This is my story – the real story about your City government and elected officials. You be the judge.
Nothing is more important for keeping a government in check than a well-informed electorate. Elected officials work for you, not the other way around.
I am familiar with the laws against defamation — libel and slander. To not tell the truth would be morally reprehensible and legally expensive. Rest assured that what I share with you here, which you will find shocking at times, is all true as I would not want to subject myself to lawsuits for defamation. In fact, I promise and declare, unequivocally, that the statements I make in this letter are to the best of my knowledge, true, correct, and accurate as of August 21, 2016, and are either factual and supported by evidence, or I have reasons to believe their truthfulness based on my personal knowledge and experience. More than 100 links to various documents and articles support my statements.
Since my election in 2012, I have desperately tried to change the culture at City Hall so that “We, the people,” are represented, not real estate developers, county agencies and political party wannabes. Because of that, I have taken many stabs to the back, and my character assassinated by the very people I share the City Council dais with. Yet I am undeterred to serve you.
I have been true to the promises I made when I sought this office.
I am the only Council member with a perfect attendance record – because I take seriously my duty to you, my oath, and the honor you have given me to serve you. I am the first and only Council member in the history of Lake Forest who doesn’t take a salary, retirement benefits, etc.
Among my successes, despite often being in a minority, are:
Ended each fiscal year with a budget surplus
Enacted requiring a vote by a “super” majority to increase taxes (which I introduced)
Cut City Council members’ reimbursable personal expenses (which I introduced)
Implemented measures to ensure government transparency (which I introduced)
I’ve also championed many common sense initiatives that have been voted down by the Council majority because these initiatives were contrary to their self-serving interests. These common sense initiatives include, but are not limited to:
Code of ethics for Council members
Ban Council members from taking corporate money
Require Council members to disclose financial ties to City contractors and lobbyists.
Require electoral districts for council members so all areas of the City are represented.
Election of mayor by voters
Real term limits for Council members: Two four-year terms per lifetime (instead of the approved six four-year terms in a 26-year period).
In the November election, you will have the final say – your vote.
When you look at the body of my voting record – including many measures of good public policy in which I was defeated by the City Council majority – it’s clear that I am on your side. I will always be on your side. My hope is that you make an informed decision when you cast your ballot in November and elect your representative based on voting records and facts. There has been a lot of mud-slinging in my direction the past few years, and my aim here is to clear the air.
There are two council seats available in November 2016 belonging to Dwight Robinson and I. The first time I met him, in 2010, Robinson introduced himself to me as “Scott Voigts campaign manager.” We were elected in 2012 but we have represented two different ideologies. I have done my best to represent all the people of Lake Forest, to listen to their concerns and to not shy away from the discussion of their problems. I wanted to talk about Saddleback Ranch Road because it needed to be discussed and fixed sooner rather than later. Robinson, along with Scott Voigts and Andrew Hamilton, would not even provide one vote of consent among them that would have allowed us to discuss the subject at the next Council meeting. It was after that failure to consent that Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton became subjects of a recall that was supported by thousands of voters.
Robinson’s Inaction, Broken Promises
The needlessly contentious issue of Saddleback Ranch Road has been one of the many differences between Robinson and me. In 2012, Robinson’s platform was establishing a Traffic Commission, addressing pension liability among City employees, and reducing school class sizes. (You can see his 2012 ballot statement here.)
So, after we were elected and sworn in, I waited for him to introduce these three proposals to the Council because they were his platform; instead, he remained silent as he was prone to do. Finally, I’m the one who proposed his campaign promises and was stunned by his response.
Even though he campaigned to open more schools and to “lower class sizes” as a means to get elected, when Robinson wouldn’t broach the subject, I finally brought before the Council the matter of Lake Forest having its own school district so that we residents could have control over class size and everything else that impacts our children’s education. Districts with 10,000 to 15,000 students, which would have been our case, tend to be more successful than larger districts. But Robinson, even though he had promised to seek smaller class sizes, sat silent along with Scott Voigts, Kathryn McCullough and Peter Herzog. My proposal died. Today, we have classes that have up to 37 students, which is nearly twice the state’s guideline of 20 students per class and some of our children must attend school in Mission Viejo. Becoming a school district is a 10-year process, but it won’t happen until it actually begins; a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. That first step is to have the discussion.
Even though Robinson’s campaign promise to “create a Traffic Commission” helped him get elected, he refused to bring it before the Council. Again, I finally introduced it and brought it to a vote, but Robinson voted against it, as did Voigts and McCullough. Remarkably, this was a second major issue on Robinson’s platform that he actually worked against, an empty promise he had no intention of delivering.
Even though Robinson’s platform included addressing pension liability, I patiently waited for him to introduce the subject for discussion and vote but he remained silent. When I finally gave up on him and brought up the pension liability in relation to both the City and Orange County in mid-2015, Robinson was unconcerned and called Jim Gardner and me “imbeciles.” This was another empty promise that Robinson had no intention of fulfilling. He simply used these promises to garner votes.
So even though he campaigned on a Traffic Commission, smaller class sizes and pension liability, Robinson didn’t bring any of them before the council; instead, within about 30 minutes of taking office, the very first thing he proposed was approval of the rezoning of the Foothill Ranch Auto Center so that developers who contributed to his campaign could build townhomes there. That’s where his heart was, not with fulfilling the promises he made to get your votes.
While campaigning in 2012:
Robinson promised to protect taxpayers from pension debt, but after he was elected he never made such effort. When I brought up this subject in mid-2015 (and had support of Jim Gardner), Dwight Robinson called the two of us “imbeciles” and said my “math was wrong.” Here, you will see what I wrote subsequent to Robinson’s name-calling, which proves my math was spot on and my concerns valid. In Terry Sforza’s May 2016 article describing the dire situation with unfunded pension liabilities countywide, it’s clear that these unfunded costs are equal to $134 per household in the best-case scenario, and $524 in the worst case; this equates to a hidden liability of $4.02 million or $15.72 million for Lake Forest.
As to Robinson’s other votes in 2013, 2014 and 2015, 2016, you be the judge whether Lake Forest would be better off had Robinson not been on the Council, and for that matter Voigts (2013-16) and Hamilton (2015-16).
Robinson’s Political Gamesmanship
In his desperate attempt to dehumanize and marginalize me, a conniving and ethically misguided Robinson accused me of using a racial slur that he claims he overheard while walking past me in a parking lot, even though the two individuals I was speaking with declared publicly the slur was never used. Rather than confront me privately with what he thought he heard during my private conversation of which he was not a part, and ask if he heard correctly — as any decent and right-thinking person would — Robinson brought his claim before the Council when it suited his political agenda after more than a year. Ethically, what kind of person waits a year to address a grievance of such an awful nature? One who’s playing politics and waiting until a crony (Andrew Hamilton) is voted into office to secure a Council majority so the ambush can begin and I can be demonized based on his word alone. That’s the character of Robinson, and the character of Voigts and Hamilton who would act based on the sole recollection of Robinson of something he thought he overheard while walking past a conversation a year earlier.
To get the most value from his dubious action, I now have reason to believe that it was Robinson who planted an article in the Orange County Register to publicize a “censure” he orchestrated against me. I’m not sure if it’s still the case in 2016, but when Robinson and I were elected in 2012, Robinson had a friend on the editorial board of the Orange County Register; he had access to those who determined what gets published and what doesn’t.
The censure wasn’t reported right away, so I’m sure that Robinson made a phone call; a satellite of the Orange County Register, the Saddleback Valley News, reported on it nearly three weeks later and incorrectly reported: “At the request of Councilman Dwight Robinson, the council – including Nick – voted unanimously on March 3 to censure Nick.” The vote wasn’t unanimous, it was Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton who voted in favor of it, winning 3-2 – which is how the voting often turns out whenever it’s not unanimous. If the reporter had discovered the story on his own, he wouldn’t have made the mistake of reporting it was unanimous; he took a phone call from someone who fed him the information and aimed to inflict maximum damage to me.
Robinson continued to play his political games. After charges against me were dropped for supposedly stealing campaign signs (which also played a role in the “censure”), an online reporter interviewed me while I was negotiating heavy traffic in downtown Los Angeles and asked me how I felt. I told him that I thought Jess Rodriguez from the district attorney’s office was a “rogue officer” and explained the depth of the damage he had inflicted upon me with the following quote in its full context:
“He raped me. He raped my reputation with the force of the law behind him. This man, eight hours a day, ten hours a day, is sitting at his desk, and he can press a button and ruin peoples’ lives. To me that’s more dangerous than me getting raped in downtown Los Angeles.”
I immediately called the reporter back and said I shouldn’t have used the word “rape,” I should have used the word “violate.” He said that nevertheless I had said it and he refused to correct it. Nor did he provide, when he later wrote the story, an addendum that I had acknowledged that I had used the wrong word.
Clearly, my use of the word “rape” was not an intended affront to victims of physical rape, nor did I mean to equate what had happened to me with the everlasting hurt inflicted upon victims of sexual assault.
The saving grace is that I had told this to an online reporter and his article was not going to get much exposure.
Robinson insisted that I apologize and that I do it at a City Council meeting. I told him the article wouldn’t get much traction and any apology from the dais would bring light to my poor choice of word. He said it was “a matter of principle.” At the first opportunity, I apologized from the dais. This is the text of my apology:
“In reference to a recent online article wherein I was quoted, although I used the term ‘rape’ strictly in its meaning of a gross violation of rights, a friend of mine, who’s also a mentor to me, reached out to me, and I realized that some people – and in particular, victims and survivors of sexual assault and physical forcible rape – may think that I was and I am equating my experience with that of theirs. That certainly was not my intention. I deeply apologize.”
Next thing I know, the Orange County Register — which again did not even have a reporter at the Council meeting that night — had written an article about it titled, “Lake Forest Councilman Adam Nick apologizes for ‘raped’ comments.” I have reason to believe that Robinson, through his connections, was the reason for the article to have come about – all aimed at giving maximum exposure to my unfortunate choice of word in hopes that I would be demonized. This is the man who I thought so highly of that I referred to as my “mentor.” How wrong could I be?
After the recall of Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton began in January 2016, Robinson paid $5,000 to support an anti-recall campaign called “Nick is Nuts,” whose primary purpose was to discredit me and divert any attention from the reckless voting record and flaws of Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton. Don’t be hoodwinked by the Council majority’s fake “newspapers,” lies, half-truths, innuendoes, diversionary tactics, and character assassination of me.
After the recall ended, Robinson told the Orange County Register that he thought the “Nick is Nuts” campaign was “over the top.” Despite feeling this way, he waited until after the recall was over before making that admission; he waited until he got full benefit of the smear campaign.
Here are a couple examples of Robinson’s character. The day we opened our Sports Park, Robinson was mayor and said, to this effect, “Years ago I promised myself I would open a Sports Park without taxpayer dollars, and here we are.” Yet Robinson, who had been elected with me to the Council only 22 months earlier, had nothing to do with the concept, financing, design or construction of the Sports Park. Or, you can say that he had as much to do with any of that as I did – and that was absolutely nothing. The creation of, and paying for, the Sports Park was the result of efforts by the city manager and his staff, and particular prior Council members Peter Herzog and the late Richard Dixon. Robinson took credit for something he had nothing to do with.
Another instance that illustrates Robinson’s flawed character took place at a 2016 Council meeting when a sitting planning commissioner, Jerry Verplancke, came before the Council. He asked if Hamilton was responsible for a troubling statement that Robinson had actually made. Hamilton answered that he had not made that statement. However, Robinson, sitting between Hamilton and myself, did not have the honor to speak up and inform Mr. Verplancke of the truth. His silence was no different than lying by omission. Mr. Verplancke walked away thinking recall supporters had fabricated the quote. One headline referred to it as “A Misdirection Play in Plain Sight.”
Is Robinson in office to preserve your interests or to destroy me? Unlike Voigts and Hamilton, I have refused to be his puppet. For that, I have suffered from his slings and arrows. You be the judge of who has done right by you, him or me.
Consider what Councilman Gardner said: “Adam Nick has championed or wholly supported many causes including animal care, Sunshine Ordinance, campaign finance reform, Meals on Wheels, Saddleback Ranch Road, parking permit reform, real term limits, competitive bidding, curbing city official use of taxpayer funds for personal purposes, etc. Because he is outvoted, he normally loses on these causes, but he has been out there fighting for them. I can think of no cause Robinson has championed since being elected.”
Robinson’s 2016 ballot statement sorely lacks actual accomplishments, especially given that he had control of the Council for all of his four years. Here’s an analysis of that ballot statement, including his claimed accomplishments and his new promises for the 2016 election.
The Media Manipulating Public Opinion
The thread of the Orange County Register continues to be weaved relentlessly in this campaign against me. It began back in 2012 when I was a candidate and, without any explanation, was not endorsed by the newspaper; I believe it was Robinson who made sure of that. After my election as the highest vote-getter as a first-time candidate, and breaking the stranglehold that career politicians had on the office of City Council, the newspaper featured Robinson in an article titled “Lake Forest businessmen to sharpen their pencils at the dais.” He was quoted four times and I wasn’t quoted even once. The paper used four photos of Robinson, none of me.
The Saddleback Valley News erroneously posted on Sept. 26, 2014, that I was endorsing Andrew Hamilton. I contacted the reporter immediately and told her I had not endorsed Hamilton, that the article was in error, and that a correction should be issued. It wasn’t until a month later, four issues, that the correction took place; the record wasn’t corrected until Oct. 24, 2014, after most mail-in ballots had been cast, meaning those who may have voted for Hamilton by taking my endorsement into consideration did so under false reporting by the Register. Hamilton was elected by 431 votes, a mere 1 percent advantage, over Col. Thomas Cagley (ret.).
Within a few minutes of me informing the reporter that I demanded a retraction, an angry Hamilton called me wanting to know why I wasn’t endorsing him. About two weeks later, the sign incident took place.
The story of my “endorsement” of Hamilton was on the front page; the correction was on Page 6, the third item in a subhead to the “Briefly” column stuck in the lower right-hand corner dwarfed by an ad next to it – again, four weeks later.
Hamilton’s Deceptive Behavior
As to some of Hamilton’s mischievous behavior, I have reason to believe that it was Hamilton who, under a fake name, submitted a complaint against me to the State Board of Accountancy (CBA) using a photoshopped screenshot of a web page. Hamilton’s complaint to CBA, which was unfounded, was within days after the district attorney said it had no case against me in relation to campaign signs.
In yet another attempt to deceive residents and cast a negative light on me, I believe it was Hamilton who posted on his copycat Facebook page a picture of me that belongs to the Orange County Register archives that was taken several years earlier when I was there for an interview. The photo was doctored with the words “arrest booking photo” and “I stole my opponent’s campaign signs” while all along Hamilton knew that a) I was not even cited or ticketed for the incident as I had not done anything illegal, b) I was not arrested, booked and jailed, c) I was not even a Council candidate to have an “opponent’s” sign to “steal,” d) the charges resulting from the bogus investigation by the OC Sheriff’s Department were dropped by the D.A. when the facts came out.
All this reeks of desperation to hurt and marginalize me. Such chicanery becomes Hamilton, who seems to fancy himself a media specialist and who is very comfortable around fake web pages and video editing.
Hamilton has been an embarrassment to the office. He has been rude to public speakers at Council meetings, in a tantrum he ended a meeting abruptly with several items still on the agenda, and he engaged in activities that were nearly criminal. After the first recall was initiated, Hamilton began secretly filming individuals gathering recall signatures, then had the audacity to edit and splice their comments together in the most unflattering way possible as a means to embarrass them – or to somehow prove whatever perverted “point” he was attempting to make – and then post them onto the internet, specifically copycat Facebook sites that he created that were named the same as previously existing Facebook sites dedicated to the recall effort and to Lake Forest.
Imagine, the mayor secretly videotaping your spouse so he could embarrass her/him on the internet. And yet the Council majority that is so quick to criticize me didn’t say one word of complaint about Hamilton even though many people spoke before the Council denouncing Hamilton’s actions.
Council Majority Doesn’t Want Me on the Council
Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton don’t want me on the Council because I represent your interests, not theirs and not their corporate sponsors’ interests. As for “Nick is Nuts,” I am nuts: Nuts about Lake Forest, the place I have called home my entire adult life, where I work and own real businesses – no other Council member can say that. I remain determined to do all I can to make it the community you deserve.
These three councilmen, the Council majority of Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton, don’t want me on the Council because I expose them. They are beholden to corporate campaign contributors and have ties to big money. I’m not in the pocket of anyone, nor do I patronize politicians in higher offices for the sake of their endorsements and political and financial support. Their voting record is consistent: Every time a developer winks at them, they’re going to rezone the land and cram as many houses onto the property as the developer can squeeze, and nearly 100 percent of the time, Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton have voted the same regardless of the issue. They are the epitome of the term “voting in lockstep.”
Voigts Plays the Victim
When I tried to even the playing field for potential future candidates to the City Council, I wanted campaign signs to be posted 60 days before the election to allow the underdog to build some brand equity, but had to compromise at 45 days. After the meeting, I was upset because I didn’t think 45 days was adequate; Voigts told me, “Adam, grow up, that’s not for us,” meaning the rules don’t apply to us incumbents. The truth is that among Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton, there has always existed an attitude of entitlement, a perverted notion that they were above the law and could act with impunity.
Voigts is the worst offender of this sense of entitlement. He is notorious for posting signs illegally (i.e., earlier than the 45-day period, in illegal locations, etc.). In early October 2014, I had an associate remove three signs (one Voigts, one Hamilton, one Jose Vergara for a water district) that were in an illegal location and blocking drivers’ line of sight, a violation of City and State Code. I championed the City’s new sign ordinance and made sure safeguards were in place to limit the City’s liability risk, so I knew perhaps better than anyone what was legal and what was not. As such, I have had and continue to have a stake to see the ordinance enforced. A sheriff’s deputy saw me parked in a red zone while my associate removed the three signs and conferred with me for a minute or two while I remained in my car; when he left, there did not appear to be an issue. He did not detain me, nor did he search my vehicle, nor did he give me any kind of citation or paperwork. I asked my associate to place the three signs in a legal location up the street, near the corner of Trabuco and Lake Forest Drive, on his way home; I had possession of the three signs less than 20 minutes, and the following day (12:31 p.m., according to the timestamp) OCSD took a photo of the “stolen” signs in their new location. This is actual evidence, not political rhetoric.
Months later, on Feb. 11, 2015, I learned from a reporter that I had actually been charged with a crime. The reporter had learned of the charges from a press release that morning from the Orange County District Attorney’s office. To know the full story, you must know this:
Illegally placed signs are not protected by law; they are considered abandoned property and can be removed by anyone.
No one from the D.A.’s office had ever contacted or interviewed me before they filed charges.
Although the D.A. had not even contacted me, an OCSD investigator interviewed Voigts prior to the charges being filed.
The D.A. filed charges on Feb. 11, 2015 even though the secret recording of me, at times by Voigts wearing a wire in concert with the D.A.’s effort to build a case against me, had not shown a shred of criminality on my part.
If these facts alone don’t raise red flags and convince any objective person that these were trumped-up charges — a political witch-hunt — then I don’t know what would. I believe employees in the D.A.’s office were influenced by some of the Lake Forest Council members whose corrupt way of life I have relentlessly tried to change. I also believe those employees in the D.A.’s office were more interested in getting their names in the paper because it looks good on a resume – there’s nothing quite like the hype and publicity attached to charging an elected public official. They were not interested in the unadulterated truth because it wouldn’t have furthered their careers. The charges made the headlines, but dropping of the charges never even made the paper. The truth, often, is just not sexy.
I’m not the only one with a concern for the D.A.’s office; an independent panel investigating the district attorney’s office determined “… some prosecutors adopted … a win at all costs mentality” and that one way to change its culture was “… by not rewarding prosecutors with the ‘must win’ mentality with promotions.”
Has the media, which has cozied up to Robinson, played a role in this? Even as I asked for residents to wait for the truth to come out about the removal and relocation of the three signs, the Saddleback Valley News referred to the sign incident as “a rash of campaign sign thefts” attributed to me – which was blatantly false. The only “rash” in Lake Forest is bad public policy by Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton.
And They Call Me the Bad Guy?
This sign saga was a desperate attempt to marginalize and destroy me, and I have suffered ever since as my rivals perpetuate this lie that I somehow “stole signs.” They say over and over that I was charged with stealing signs, but they never say the charges were dropped because no crime took place, or that the signs had been moved to a different location within 20 minutes. They make me out to be a villain; however, a few weeks before he took office, it was Dwight Robinson who “deceptively” overloaded 758 cargo containers, put thousands of innocent motorists at risk, and had to pay a total fine of $64,402 after waiving arraignment for judgment while running his business.
Also, they don’t tell you that after the charges were dropped, I sued the deputy district attorney, Jess Rodriguez, for defamation and libel. My lawsuit, the news of which never made the paper to my knowledge, caused the D.A. to issue a public statement vindicating me, which read in part:
Nick never admitted to the commission of any crime, did not enter a plea of guilty or no contest for any charge, and he has not been convicted of any criminal act.
After the dismissal of the charges, Mr. Rodriguez communicated the matter to a news service agency. Regrettably, some of Mr. Rodriguez’s statements were misinterpreted, and the resulting headlines portrayed Mr. Nick as admitting to theft and attributing to Mr. Rodriguez innuendoes that suggested that Mr. Nick had admitted to the commission of a crime.
Upon hearing of the incorrect news, Mr. Rodriguez promptly contacted the news service agency in writing to correct the inaccurate reporting and he apologized on at least two occasions for any confusion.
Let me make an important point here: I did not sue for money, either when I sued the D.A., or when I sued the City Council prior to my running for City Council. Remember, I was vindicated by successfully spearheading the change in the City law so that what happened to my business could not happen to other businesses in the future, and that was a unanimous vote.
When he had a chance, Voigts didn’t bother telling the truth to the sheriff’s investigator that he had placed his sign in an illegal location, so he lied by omission. From the Council dais, Voigts emphasized, “I did not wear a wire” in an attempt to frame me even though he had done just that, so he flatly lied. Let me say that with emphasis: He blatantly lied to the residents of Lake Forest while conducting the business of the City; he was on the job and the record at the time. Two weeks later, I produced the CD audio recording from the D.A.’s office and confronted Voigts with proof he had worn a wire and that he had indeed lied to the people he had sworn to protect. He said, “I didn’t know they were going to provide it to you,” and then left. Unlike Voigts, I did not make a public spectacle at a City Council meeting; I’m bigger than that, and I’m there to do your business, not my own. I could have embarrassed Voigts like he tried to embarrass me; I chose not to do so.
In spite of all this, Voigts persists in spreading the lie that I was somehow guilty of committing a crime when, in fact, it was he who actually committed a crime: He placed his campaign sign in an illegal location. Voigts wants to play the victim and politicize the issue to garner voter sympathy.
Remember, the incident took place during the 2014 campaign season. Here’s what the District Attorney Tony Rackaukas himself told the OC Register: “Particularly during campaign seasons, political candidates accuse their opponents of all kinds of bad and criminal things. They want to be able to say, ‘So-and-so is under investigation by the district’s attorney office.’”
To the detriment of residents, Voigts’ lies represent a safe place for him because he can control the message, and unless you’re in-tune with the inside workings of City government, you may think he’s telling the truth: He’s not. He spread the lie that I tried to bribe Scott Baugh, former Chairman of the OC GOP, who chastised Voigts and called his claim “astounding … to wrap the false fact about cash into a suggestion that Nick was trying to bribe me is compounded irresponsibility that may be defamatory.”
Even during a Council meeting, Voigts lied about me twice in a span of 14 seconds; he makes no effort to keep his facts straight, or to correct the record. He lies by omission, failing to reveal the whole story. When he was seeking campaign contributions, he told potential donors he was the mayor; he was not – certainly not at that time. A lie of omission, failing to reveal all the facts, is standard operating procedure in the Voigts camp. You cannot trust what he says to be true.
Like Robinson, Voigts contributed $5,000 to the Nick is Nuts smear campaign against me as a means of defeating the recall that began at the beginning of 2016. Is it any surprise that there was so much deception, misinformation and outright lies? Twice they circulated a fake newspaper called the “Lake Forest News” that was filled with stories – mostly about me – with quotes attributed to unnamed sources. Why unnamed sources? Because the “quotes” were being fabricated by the likes of Andrew Hamilton and David Ellis, a Newport Coast political consultant with a history of smear campaigns who helped Hamilton get his job with the Mesa Water District in which he makes more than $209,000. Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton climbed into bed with the same “Dave Ellis” who tried to turn El Toro into an international airport, who played matchmaker between Merrill Lynch and county officials leading to the Orange County bankruptcy, and tried to sell the OC Fairgrounds to himself while he was head of the Fair Board. Almost all of the people Ellis helps get elected are pro-development. Does that sound familiar? An Orange County Register headline said of Hamilton, “Lake Forest mayor praises new developments in State of the City address.” Ellis has been described as “sleazy” and a lot of other things, and he’s the right-hand man of Robinson, Hamilton and Voigts, the one they entrusted to defeat the recall, the one whose lying, racist and hate-filled message they condoned.
On behalf of Robinson, Hamilton and Voigts, Ellis even published a story with a Foothill Ranch dateline that included a photo of a mother and daughter with the caption “Moms against the recall formed to warn community about Nick taking over the city,” but the photo was a stock image taken in 2012 in Asia and posted on an Indonesian medical site; there was no evidence that any mom in Foothill Ranch opposed the recall.
Another article claimed that, because of me, “The City was 41 days from losing its contract with the Sheriff’s department,” an idea that Robinson has thrown about publicly; it’s total nonsense: On the first page of the contract, where then-Mayor Robinson should have been able to see with his own eyes before he signed the contract, is the stipulation that if the contract agreement is not met it will be automatically renewed for an additional 60 days. So, if you ever hear someone tell you that Lake Forest was almost without police services for the Fourth of July in 2015, tell them it’s another message designed to confuse people.
Another one of their articles in their so-called “newspaper” says I changed my name seven times. If anyone can prove I changed my name seven times, I’ll resign on the spot. I changed my name from Nick-manesh (which means “good manners” in Persian) to Nick decades ago. With my father’s prior blessing and direction, I waited five years after his death to change the name he had given me, Afshin, to Adam, which I was called by many of my American and English childhood friends.
Can you tell anything about a person by who his friends are? David Ellis is the friend Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton turned to in an effort to pull the wool over your eyes to defeat the recall. Unlike the Council majority, who must fabricate their support, real people at your City Council meetings called them “local symbols of hate and cruelty.”
Heat of the Moment Comments
I am passionate about Lake Forest, where I’ve enjoyed living most of my life. I have little tolerance for those who try to steer it wrong or get in the way of helping it reach its potential. Because City Council meetings happen in an open, live forum, there are no do-overs. That said, I have said some things that might be considered uncouth by some members of our community.
I once called Dwight Robinson, Scott Voigts and Andrew Hamilton “degenerate pricks.” Despite the course nature of my comment, it reflected my feeling at the time – and still does today. Their lies, wanton disregard for residents’ safety and tax dollars in favor of special interests, secret videotaping, copycat social media profiles and posting thereon doctored video footages to “prove” their point, filing bogus complaints against me and my retail businesses in Lake Forest with various governmental agencies, and… make me sick. If you think “disturbed jerks” would have been more appropriate, then consider that my comment on the matter.
Once during a meeting, about three or so years ago, I asked then-Mayor Robinson to “put a muzzle” on former Councilwoman Kathryn McCullough, a comment which arose from Robinson’s convenient failure to stop McCullough from repeatedly interrupting me while I had the floor and was outlining policy aimed at preventing Council members’ personal expenses from being reimbursed by taxpayers – requiring actual receipts be required for otherwise eligible reimbursable expenses, following Federal guidelines for expense reimbursements, etc. Although all the other four Council members were going to be affected (FYI, I have never expensed anything — not even a dime), McCullough was the one who was going to be most impacted by my proposed policy because she abused the then existing 20+ year-old, lax policy the most. She continued interrupting me to a point that I uttered, “Dwight, put a muzzle on her.” I’m sure there are times when my colleagues, or those in attendance, would like to muzzle me. You should know that from that point on she did not interrupt me, and I got my policy underway to adoption that very evening.
I promised you four years ago that there would be no legal measure to which I would not go to protect you and your money — whatever it took. I was only living up to my promise to you, the taxpayer, when I resorted to using that verbiage.
Robinson and Hamilton love to bring up a comment I made in which I referenced the use of a machine gun. Here is the context: Two or three years ago, a public speaker came to the podium at a Council session and, not knowing any of the facts about or the basis for my lawsuit, which in fact resulted in the City changing its laws to the benefit of residents and taxpayers, he kept hammering at me. I could not speak about the lawsuit because the case was pending, however, I did not want him to think that I was dismissing his comments. In responding to him, what I should have said was, “When a taxpayer has a grievance with the government, he can file a complaint with the judicial system or resort to use of violence.” Except rather than saying “violence,” I said “a machine gun.” Dr. James Gardner, a retired professor of psychology who was not yet elected to City Council, called it “semantics” when Councilmen Robinson and Hamilton tried to exploit the comment by saying I had advocated violence, which they continue to this day – although they knew then and do today that I merely used a poor choice in my syntax and even though it has been two or three years since the incident.
Robinson, Hamilton, and their die-hard fans have never been able to, and cannot today, make one criticism of my policies and votes because unlike them, I have always voted with my conscience and to the benefit of residents and taxpayers. Robinson and Hamilton know it, so whenever they can, they regurgitate these quotes without context. This has been and remains to be nothing but their concerted effort to assassinate my character, their attempt to intimidate, and discredit me, and (in their mind) to eventually demoralize me to a point that I step down in despair. When they eventually came to the realization that it was not likely that their tactics were going to produce their intended result, the ringleader Robinson resorted to actually asking me to resign. Robinson did that once privately and twice publicly, which is on the record.
And They Call Themselves “Fiscal Conservatives”
Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton claim they are fiscal conservatives, but:
They voted to spend $1.5 million on an update to the City’s General Plan – but they have never followed the City’s General Plan; whenever a developer has asked for a waiver or rezoning, they always grant the waiver.
They have committed to spending unknown monies in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with Orange County Animal Care (OCAC) for criminally substandard, inhumane treatment of animals in the hands of that agency.
They have committed to pay up to nearly a million dollars for OCAC to construct its own building in which Lake Forest will have no share of ownership.
They spend the taxpayers’ money for $350 per night hotel rooms, mileage on their personal vehicles, and frivolous expenses.
Council Majority Targets Children
By way of another example, Hamilton accused Gardner of “targeting Dwight Robinson’s children and their school,” which was total nonsense; on the original Lake Forest Town Square website, someone from the community mentioned the school in which Robinson’s kids attend; Hamilton made sure he got a screenshot before Gardner deleted the post and, to make his point, Hamilton posted it on his copycat site, thereby perpetuating the information he says created such a danger for Robinson’s children. Hamilton’s gross disregard for one’s children and willingness to play politics at all costs – his lack of ethics — is reprehensible.
And speaking of targeting children, Voigts went to Rancho Canada Elementary School and Serrano Intermediate School and handed out political fliers blasting me for proposing Lake Forest consider having its own school district, which would reduce class sizes and improve the learning experience for our local children. Again, Voigts was politicizing the opportunity. In fact, it was he who was targeting children, exploiting them by telling them to take the fliers home to their parents. Yet not a single word of criticism from Robinson or Hamilton was uttered, either in a professional capacity at a Council meeting, or in social media. They have been described as a “Gang of 3,” and it’s accurate: They have each other’s backs, no matter the gravity of the wrong one of them has committed. It’s an old boys club.
I could not have described them better than when I said, to their faces at a Council meeting, they were “morally bankrupt.”
Divisive Rhetoric and Lies
Not only did they attack me in their “Nick is Nuts” smear campaign, they branded everyone gathering signatures for the recall as suspected pedophiles; imagine your elected official condoning such a message. Deplorably, they treated an attack outside Stater Brothers as a joke by posting cartoons depicting recall supporters as “thugs”; without waiting for actual evidence, they concluded signature gatherers were at fault. Rather than calling for peace between the two sides as part of the civil process protected by the Constitution they are sworn to defend, they played the “blame game on social media” with outright lies. They politicized it rather than seeking the truth.
I have said over and over that everyone should wait for the truth to come out in due time. I said this about my lawsuit against the City Council in which the ordinance has now been changed so that what happened to me will never happen to someone else (and yet Robinson has called my lawsuit “frivolous,” a lawsuit he defended on my behalf in court on Nov. 8, 2012).
I said to wait for the truth to come out about the so-called sign theft, in which charges against me were dropped because no law was broken (other than by Voigts, Hamilton and Vergara for posting signs illegally).
I said to wait for the truth to come out following the physical altercation outside Stater Brothers, and video of the incident showed that the petition gatherer – actually characterized as a thug in their fake “newspaper” – was the actual victim, someone who Hamilton labeled as “part of the Recall assault team.” Robinson called the man who came to the defense of the victim “mentally unstable.”
The truth I promised did come out and I was vindicated each time.
Continuing the Cleanup
The cleanup at City Hall that I began in December 2012 can only succeed in full with elected officials who are willing to do what the people want. The current makeup of the Council includes a majority that identifies with big money, real estate developers, county agencies and politicians – all at the expense of unsuspecting and innocent Lake Forest residents and taxpayers. Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton do not represent you, they represent themselves and their cronies.
Unlike them, I live and work and own a real business (not in name only) in Lake Forest. I am on your side. The facts bear that out.
As I said earlier, this is my side of the story – the real story.
You be the judge.
What follows is a more detailed narrative of various subjects than what appears in the introduction above.
As you are probably aware, a recall effort was initiated last December against
Lake Forest City Council members Dwight Robinson, Scott Voigts, and Andrew Hamilton (often referred to as the “Gang of 3”); the basis of the recall was their corruption, collusion, cronyism, unbecoming conduct, lack of compassion and phony conservatism. Basically, it was about ties to special interests and dereliction of duties.
Councilman Jim Gardner and I, who comprise the remainder of the five-member Council, supported the recall because we are on the side of the people. However, the legally registered “Committee to Recall Robinson, Voigts, and Hamilton” was not formed by either of us as the other three councilmen claimed and propagated. They manufactured many lies — this being one of them — and kept telling them. Gardner and I were not even on the recall committee, which was chaired by Leah Basile, a concerned homeowner.
It’s important to me that people know what prompted the effort to recall Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton, in what ways it was successful, under what pretext it did not obtain its main objective, how close it came, and what people should do now – such as staying informed and providing educated votes in the future.
The recall effort educated thousands of residents about what is taking place in their city. Unfortunately, not every voter was reached, but most of those who were agreed the recall was necessary and signed the petition.
For a recall election to be held, State law required 20 percent of the registered voters, or 7,882 in Lake Forest, sign the petition for each of the three councilmen subject to recall.
Although more than 8,000 signatures for each of the three were collected, nearly 25,000 signatures altogether, the authorities discounted a few hundred signatures because the signatures did not quite match the image of the voters’ signature on file, and a couple hundred signatures were discounted because the voters had moved. As a result, the finalized number fell short of the required threshold by several hundred, or a mere 15 percent.
The nearly 25,000 total signatures submitted exceeded the total votes received by the three councilmen in the election that put them in office.
Now, two things: One can argue that the recall effort failed. However, one can counter-argue that it did not fail; it brought awareness to thousands of voters in Lake Forest on the misdeeds of the three councilmen. The fact remains that in all, more residents wanted the three councilmen out than voted them in.
“Bankrolling” the Recall
Councilmen Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton formed a committee opposing the recall called “Nick is Nuts,” funded by Robinson, Voigts, the Lincoln Club of the OC Republican Party (even though City Council is a non-partisan body) and the Orange County Sheriff’s Association.
To this day (August 21, 2016), I have not made any monetary contribution to the Committee to Recall Robinson, Voigts, and Hamilton (hereinafter the Recall Committee) because I knew it would have been exploited by the three councilmen. And yet this did not stop them from concocting and shamelessly disseminating the lie that I was “bankrolling” the recall and spending up to a “quarter-million dollars” of my own money. Now that the Recall Committee has been dissolved (as of June 30, 2016), no one can contribute to it hereafter. All together, this simply means that for the duration this committee was in existence and I was accused repeatedly of bankrolling the recall, I did not contribute any money to it – not even a penny.
If this does not tell you the level to which the three council members would sink to protect their corrupt way of life, then I don’t know what will.
The Infamous David Ellis and His Smear Campaign
Andrew Hamilton has a history with David Ellis, the infamous Newport Coast political consultant who headed the Nick is Nuts Committee. Ellis has built a “sleazy” reputation through the years; he was on the wrong side of issues such as the OC Fair Board scandal, the OC bankruptcy and the El Toro Airport; it’s true, the three city councilmen got in bed with someone who tried to turn the former Marine Corps Base into an international airport with jets flying over our homes. This is the person they partnered with to defeat the recall.
To protect themselves, Dwight Robinson, Scott Voigts and Hamilton set up and used the Nick is Nuts campaign as a diversionary tactic. They accused me of having committed a “crime” of stealing signs while they fully knew I had not done such. They assassinated my character and reputation by telling lies, half-truths, rumors and innuendo; using hyperbole, fear-mongering and bigotry; and using their GOP relationships to plant articles in various media. Not once did any of the three councilmen address the complaints against them. Not once did any major media report on the ill they perpetrated, subjecting many residents to their unspeakable acts – whether that was Robinson bullying a grandmother and bringing her grandchildren to tears, or threatening a business owner who exercised his political preference by not supporting Robinson’s preferred candidate; Hamilton receiving numerous complaints for secretly videotaping recall proponents and trying to embarrass them online; or Voigts handing anti-recall fliers to elementary and middle school children with the message to take them to their parents, or his lying time and time again to the very people he is sworn to protect.
After their first fake “newspaper” littered the entire city with their nonsense and blatant lies about me – in which they did not defend any of the allegations against them – many residents united in their disgust and called the three councilmen “local symbols of hate and cruelty” over their “vicious and racist attacks.”
The Council majority in 2012 changed policy to prevent any newly-elected council member (me) from becoming mayor; two years later, when I would unequivocally be the mayor based on the 2012 policy, Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton changed the policy back to the original so they could vote amongst themselves to prevent me from becoming mayor, and vote one of themselves into the position. It is the mayor who sets the agenda deciding the session in which an item is discussed and comes to a vote, if it does at all.
Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton have all had turns at mayor, even though none of them received as many votes as I did in 2012; does that represent the will of the people, or is that dirty politics and cronyism amongst themselves in an effort to prevent my proposals from being discussed and stifle the growth that I strive to produce?
Together, Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton have forged a voting bloc that controls what appears before the Council and what gets approved and what doesn’t; if you don’t agree with them, your issue doesn’t have a chance because they so rarely vote outside the bloc. And they have proven they are willing to deceive the public to protect themselves politically.
“Gang of 3”
While the sitting mayor, Andrew Hamilton has done many things that show his true nature. Although he did not contribute financially to the Nick is Nuts campaign — unlike Robinson and Voigts — he was the day-to-day point man in the smear campaign to try to defeat the recall effort. He set up copycat Facebook pages with names identical to those belonging to Councilman Jim Gardner and Recall Committee Chairwoman Leah Basile. This was a blatant attempt to deceive those seeking information about the recall or about Lake Forest. Hamilton used the pages he created as a forum for displaying videos he created in which he a) secretly videotaped the recall supporters without their knowledge, b) edited/spliced the video in the most unflattering way possible, and c) posted the video on the internet in a purposeful attempt to embarrass the subject or make his perverted “point.”
While on the Council dais, Hamilton cuts off and talks over residents, and disallows laughter and applause when contrary to his views. He even ended a meeting abruptly – with no warning – with three items still remaining on an agenda. He had the audacity to come back at the subsequent meeting and tell residents they were to be quiet because he was there to “do the City’s business.” Yet Hamilton had walked away from the City’s business a couple of weeks earlier in a tantrum. It was not a surprise to me that more people signed a petition to get Hamilton out of office than voted to put him into office.
I have reason to believe that it was Hamilton who, under a fake name, submitted a complaint against me to the State Board of Accountancy (CBA) using a photoshopped screenshot of a web page. Hamilton’s complaint to CBA, which was unfounded, was within days after the district attorney said it had no case against me in relation to campaign signs. It reeked of desperation to hurt and marginalize me and continue the assault on my reputation.
I also have reason to believe that it was Hamilton who complained, under yet another fake name, to the City of Lake Forest that my Ethics Certificate had lapsed. Although this was true, I had mistakenly taken and verifiably passed the more robust course, Ethics Training for State Officials; within hours after the complaint, I took and passed the Ethics Training for City Officials. Instead of resorting to using a fake name and the ensuing theatrics — he had a friend appear at a Council meeting to chastise me based on my certificate not being current — Hamilton could have simply let me know one-on-one and I would have taken care of it just as I did.
Dwight Robinson is the vice president of a business at the Long Beach Pier, so his position on the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District is one in which he can directly influence the success of that business. Robinson has shown avarice given the opportunity: His business was in violation of overloading shipping trucks, which not only provided him an illegal competitive financial advantage over his competition, but endangered the lives of thousands of commuters on roads and freeways and damaged the infrastructure; the defendant company waived arraignment for judgement and paid a fine of $64,402 (including restitution) for violations that occurred two weeks before his election to Lake Forest City Council in 2012 after admitting it “deceptively weighed 758 containers of grain.“
Robinson told the Orange County Register he thought the smear campaign against me was “over the top,” but he waited until after he enjoyed its full benefit before making such an admission even though he had many opportunities to do so when confronted by angry residents at Council meetings. Robinson, who has a degree in political science and is up for reelection in November 2016, is now distancing himself from the smear campaign solely for political reasons; he is shielding himself against the backlash given that thousands denounced his smear campaign against me.
A cursory review of Robinson’s voting record against my proposals in 2013-14 and also his record in 2015 clearly shows he is an obstructionist to my common sense initiatives. Is there anyone objective and ethical who doesn’t believe the Council should be more transparent, more ethical or not subject to special interest money? Based on indisputable evidence, Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton don’t believe in these principles.
Scott Voigts has a lengthy history of being less than truthful with the residents of Lake Forest. Gardner has documented these incidences, as has a journalist who noted Voigts told two lies about me in a span of 14 seconds at a Council meeting. All you need to know about Voigts is that, while sitting at the Council dais, he said during a Council meeting, “I did not wear a wire.” In fact, it was later proven he did wear a wire while trying to get me to tell him privately that I “stole” his illegally placed signs even though he knew there was no stealing. Lying from the Council dais should not be “business as usual,” but if Voigts can’t tell the truth to a room full of 60 people, why should 80,000 residents believe him?
Voigts had placed his sign in an illegal location obstructing drivers’ line of sight; under California law, such signs have no protection, are considered abandoned and can be removed by anyone. That said, had Voigts’ sign contributed to a traffic accident the City would have undoubtedly been sued and lost (perhaps in the millions of dollars); it would have been a disservice to the people of Lake Forest had I not removed it when I had the chance.
Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton are known around City Hall as the “Gang of 3,” but are they really a gang? Are they really a team that works together? The political action committee Restore California referred to Voigts, Hamilton and the appointed Councilman David Bass as a “team” in 2014 campaign literature. Restore California was funded by Meritage Homes (which had a project it wanted approved. After their election, Voigts and Hamilton joined Robinson in providing the three votes Meritage required for the rezoning of land to residential.
Writing text for Restore California was Robinson, who endorsed Voigts, Hamilton and Bass citing the need for “stable and responsible leadership at City Hall to continue building a brighter future for our city.” Of course, there’s nothing responsible about Robinson, Voigts and Hamilton’s lack of accountability when confronted with a recall effort – they refused to answer any questions and instead diverted attention elsewhere.
Not coincidentally, with Robinson having a friend on the editorial board at the Orange County Register, the Register endorsed Voigts, Hamilton and Bass based on false rhetoric.
It said Bass worked successfully to locate the new sheriff’s substation in Lake Forest, although he had nothing to do with it – or he had as much to do with it as I did, which was nothing, nada, zilch, and neither did any other Council member.
It said Voigts provided sound financial leadership to ensure the new Sports Park was built without additional taxes – or he had as much to do with it as I did, which was nothing, nada, zilch, and neither did any other current Council member.
It said Hamilton was “improving traffic signal synchronization to reduce congestion on city streets” as a planning commissioner but he had nothing to do with that – it was an undertaking by the City staff.