Kenney Hrabik's candidate statement will be a little shorter than he anticipated. That's because a judge in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday ruled that he made a false claim in his 373-word submission to the Orange County Registrar of Voters in his for Rancho Santa Margarita City Council.
In a challenge mounted by RSM resident April Josephson, Judge Charles Margines ruled that Hrabik's candidate statement—which could be up to 400 words long—must omit a phrase that claims he moved to Rancho Santa Margarita after the recession started.
It was pointed out in court that Hrabik's business moved from Lake Forest to Rancho Santa Margarita in December, 2005, when he signed a long term lease for a location in Dove Canyon Plaza, and that he applied for a conditional use permit in September 2006.
"As a longtime community activist and local businessperson, I felt it was my responsibility to set the record straight," said Josephson, who made the challenge one day before the 10-day, Aug. 25 deadline to do so.
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It was argued by Josephson, citing the National Bureau of Economic Research, that the economic activity in the U.S. didn't peak until December 2007 and the recession did not begin until December 2008.
Included in the argument was a letter written by Hrabik in which he says he relocated his event planning company in RSM "to be closer to our home in Rancho Cielo..." and the certificate of occupancy issued by the City in 2006.
According to the Court, "the phrase 'When the recession started and I saw so many of Rancho families out of work' is false and/or misleading. ... the court orders that the words 'the recession started and' in the foregoing phrase be stricken."
All other challenges to Hrabik's candidate statement were denied. The Court said in its judgment:
"None constitutes a reference to other candidates for the same office. In essence, Petitioner takes the position that any pledge to improve the governance of the city necessarily implies a criticism of the current city council or at least a reference to its members. That is simply not the case. For example, Mr. Hrabik's assertion that his many years of business experience would be an asset to the current city council is not a denigration of the latter; it is a promise that, if he is elected, the city would benefit from his experience. Similarly, 'we can do better' does not imply that the current council members are doing a poor job. It means no more than: If elected, we can improve as a city."
The Court also indicated that a reference to city councilman Jesse Petrilla "currently fighting in Afghanistan" with the California National Guard, could also remain in the statement even though Petrilla has contacted city manager Jennifer Cervantez and indicated that his tour has been cut short and he will be in attendance at council meetings beginning on Sept. 26.
Josephson argued that Petrilla would be back in the states when the candidate statements are mailed to voters. The judge ruled that "there is no certainty that Mr. Petrilla will return home before publication of the candidates' statements; his tour of duty may be extended voluntarily or by order of Mr. Petrilla's superiors."
On the whole, it's another setback for Hrabik, who argued earlier this year before the city council that a national survey showed Rancho Santa Margarita had a business climate that was worse than cities such as El Centro, Bakersfield, Philadelphia and New Orleans; in fact, the survey did not name RSM but greater Orange County, specifically naming Anaheim, Santa Ana and Irvine.
Hrabik also circulated an email campaign claiming that the cost of all salary and benefits to council members since the city incorporated in 2000 had cost the city $1 million— too much.