

If Kevin Rice is elected to the city council or appointed to the city council by Dan Carpenter, pandemonium will ensue. Voters can expect conflict, gridlock, and multiple lawsuits.

In regards to the issue:

One hundred people are fined each day in San Luis Obispo for failing to place a coin in a parking meter. How can we reconcile that if council members are not accountable to their own ordinances? Mr. Ashbaugh voted in favor of the city’s election ordinance three times. I’d like our elected representatives to be as honest and transparent as the laws they pass, and not just speak ceremonially.

There appears to be confusion over the dollar amount or level of indiscretion involved. The fact is, when you utilize official city email you are putting the city seal and name of the People on the communication. This is improper, and brings liability upon the city. When you vote three times to pass an ordinance, you should be subject to the same.

Mr. Ashbaugh writes on his web site today that he made a mistake as he uses several email accounts. I assert after four years in office that one should know how to competently use city email and know when to be cautious and not use it, and be adept at doing so. I have several accounts as well, included a public account for work, and I am *extremely* judicious in its use.

Is this the kind of cantankerous, aggressive, law-suit engendering, nitpicking, petty, VENGEFUL, mean-spirited, two-faced, self-serving behavior that SLO residents should expect if Kevin Rice somehow sleazes his way into office?

This is the same Kevin Rice who sponsored some of the most hateful, sleazy political radio ads ever run in SLO County in the recent Supervisor race, that back-fired terribly and helped destroy Ed Waage’s chances of ever being elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Ashbaugh’s opponents are nit-picking. Two bottles of wine over the limit? Mixing up a private e-mail account with a city e-mail account? Is that the most egregious thing the candidate has done? Fine, call him on it, but don’t go acting like this makes one bit of difference to the average citizen.

I don’t live in SLO and so won’t be voting in this race, but feel somebody needs to put this thing in proper perspective. Lobbyist Kevin Rice is leading this absurd witch hunt with the typical rotten-to-the-core, selfish motivation that does nothing good for your community. Kevin Rice’s tactics are forever sleazy and two-faced. Woe to SLO if Kevin Rice gains any political power in that town. Rice is the guy that befriended 70 year old environmentalist Bill Denneen, went hiking with him, and then called the police and had Bill arrested after Kevin saw Bill let his dog run without a leash. Just like this case with Ashbaugh, Rice is making mountains out of molehills and increasing the animosity and anger in our community.

In regards to the WiseGuy’s false allegations and diversions:

Entirely fictional. I am, and have never been a lobbyist. I am solely employed as a full time firefighter.

In regards to Bill Denneen:

On Friday, May 23, 2008, local “environmentalist” (arguable) Bill Deneen led an unsanctioned field trip comprised of approximately 50 second grade students and their teacher from Bonita Elementary School into the threatened Western Snowy Plover federally protected breeding recovery unit CA-16 located at Oso Flaco. A conservationist working in the recovery unit under a U.S. Fish & Wildlife permit spotted and reported the illegal incursion. State Park Ranger Bonnie Short responded and cited Denneen–and the second grade teacher who “thought [Denneen] was a paid docent and everything was OK”–with misdemeanor citations under 14 CCR 4326.

I was neither present, nor involved in Denneen’s misdemeanor citation, though I had been well aware of Denneen’s illicit habit of bringing dogs and uninformed guests into protected avian areas and had complained vocally to government land managers and the Sierra Club on many occasions for sanctioning his illegal hikes in their newsletter.

A local government land manager for one protected area commented in regards to Denneen’s trespassing, “He’s my #1 problem” and “He’s been training generations of people to follow suit.”

Correspondence with Sierra Club HQ on February 23, 2009 finally ended the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Denneen’s hikes.

While purporting to be an environmentalist, Denneen self-admits, “”I’ve taken probably 10,000 (mostly kids) to the dunes on nature walks over the past 48 years.” [Source: Personal email from Bill Denneen. May 27, 2008.]

Do I have a problem with this sort of anti-environmentalist behavior which harms the threatened Western Snowy Plover? Yes, as should any conservation advocate.

There you go folks. Kevin Rice, right there, in public, claiming that he has never been a “lobbyist.” I’m not sure if he believes what he writes, and therefore must be deluded in some critical way, or if he simply thinks he can fool all the people all the time.

This is a guy who attends council and board meetings continually throughout the county, and has for years, lobbying for his special interests, which, more often than not are vigorously opposed by the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation members, and so many others.

I used to consider Rice two-faced, but I may need to revise that: Three-faced may be more accurate.


Anyone seen WiseGuy’s goat?

Oh, that’s right, Kevin Rice has got it.

John Ashbaugh should do the right thing and resign immediately. He has violated the public’s trust.

John seems to be accountable to a higher authority, i.e. his inner self!!

First, Ashbaugh and the city attorney spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars on their decision to penalize homeless people for taking shelter in their vehicles. Then Ashbaugh voted to charge people for parking on Sunday and for paper bags at stores. Then Ashbaugh defended the city attorney for her performance. Now it comes out that he has violated several different aspects of election law. This guy is a disaster on the city council. He does not deserve a second term on the city council. Nor does his hand picked running mate, Jeff Aranguena, who skipped most city council meetings, deserve a first term. Don’t even get me started on the disastrous reign of Jan Marx. Any vote for those three Democratic robots this year constitutes a vote for party-machine politics, Adam Hill, big money, etc. Throw Ashbaugh to the curb, like his unhidden garbage cans! Give Kevin Rice and Matt Strzepek a chance to clean up this city.

Didn’t Marx also get investigated for corruption shortly before becoming mayor?

A lot came of that, I see.

Doesn’t Ashbaugh know that the way the pros do it: use gmail from work. Avoid subpoenas, nosey reporters, etc.

The four canidates’ complaint and city press release can be viewed here:

Oh yea, the City Attorney investigating a City Council member, especially, this City Attorney. That is like the WOLF guarding the HEN HOUSE. Waste of time, Kevin!

Just like when the DA allowed a fireman to serve on a jury of a trial of a fireman beating the crap out of civillian, and now won’t have another trial, why? because they may not be able to get another fireman on the new jury

Kayaknut, I know this is off the topic of this article, but since you mentioned it – I have seen many references in various Comment sections about a fireman being on a jury at the Mason trial. Just wondering if we know this for a fact or if it was just a rumor? (if its true, totally agree that it never should have happened, along with a lot of other aspects of that investigation/trial)