Editor’s note: This story was updated with details about the accusations the FPPC is investigating.
A state government ethics watchdog has launched a formal investigation into a Long Beach City Council candidate after his opponent complained about a lack of disclaimers on text messages attacking her and boosting his campaign.
Cindy Allen, who is pitted against Robert Fox in a tight runoff for the city’s 2nd Council District, has already accused Fox’s campaign of performing background checks on her family members, setting up fake social media accounts in her name and flying drones outside of her condo as part of a secret plot called “Operation Allentown,” intended to cast doubt on whether she lives in Long Beach.
In the latest allegations, Allen, a businesswoman and former Long Beach police officer, has accused Fox’s campaign of sending numerous text messages with campaign messaging that did not have proper disclaimers.
In a complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, Allen alleges Fox’s campaign sent messages boosting his own campaign and attacking her without explicitly saying that they were from a political campaign. The agency this week confirmed that it will investigate. It has not made any determination about the validity of the allegations at this time. FPPC investigations can often take months to be completed.
Fox has called all of Allen’s allegations “completely and utterly false,” while Allen, in a statement, said Fox should be held accountable for his actions.
“Mr. Fox has repeatedly shown that he believes he is above the law,” she said.
Long Beach’s 2nd District, which includes parts of the city’s Downtown waterfront, is one of several local elections that have been marred by mud-slinging.
The 8th District has seen cases of mass fake text messages and fake social media accounts, while a candidate running for the Long Beach City College Board of Trustees last week was the possible victim of sexually explicit robocalls purporting to be from his phone number.
In the 2nd District, some of the latest accusations center around Long Beach resident Lee Richmond Charley, who said he volunteered to help the Fox campaign dig up evidence that Allen has been lying about her residency and actually lives in Fountain Valley rather than her Long Beach condo.
The questions over Allen’s residency and allegations of voter registration fraud have been key issues for some of Fox’s supporters. Allen has maintained she is a long-time Long Beach resident, and the Long Beach City Clerk has affirmed she is a qualified candidate.
Charley, a part-time food-delivery driver, said he spent months videotaping Allen’s house in Fountain Valley, taking pictures of cars outside the home and delivering Krispy Kreme donuts and other food that nobody had ordered.
Charley said the Fox campaign encouraged him to spy on Allen. He said he later had a change of heart and presented Allen with a cache of emails, text messages and documents in which Fox supporters discuss Operation Allentown, which included a worksheet of assignments to gather dirt on Allen.
Fox and his campaign have vehemently denied the allegations, saying they communicated with Charley but insisted he is mentally ill and was never part of the campaign.
Allen, for her part, has seen her own share of controversy around the sale of her advertising company, which has done extensive business with the city, presenting a potential conflict of interest.
Allen sold the business this year to a San Pedro couple that has since sued her for fraud and breach of contract for allegedly concealing certain debts and financial obligations.
A residents group, meanwhile, has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office alleging that Allen has committed voter registration fraud by living in her Fountain Valley house while registering to vote at her one-bedroom Long Beach condo, where others have registered to vote in the same elections.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division on Thursday said the complaint remains under review.
Editor’s note: Cindy Allen is a former owner of the Long Beach Post, but has had no involvement with the Post since selling the publication to Pacific Community Media in 2018.