By Jim Shilander
The San Clemente Chamber of Commerce is threatening to sue the organizers of a political action committee, which has alleged that the Chamber used government funds to lobby on behalf of its endorsed candidates during the election season.
Chamber attorney Stuart Leviton contacted Charles and Jeri Mann Monday, regarding the complaint. The Manns are involved with the PAC “Watchdog for San Clemente Responsible Government,” which opposes the Chamber’s two endorsed candidates, Jim Dahl and Mike Mortenson, and supports Chris Hamm and Bob Baker (listed on the ballot as 1 Robert “Bob” Baker).
The attorney stated in a letter that a defamation suit would be filed on behalf of the Chamber if the claims cited were not retracted, and asks for a public apology to the Chamber and its members.
Leviton’s letter further stated, “A prompt response today will avoid the need to file the draft complaint tomorrow. Absent a prompt response today, we will file the draft complaint tomorrow, and the Chamber is prepared to litigate this matter through trial, and beyond, if necessary, to vindicate its good name, and the reputation of its members and directors. Although we are hopeful litigation can be avoided, please do not doubt the Chamber’s resolve in this matter.”
The Chamber referred to the claims made in the mailers as “false” and “libelous on their face.” The Chamber specifically cited accusations that the Chamber used taxpayer funds to support Mortenson’s and Dahl’s campaigns, and that the Chamber’s spending on Dahl’s campaign represented “a kickback,” as defamatory.
Leviton’s filing said the Manns, as well as Janice Smith, of San Clemente-based business Better Presenter, “knowingly and intentionally accused the Chamber of engaging in criminal activity,” which they knew not to be true.
The filing states that the city had, in the past, contracted the Chamber to print materials and to conduct events. “At no time has the City ‘given’ the Chamber anything,” the document states specifically.
Calls to Charles and Jeri Mann placed by the San Clemente Times were not returned.