‘Weird and creepy’: Video sleuths are intent on finding council candidate living outside of Long Beach

The camera never lies, but sometimes it tells really boring stories.

There has for months now been a theory held by a certain political segment of town that Cindy Allen, who is competing for the 2nd District council seat against the Reform Coalition’s candidate Robert Fox, isn’t a true Long Beach resident.

Many of Fox’s backers, as well as other people who are opposed to Cindy Allen getting a seat on the council, claim that she has lied about her residency, pointing out the fact that she and her husband own a large and comfortable two-story home in Fountain Valley, yet choose to live in a one of their two condominiums at the Aqua in Downtown.

“I’m an original owner at Aqua,” said Allen. “And after I bought the smaller one, I bought a bigger unit. It’s very comfortable.”

In Allen’s opponents’ camp’s fervor, there have been people staking out (stalking is perhaps too terrible a word, but you can make an argument for it) Allen’s Fountain Valley home, videotaping the property and the cars around it and whatever person happens to walk into the frame, hoping, no doubt, to catch Allen in her PJs walking out to get the paper.

Similarly, there’s a strong suspicion by some that Mayor Robert Garcia, a close friend of Allen’s, is a frequent visitor at the Fountain Valley home and may have been holed up there in the days following the May 31 protests and violence in Long Beach.

And amateur gumshoes have similarly tried to catch evidence of that—or a shot, perhaps, of Garcia and Allen frolicking loudly in the Aqua hot tub, which is another occasional event that the anti-Allen/Garcia crowd claims has been known to happen.

A few weeks ago, another video spree occurred at the Allen’s Fountain Valley residence, with the camera person slowly cruising down the street getting shots of the vehicles in the area, and pausing to get a good look at the cars in Allen’s driveway, including a new Tesla sedan with three people inside.

Those three people are the current residents of the Allen place, Long Beach attorney Michele Dobson, her 11-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son, just as they were returning home with their new car.

Dobson has been renting and living in Allen’s house since her own home in East Long Beach burned down just before the COVID-19 lockdown began.

Allen, a member of Long Beach Rotary, offered Dobson, also a Rotarian, the rental. “It saved my life,” said Dobson. “We were staying at an extended-stay hotel and we really needed more room, since we’ll be out of our own home until the first of the year.”

Being videotaped that afternoon, Dobson said, was “weird and creepy, and my children were terrified. My son said he thought the filmer thought maybe we were drug dealers, being the only Black people living in a predominantly White neighborhood.”

It still isn’t clear who shot the video, but it appeared on Facebook. Fox-backer and former Reform Coalition member Carlos Ovalle copied it and posted it on his Twitter account. It doesn’t depict anything particularly damning other than a shot of a well-traveled red car with a personalized license plate reading “BIG R1” with R being, perhaps, the first letter of Garcia’s first name. What more proof do you need that Garcia’s hiding out in the rumpus room of the Fountain Valley home?

The car, says both Allen and Dobson, belongs to a neighbor.

Robert Fox, who said he seriously doubts that his opponent Allen lives at the Aqua, says he knows nothing about the video, other than communicating with Dobson and telling her there’s nothing illegal about someone driving down the street videotaping everything, and he admits that Dobson living in the house of contention subjects her to a certain amount of scrutiny. “It happens to me all the time,” he said. “But there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Fox, who’s a property manager and a Rotarian, said, “I have no reason to dislike Michele Dobson. She’s a Rotarian, too, and a delightful person and I told her if I’d had a place available for her I would have been happy to let her live in it.”

Allen, meanwhile, said Fox knows she lives in the Aqua. She said those responsible for the video and sharing it need to apologize, including Fox.

“I don’t want Michele and her family to go through this,” said Allen. “It’s unacceptable.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to remove some information that was not intended for publication. 

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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