SAN MARCOS — The first City Council meeting of 2009 took an unexpected turn when Poway Chamber of Commerce CEO Luann Hulsizer lambasted Mayor Jim Desmond during oral communications Jan. 13. She accused the mayor of urging her colleagues to derail her crusade against Councilwoman Rebecca Jones’ election campaign last year.
The mayor, Hulsizer alleged, called Poway’s mayor, the San Marcos Chamber Chair and the director of the San Marcos Boys & Girls Club, where Hulsizer is a trustee, and asked them to stifle her.
“I never forsaw how threatening the actions of one constituent would be to Mayor Desmond until he began using his political position for his personal campaign,” Hulsizer said. “We have a mayor who publicly promotes civic engagement, but when the microphones and the press aren’t around, he shows his true hypocritical self.”
After the meeting, Desmond said Hulsizer had only told part of the story. Desmond had only responded to an e-mail Hulsizer sent in August to most of the state’s prominent Republicans regarding the endorsement and nonendorsement of various candidates, including those in San Marcos races, he said.
The problem, according to Desmond, was that Hulsizer sent the message from her work e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Although poway.com is the domain of the Poway Chamber, Desmond was concerned that it looked like the city of Poway was involving itself in the politics of other cities, he said.
Desmond said he had only made his phone calls for clarification, not censure.
“All I wanted was e-mails from poway.com concerning San Marcos candidates to stop,” Desmond said. “If she’d sent it out from a personal address, I wouldn’t have pursued.”
“He did not pressure me to call anybody,” San Marcos Chair Rod Jones said. “He has never pressured me to do anything.”
Hulsizer was not impressed, saying the mayor did not try to contact her directly about the issue, and cited the fact that he waited until her anti-Rebecca Jones campaign was in full swing as telling.
Hulsizer’s husband, Councilman Mike Preston, spoke at length in her defense at the meeting, drawing comparisons between the mayor’s actions and those of embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
“Sometimes politicians think what they do is political and doesn’t have ramifications in the ethical and legal world,” Preston said. “It’s useless to have all the task forces and commissions if you attack the dissent using your position of power. That’s what happened here.”
Preston said events like this could make the city vulnerable to litigation and embarrassment. He said he planned to introduce a city code of ethics for the council’s consideration at the next meeting.
After the meeting, Desmond expressed his dismay with Preston’s comments. He noted that while he and Preston have been longtime political adversaries, they had always interacted with civility before.
“It’s healthy for us as council members to have a difference,” the mayor said. “It’s unhealthy, though, when it turns into personal attacks.”