DiSC Campaign Bleeds into Public Comment for the Davis City Council

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front
Share:

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – Political campaigns are supposed to be separate matters from government functions, but because land use issues that originate with the council end up on the ballot, sometimes there has been a bleedover of the campaign realm into the council meeting public comments.

On Tuesday however, even by those standards the lines were blurred.

Alan Pryor, speaking as a Principal Officer and Treasurer of the No on Measure H campaign, No on DiSC said, “Two weeks ago, I, along with five signers of the argument against Measure H ballot statement were sued by Councilmember Dan Carson for allegedly making false and misleading statements in that ballot statement in the brief filed by Mr. Carson’s LA lawyers.”

Pryor noted that they filed the lawsuit at the last possible moment, “Then had articles prepared, planted and ready to be published the first thing the next morning by the Davis Enterprise and the Vanguard, before we were even notified about the filing.”

He added, “By that time we had less than two days to scramble, to hire a lawyer and get ready for the first hearing.”

Pryor noted that just one word was ordered removed, and the change of pounds back to metric tons.

“So now Carson has unmitigated gall and hubris to go bragging around on the campaign circuit, claiming victory.  And that this was the first time ever that a campaign statement in Yolo County was judged to be misleading, never mind that almost 99% of the language in the statement was left unchanged by the judge.”

He continued, “Let’s be clear here. This wasn’t really about changing the language in the ballot statement. This lawsuit was a political, dirty trick, pure and simple.  Is attempting to subvert free speech and financially intimidate participation  in elections the new normal for Davis politics now?  Shame on you Dan Carson for this brutish and thuggish behavior.”

Roberta Millstein, also a signer of the ballot statement, added, “I watched in horror as the lawsuit filed by Councilmember Dan Carson unfolded before us over the last weeks.  When the dust cleared, the judge required only two very minor changes in the ballot statement.”

She charged, “The timing of this lawsuit and its announcement in the local press suggests that Councilmember Carson’s intentions were never really about changing the ballot language.  It all along was a long shot.”

Instead, she argued this was “what he was really intending was to put the

No on DiSC Campaign in a financial chokehold.”

Michael Coleman who called in later noted in a public comment that there are hundreds of ballot measures during the election cycles, “in virtually every election cycle, some of these end up in court with challenges about election ballot arguments and analysis.  So the recent court case regarding Measure H is not so unique.”

He noted that such process “strengthens our democracy by improving the accuracy of ballot information presented to the voters in official materials.”

Councilmember Dan Carson said following the public comment session, “In light of some of the comments we all heard earlier during public comment, I do feel a need to respond.”

He continued, “We ordinarily don’t focus on politics in this chamber, um, but we live in a troubling world now of alternative facts that are spread and endlessly recycled on social media until folks end up believing things that just plain aren’t true.”

Carson continued for another minute or so, but his colleagues clearly were not comfortable with him responding to public comment on purely political matters.

Mayor Partida jumped in, “I appreciate that you want to defend yourself, I absolutely support you in the campaign for Measure H.  If you can maybe keep…”

Carson assured her he was almost done.

Mayor Partida added, “It’s a little unusual I think…”

Following Carson’s comments, Lucas Frerichs, the Vice Mayor, said, “This council performed its role and obligation which is to vet a project and potentially place it on the ballot.  And we’ve done that.”

He continued, “There’s an external political campaign occurring which also happens particularly for this Measure, but honestly I’m uncomfortable with…  We can’t prohibit what was said in public comment, but I do think this sort of politicalization of this particular issue as it relates to… I think we’re getting far afield from our roles and responsibilities particularly in conducting the people’s business before us this evening.”

He added that people can go out into the political world and lob their accusations, “I think that’s all fine and appropriate, but I do not think it should be a part of the city council meetings as far as the city council side of the equation is concerned.”

Share:

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

29 thoughts on “DiSC Campaign Bleeds into Public Comment for the Davis City Council”

  1. Ron Oertel

    Political campaigns are supposed to be separate matters from government functions,

    Probably should remind Dan Carson of that.

    but because land use issues that originate with the council end up on the ballot, sometimes there has been a bleedover of the campaign realm into the council meeting public comments.

    General public comment is the allowed and appropriate time to bring up issues that are not on the agenda.  That’s exactly what it’s for.

    We can’t prohibit what was said in public comment

    And yet, I’m gathering that this is what is being attempted, here.

    Isn’t it enough that Dan Carson personally sued his constituents over a campaign issue?

    When is Dan going to disclose who paid for his lawsuit?

  2. Craig Ross

    Carson continued for another minute or so, but his colleagues clearly were not comfortable with him responding to public comment on purely political matters.

    Mayor Partida should have been more forceful in shutting him down.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Then, the title of this article should be, “Mayor Partida and other council members unable to shut down Dan Carson’s inappropriate response (making his own colleagues uncomfortable)”.

  3. David Greenwald Post author

    I didn’t put this in the article, but Roberta also made this point: “to make the matter even more disgraceful council member Carson has repeatedly refused to divulge who paid for the probable $50,000 plus price tag to the lawyers to initiate this lawsuit on his behalf, I call on council member Carson to immediately disclose who paid for these legal bills on his behalf.”

    Dan Carson has said all along that he was acting in his capacity as Honorary Chair of the DiSC Campaign.  If that’s the case, then he was acting as an agent for the campaign and therefore the campaign likely covered the bill and it should be disclosed in the next filing.  If it’s not, then I htink is the appropriate time to raise questions.

    1. Ron Oertel

      If that’s the case, then he was acting as an agent for the campaign and therefore the campaign likely covered the bill and it should be disclosed in the next filing.  If it’s not, then I htink is the appropriate time to raise questions.

      The next filing is in a year from now, well-after the election.  Assuming that the bill is paid after April 1st.

      However, I agree that the (pro-DiSC) campaign “likely covered the bill” as you stated.  In fact, I think we’d be shocked if that wasn’t the case.

      Dan Carson, of course – could simply come out and disclose it now for the sake of running an honest campaign. In fact, I don’t see where acknowledging it would even hurt that campaign, at this point. It’s probably worse for them to continue avoiding an acknowledgement.

      Certainly, no worse than going around town claiming that you’ve “won” the lawsuit.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      April 28 is the next filing which includes all contributions and expenditures up through April 23.  There is also one right before the election on May 26.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Thanks.

        A lot of people will have already voted by mail, especially by the latter date. (Maybe by the first date, as well.)

        Why would he avoid simply answering the question?

    3. Keith Y Echols

      What difference does it make how the legal fees were paid? Disclosed or not disclosed?  I’d expect YES supporters to pay for using YES supporters money.  So what.

  4. Ron Glick

    “Dan Carson has said all along that he was acting in his capacity as Honorary Chair of the DiSC Campaign.  If that’s the case, then he was acting as an agent for the campaign and therefore the campaign likely covered the bill and it should be disclosed in the next filing.  If it’s not, then I htink is the appropriate time to raise questions.”

    I think its fair to assume that whoever paid for the Yes on H lawyer is going to benefit from its passage. So can we move on?

     

  5. Ron Glick

    “Shame on you Dan Carson for this brutish and thuggish behavior.”
    And shame on you too Alan Pryor for your brutish and thuggish behavior.

    Okay, now that we know that Davis politics is nasty, and, if you think this is bad check out the DA’s race, can we get back to discussing economic development and traffic? Oh, and how Measure J is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, of course.

     

  6. Alan Pryor

    Pryor noted that they filed the lawsuit at the last possible moment, “Then had articles prepared, planted and ready to be published the first thing the next morning by the Davis Enterprise and the Vanguard, before we were even notified about the filing.”

    Davis wrote me this morning an email claiming “articles prepared, planted and ready to be published the first thing the next morning” was a false statement and he sent to me a press release from the campaign’s communications coordinator dated dated 4-22-2022 at 9:54 am to which they also attached a copy of the Petition for Writ of Mandate and a Statement of Points and Authorities filed with the court by Carson’s lawyers. David stated he wrote the article based on this news release and attachements and several quick interviews he conducted.

    David also claimed that the statement that they had filed at the last possible moment was inaccurate and that they would have had to file by the close of business on that March 21. I believe what I actually said (at least according to my script) was, “Not only that, he waited until 10:30 PM of the last possible day to file his lawsuit, then...”

    The time stamp of the copy of the Petition I otherwise received from Carson’s lawyers was time-stamped by the court at 10:19 PM on March 21. My recollection of the time was inacraute in that I thought they had filed at 10:29 instead of 10:19 PM and I just rounded it out to 10:30 in my statement to Council – an error of 11 minutes on my part. But I still stand by my statement that the lawsuit was filed at the last possible moment on the last possible day despite the 11 minute error on my part.

    Regarding David’s statement that he wrote the article after conducting several interviews prior to publishing the article, the article itself was not time-stamped but the first comment to the article appeared at 11:21 that morning – or 1 hour and 27 minutes later after the initial press release.

    Although almost the entirety of the news release also appeared in the article written by David in different spots, there was much additional information David provided in the article.

    Thus my statement that they, “Then had articles prepared, planted and ready to be published the first thing the next morning by the Davis Enterprise and the Vanguard, before we were even notified about the filing ” was inaccurate as I stated it because I was not aware that the press release had been made by the campaign on which David’s article was only partially based .

    I should have instead said “…then had a news release prepared and distributed  early the next morning from which excerpts were used and articles published almost immediately by the Davis Enterprise and Vanguard, before we were even notified about the filing.”

    I apologize for my inaccurate statement.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      Your 11 minutes error and the discrepancy in exactly how/when articles were distributed/written should be enough for DG to claim ‘victory’ . . .

      . . . much as Carson claimed ‘victory’ over the elimination of a word and a change in a unit of measurement.

      And there was much rejoicing.

  7. Pam Gunnell

    The separation of politics and government functions here is laughable. Dan Ramos in his public comment last night said he funded the lawsuit brought by Carson against 5 citizens and their ballot statement against DiSC.  We have an elected official who did not simply review and vote to put DiSC on the ballot, but is suing citizens with developer money to discredit their arguments against DiSC. And he is acting as honorary chair of the Yes on DiSC campaign to boot. Any pretense to separate the council’s duties from politics is just that, pretense.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      Everyone keeps saying he filed a lawsuit or that he sued citizens, that’s not how the process works.  He filed a writ to change the ballot language.  The respondents are actually the custodians of record – the county and city clerks.  And it is the only remedy that is available in the election code.

      1. Ron Oertel

        And it is the only remedy that is available in the election code.

        The “election code” is one thing, attorney fees are an entirely different thing.

        Both your own, and (potentially) the “other sides” fees.

        And those are a personal responsibility, when individuals are named.

        Carson’s fees were apparently covered by the developer, as well as any additional risk resulting from having to pay the opponents’ attorney fees. As such, he had no skin in the game that he initiated.

        That is not the case for those he “filed a writ” against.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          No. Absolutely not. If you sue someone, you are asking for damages, they are basically petitioning the court to change the ballot language. That’s a very different action.

      2. Pam Gunnell

        I believe we are playing semantics here and that a writ is a type of law suit.  In the writ Dan Carson asks “That the court award Petitioner costs as permitted to be recovered from Real Parties“. So the real parties, the ballot signers, may be asked to pay costs.  So it certainly seems like they are being sued.

        But the deeper issue is that deep pockets funded the “lawsuit” and Carson has no financial responsibility. And this is a tactic to suppress citizen engagement and financially handicap your opponent. Why is the Vanguard not defending the real parties? The judge only altered one word and changed a number (and the judged deemed the number an inadvertent mistake).  Carson asked for I believe  89 of the 300 words in the ballot changed.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          There is a difference between paying court costs and being sued for damages. This is not semantics. There is no other way to change the ballot language after it has been submitted other than by petitioning the court.

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          “Why is the Vanguard not defending the real parties? The judge only altered one word and changed a number (and the judged deemed the number an inadvertent mistake). ”

          Largely because I believe that the real parties were in error and while the judge was very limited in what he ordered stricken, his comments demonstrate that most of the comments in question were problematic, even if he did not find sufficient legal cause to order the changes.

          For example, when the claim was that the developer “made almost no binding commitments…” – the judge acknowledges that there were nine, but because they used the qualifier, “almost” that was apparently closely enough. The judge writes: “The qualifier ‘almost’ imports an element of subjectivity or opinion, which brings the statement within the wide ambit of acceptable political speech.” To me, if you say almost no binding commitments I’m thinking one or two, not nine. So I have a problem with this notion that this was a vindicatiion for the respondents here. I think their arguments wree flawed.

          Can you imagine if I said on here that I wrote almost no articles for the Vanguard this week? Everyone on here would be calling me out, laughing or calling me an f-ing liar. And yet, by the judge’s standards, in this court, it would be permissible and not stricken.

          And yes, all they would have needed to do is change it to “very few” or “not enough” and it would be perfectly fine. That’s a change of two words that changes it from misleading to accurate and acceptable. One or two words makes a huge difference in meaning in the English language.

        3. Alan Miller

          Can you imagine if I said on here that I wrote almost no articles for the Vanguard this week? Everyone on here would be calling me out, laughing or calling me an f-ing liar.

          On the other hand, if you actually wrote no articles for the Vanguard this week, everyone on here would be calling out ‘finally!’, laughing with joy, and breaking out the f-ing champagne.

        4. Ann Block

          “There is a difference between paying court costs and being sued for damages.”

          But David, paying court costs, including attorneys’ fees of the plaintiffs, can be extraordinarily expensive for those without “deep pockets.”  You know that. That’s what SLAPP lawsuits are all about. We ALL should know, especially here in Davis, that ballot statements are full of exaggerated claims, often by both sides, on issues such as this.  I haven’t decided how to vote yet on DISC, was leaning for it, but this was a dirty tactic by Carson, et al and he should never have been involved in it as a City Councilmember — seems rather unethical to me.  However I vote on DISC, I doubt I will vote to re-elect him for another term on council.

  8. Ron Glick

    “But I still stand by my statement that the lawsuit was filed at the last possible moment on the last possible day despite the 11 minute error on my part.”

    So, the problem is what? Lawyers wait until right before filing deadlines all the time to file all sorts of things. Its only a problem if they don’t file before time runs out.

  9. Pam Gunnell

    But the  commitments for DiSC to deal with the 12,000 more cars a day on Mace are speculative and vague (like pay a “fair share” or “contribute to” or “make a plan”)  and/or are contingent on outside agencies like CalTrans, the railroad and/or the county that are outside City jurisdiction and control. Of the commitments only 3 are related to traffic and the rest to pedestrians and bikes. So the judge said we were justified in stating that there are almost no binding commitments to deal with the traffic mess.

     

  10. Keith Y Echols

    I’m still waiting for someone to tell me how one party can force an opposing party to change voter document info without going through a legal process?  It’s a legal matter settled legally.   What was Carson and the YES campaign supposed to do?  Ask the opposition nicely….. pretty please with sugar an top…. to change the wording in the document?  The defendants didn’t have to hire a lawyer.  If they felt they were in the right; they could have just let the plaintiff make it’s case and let the judge decide.  No legal fees required.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for