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Escondido Flyers Draw Ire of Ex-Mayor

SAN DIEGO (CN) - Public funds illegally paid for a campaign mailer supporting measures to turn Escondido, Calif., into a charter city and change its general plan, a former mayor claims in court.

In a Superior Court complaint against Escondido, its city council, Mayor Sam Abed and a half-dozen other city officials, Jerry Harmon seeks a declaration that the mailer in support of Propositions N and P unlawfully used public funds.

Harmon, who served as the city's mayor from 1990 to 1994, also wants Escondido enjoined from using public money in the same way again, and return of the public funds.

The 17-page complaint claims that the city council used $20,000 of public funds to have a private communications firm make campaign postcard and deliver them to voters' homes up until the general election on Nov. 6, 2012.

Escondido's mailer allegedly took aim at opposing political campaigns, and included information on the city's rezoning measure, Proposition N, which sought to create more jobs in urban areas.

It described Proposition P, which would have transformed Escondido into a charter city, as transferring power from state legislators to the city, according to the lawsuit.

"The city's expenditure of public funds to support one side of a campaign violated the California Constitution and various provisions in the California Government Code (including the Political Reform Act), and harmed the city's voters and taxpayers. The city also violated the Political Reform Act by failing to file the required campaign finance reports publicly disclosing its expenditures to create and distribute the 'campaign mailer,'" the 16-page complaint states.

Proposition N passed with roughly 53 percent of the vote, while voters rejected Proposition P by the same margin, Harmon claims.

The other individuals named as defendants in the complaint are Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz, City Manager Clay Phillips, Assistant City Manger Joyce Masterson, and City Council members Ed Gallo, Michael Morascoand Marie Waldron.

Harmon is represented by Richard Miadich with Olson Hagel & Fishburn of Sacramento, Calif.

One of the oldest cities in San Diego County, Escondido, pop. 145,000, is just north of the city of San Diego.

The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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