Measure M opponents file complaint with state claiming ‘violations’ made by mayor, council

Opponents of a ballot measure that allowed the city to charge its Water Department for use of city-owned pipelines filed a complaint with the state against elected leaders, charging they sent political mailers to voters ahead of the June election.

The complaint—filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission last week by former Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, Diana Lejins, Joe Weinstein and Tom Stout—alleges that the mailers were “not ‘informational’ in tone or contents as required, but in fact campaign pieces paid with government resources.” It claims that since the mailers were sent to only about 63,741 out of the city’s registered 147,579 households it constitutes as campaign activity because if it was informational it would have been sent to every voter in the city.

It also “misled voters that the transfer would be ‘of surplus City utility revenues’ when in fact the measure would allow a transfer based upon a percentage of the ‘utility’s annual gross revenues’.”

Neither Shipske nor Lejins, who signed on to the complaint, responded to a request for comment.

The recently passed Measure M is an amendment to the city’s charter allowing it to charge municipality-run utilities for access to rights of way and then transferring those fees to the general fund. It was a decades-long practice but was recently challenged by two separate lawsuits against the city.

The complaint specifically named Mayor Robert Garcia, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilmembers Dee Andrews and Suzie Price as violating the Political Reform Act by using government-paid computers and cellphones to send emails, texts and tweets to voters.

City Attorney Charles Parkin and none of the councilmembers named in the complaint responded to requests for comment.

Mayor Robert Garcia declined to comment citing pending litigation.

Jay Wierenga, spokesman for the FPPC, confirmed that it received the complaint.

FPPC has under two weeks to determine whether or not it will investigate the allegations, refer the complaint to another governmental agency or take no action.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.