Michael Harrington, a candidate for Rancho Mirage City Council in the April election, on Friday filed a complaint with the city Clerk’s office alleging that Mayor Pro Tem Dana Hobart has violated the Code of Fair Campaign Practices.
The complaint was forwarded to City Attorney Steve Quintanilla, who told Uken Report he is perplexed as to why the complaint was sent to the city as the city is not running the campaign and has nothing to do with it. “It’s an issue betweeen the two candidates,” he said. “I’m not going to do anything with it.”
At the center of the complaint is a mass email Hobart and the Committee to Re-elect Dana Hobart sent to Rancho Mirage voters on Feb. 7. Harrington, a family law attorney, alleges in the complaint that Hobart “spread false rumors and innuendo without any basis” and was targeted by Hobart, who is also an attorney.
“Mr. Harrington is apparently having difficulty comprehending the plain language of my February 7th email,” Hobart said in an email to Uken Report. “His eagerness for publicity is leading him astray. His conclusions are absurd. Fortunately for him the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution gives him leeway to mislead his competitors and the voters.”
In the complaint, Harrington has drawn huge, red circles around the points of primary concern.
Harrington, one of six candidates in the April election that includes three incumbents and three challengers, alleges that Hobart is “spreading false rumors and innuendo” in that Harrington is being advanced as a pro-CV Link candidate by Skip Paige, a CV Link supporter, and Tom Kirk, executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, which is the lead agency on the CV Link project.
CV Link is both a popular and controversial $100 million, 50-mile transportation corridor in the Coachella Valley. Rancho Mirage voters have opposed it and Hobart has been one of the most vocal opponents to the project. He has spoken out in support of a lawsuit filed against CV Link that claims illegal funds are being used to support it.
To set the stage, the six candidates vying for three seats on the Rancho Mirage City Council are Hobart, Charles Townsend Vinci, Iris Smotrich, Katherine “Kate” Spates, Harrington and Robert Mueller.
The portion of Hobart’s email on which Harrington has filed his complaint reads as follows:
“Ms. Spates, as an adult, has lived in our city a mere 2 ½ years, according to when she first registered to vote in Rancho Mirage. (The other two candidates are also newly registered: Mr. Mueller registered in August 2016 and Mr. Harrington in 2014). Paige apparently could not entice any resident of long standing to be his candidate … Mr. Paige’s and Mr. Kirk’s efforts to change our council make up confirm a long-term plan to maneuver CV Link into Rancho Mirage. When and if they get three people elected to our city council, they will then be able to pass a motion scheduling a new public vote on CV Link’s entry into the city. Re-electing incumbents will send a strong message demonstrating our commitment to remain in charge of our city’s destiny. Your support for the incumbents, Mayor Charles Townsend, Councilwoman Iris Smotrich, and me would be greatly appreciated. /s/ Dana (Hobart)”
“There is no record or policy to substantiate this false statement,” Harrington said in the complaint. “It is simply false innuendo and rumor being spread by Hobart.”
In Hobart’s email blast, he said, “This email was sent to you on behalf of Dana Hobart using the Riverside Registrar of Voters email list and his own private list.”
Harrington claims Hobart’s mass correspondence was intended to influence and “undermine” the April 10 election through “dishonest and unethical” practices.
“This is a violation of the ‘Code of Fair Campaign Practices’ signed by incumbents Dana Hobart, Iris Smotrich and Charles Townsend Vinci,” Harrington alleges in the complaint. “Therefor (sic) the other two incumbents are called upon to condemn the Hobart email hat (sic) is intended to support all (3) three incumbents.”