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Adam’s Open Letter to Residents

Dear Resident,

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

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:

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

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?

Robinson’s Character

Robinson’s Character

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 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.

Council Majority Doesn’t Want Me on the Council

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.”

Heat of the Moment Comments

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.