Suit alleges anti-Dahl and Mortenson fliers implied a “criminal conspiracy”
By Jim Shilander
Steve Craig, developer of the proposed Marblehead Coastal outlet mall filed a defamation suit last month against Charles Mann, Mann’s wife and Mann’s political action committee, Watchdog for San Clemente.
The suit stems from claims made in some of the mailers put out by the PAC during last year’s City Council election, which focused on the placement of candidates’ signs on the still vacant Marblehead property. The specific mailer mentioned in the suit, dubbed “San Clemente Voter Alert,” showed mock $1,000 bills next to a picture of the signs for City Council candidates Jim Dahl and Mike Mortenson on the property. One of the bills reads “Outlet Mall Developer,” and the mailer urges the reader to “Follow the Money!”
The suit alleges that the flier implied Craig had made a $1,000 donation to one or both of the candidates. No such donation was made, Craig stated. The suit also states that the implication implied an illegal act, since a donation such as the one allegedly inferred would need to be reported.
In addition, the suit alleges that the flier implied a “criminal conspiracy,” existed between Craig and Mortenson, since a headline on the opposite side of the flier stated that Mortenson and Dahl had been “sold,” to Craig in exchange for backing. The reverse side of the flier also included a line in quotation marks saying, “I like Mike when he approves my ugly freeway signs.” Craig stated that he had never made such a statement.
The suit states that the defendants in the case knew that the information was not true, and was “libelous on its face,” and exposed Craig to “hatred, contempt, ridicule and/or obloquy (strong public criticism).”
The demand for damages is not specified, but the suit indicates that damages being sought are greater than $25,000.
This is not the first time that the mailers that Mann and Watchdog for San Clemente have faced potential legal action regarding claims in the mailers. The San Clemente Chamber of Commerce had threatened to sue Mann with regard to claims made in other fliers that stated the Chamber had used taxpayer funds to support Dahl and Mortenson. Mann apologized for the claims made in the flier, and acknowledged that the claims were incorrect.