Information about mystery mailers comes to light

Information about mystery mailers comes to light
Although he said his identity was previously available, Paul Gaspar was recently found to be behind a group called We Love Encinitas. Image from weloveencinitas.com

ENCINITAS — Several mailers from a group called We Love Encinitas arrived in local mailboxes throughout October. 

It was not then apparent what group or individual was behind the mailers, but Paul Gaspar, who has now been confirmed to be the founder of the group, says otherwise.

According to Gaspar, a local businessman and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar’s husband, said he had sent out a press release to the daily newspapers in mid-October introducing the group.

A U-T San Diego article from Oct. 23 looking at political groups could not find the identity of the group.

Marco Gonzalez, a lawyer at Coast Law Group, said he and other lawyers found out that Gaspar had formed the group only a few days ago by checking various databases. Gonzalez said he and active members in the community were unaware of any press releases issued by We Love Encinitas.

“I know a lot of people active in the community and didn’t hear anything about it being him,” Gonzalez said.

Although not overtly political, the mailers suggested support for the incumbents, outgoing Mayor Jerome Stocks and Councilman Mark Muir, leading up to the Council election by using recent survey data conducted by True North Research.

Below favorability ratings in categories like quality of life and law enforcement, the first mailer contained the message: “Thank you to our City Council for making our city such a wonderful place to live, work and play. Keep up the good work.”

A second mailer from the group also included the favorability ratings as well as pictures and quotes from current councilmembers, excluding Councilwoman Teresa Barth.

In an email exchange, Gaspar said the North County Times and U-T San Diego, prior to their merging, reviewed the group’s ads and deemed them nonpolitical. A representative from the newspaper could not be reached for comment by press time.

In response to a question about whether the mailer was intended to support the incumbents, Gaspar said: “The intention of WLE is to spread positive news about Encinitas. Our city staff, public safety officials, City Council and citizenry are a big part of our city’s success.”

In the press release sent Tuesday to the The Coast News, reportedly dated Oct. 17 identifying Gaspar as the founding member, it states the group is a nonpolitical organization, “committed to a positive voice for informing the Encinitas community through: community outreach, multimedia, direct mail, social media and the sale of promotional items.”

Authorities from the California Secretary of State’s office Tuesday confirmed Gaspar was the CEO and agent of process of We Love Encinitas Community Advocates.

The mailers sent out did not contain any contact information, except for a return address listed as a mailing center. The website was established as a proxy, allowing the person who registered it to remain anonymous.

An inquiry from The Coast News in October to the California Secretary of State’s office and California State Attorney did not show paperwork had been filed for a 501 (c) 3 called We Love Encinitas. Also, the group did not appear on guidestar.org or other charity registries.

In October, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said the first mailer did not violate rules for a nonprofit, because it didn’t specifically identify candidates.

But Gonzalez believes the second mailer “walks the line, if not steps over it,” due to pictures and quotes from councilmembers also displayed next to the survey results.

“You have to ask why a nonprofit is sending out borderline political information,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez would like to see the city have a conversation and clarify the rules for slate mailers.

 

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  1. W.C. Varones says:

    Using a 501(c)3 charitable organization for political propaganda is obscene, and completely unprecedented as far as I know.

    I hope the IRS investigates.

  2. Esteban Llaves says:

    Marco Gonzalez, thank you for helping uncover this disingenuous political “We Love Encinitas” ruse clearly intended to affect recent election results, coming as it did directly beforehand.

    Unfortunately we need this kind of vigilance to help keep certain people honest. Imagine: the Gaspars said nothing about being the senders of this when they certainly knew quite well that the media and the people of Encinitas were all baffled by the source of it. But you were quiet and had to be uncovered. :<(

    If this is not illegal (by the letter of the law), it is certainly sleazy politics. Mr. and Ms. Gaspar, can we get a little "ownership" over here? 'cause you're looking pretty bad right about now. You could have stepped up. You coulda been a contenda. Hell, you still have time …

  3. Rogelio Espinosa says:

    Gracias a Marco Gonzalez por haber descubierto la fuente de la propaganda. Es un escándolo.

    Nice work, Marco! The insincerity and disingenuous of Paul Gaspar is stunning. Does he really expect us to believe his story? The useless satisfaction survey and its appearance every two years (Mayor Stocks 2008, Mayor Dalager 2010, and again Mayor Stocks 2012) is an election ploy to get the taxpayer to pay for a meaningless survey that can be used to boast the incumbents’ reelection chances.

    With the council majority flipped it looks like Paul’s carefully laid plans to have his wife as Mayor in 2014 with another phony survey designed for her benefit have hit an unexpected snag.

    Paul can spend his own money on a survey. To have the city with City Manager Gus Vina and True North Research in collusion is not acceptable. The already approved $40,000 for two additional surveys should be jettisoned.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    I’m grateful for Marco’s efforts, and also those of the Coast News in helping to investigate and identify the non-profit group. I would like to know whether the Fair Political Practices Commission would consider the second mailer to be political? To me, both the first and second mailers are political in that they are using the poll to support the incumbents. However, the second mailer, in excluding Councilmember Teresa Barth, becomes more overtly partisan.

    When this agenda item, a survey to be taken by True North every other year for three years, came before Council, at the request of City Manager Gus Vina, ALL of the public speakers objected. We all knew the survey results would be glowing because people here love our weather and our beaches, and most are not involved with City Hall, directly. The questions were to be designed by the City, but the survey is known to be a Public Relations tool to support the incumbents. When the new Council is seated, a priority should be to cancel future surveys of this nature, particularly taken during even numbered years, with the data released just before the General Election.

    Whether these mailers are considered to be illegal, or not, they demonstrate how our city does need to address its overly “cozy” relationship with some non-profits, and with so-called “independent contractors,” who are often acting as lobbyists for development interests and associated business interests.

    The recent agenda item addressing a telecommunications device being installed on a city lightpole is a case in point. The city’s contract had been fulfilled, so there was no actual legal justification to force another one on the neighborhood when many neighbors came to the Council Meeting to protest. But special counsel, who was a so-called “telecommunications expert,” seemed actually to be aligned with telecommunications interests, and did NOT appear to be neutral. Even City Attorney Glenn Sabine said that Council had the right of discretion to refuse an amendment to the contract. Yet he did so while bringing up, unwisely, the banner ban debacle. Perhaps that was part of the reason why current Council again reacted in fear of threatened litigation, advanced through the “objective contractor expert,” and, with the exception of Teresa Barth, voted to amend the contract and install another telecommunications transmitter and receiver when no need for doing so was demonstrated by any facts presented, just the possibility of litigation, and unsubstantiated opinions and desires of Crown Castle to expand!

    Peder Norby’s contract should also be re-examined. Do we need a 101 Czar that is essentially lobbying for development interests, in the eyes of so many involved in the General Plan update? While most of us agree that a thriving business community is vital to a well-functioning city, it is inappropriate for some of these non-profits to be giving one another awards and promoting their agendas at the expense of the citizens who may disagree, particularly when the non-profits, such as the Leucadida 101 Merchants Association and DEMA are so heavily subsidized by the City.

    Leucadia 101 Merchants gets only 7% of its operating expenses from membership dues. The rest comes through City subsides, including rents from the Paul Ecke Central School Sunday Farmers’ Market, a deal facilitated by Peder Norby. Norby can often be seen at the storetfront office of the Leucadia 101 Merchants, on El Portal and Hwy 101, across from Leucadia Glass, which office is also subsidized by taxpayers, along with paid employees. One such paid employee, Paula Kirpalini comes to City Council Meetings and advocates on behalf of installing five traffic circles, and establishing a lane diet, which 81% of adjacent residents and most local businesses don’t want due to concerns about cut through traffic, slower emergency response times, more gridlock, huge delays, loss of land by some, and loss of business during construction.

    The non-profit, Encinitas Historical Society, a wonderful organization, just gave an Ida Lou Coley award to John DeWald as “director of the year” of DEMA. This again shows the dangers of non-profits becoming too dependent upon city subsidies, and using that position in ways that can promote development interests over residents and private citizens. DeWald recently dropped out of Escrow that had been set up through EUSD Superintendent, Timothy Baird, with Art Pulse to develop the Pacific View surplus school site. DEMA had before cooperated with the Artists’ Colony to present a much preferable plan, Envision the View. But DEMA seemed to bow out, although the Art Pulse/DeWald plan was to privatize the donated land, taking it out of the public domain, which was NOT what the requests for proposals through EUSD had called for. We’re glad that flawed plan for an irreplaceable asset to be over-developed, asking for the creation of an entirely new zoning classification, which would NOT protect the public, and would not address the applicability of the Naylor Act, fell through, despite Baird’s repeated threats of litigation.

    I feel that the new Council should carefully consider what actually constitutes lobbying by City paid contractors or non-profits subsidized through the City. Non profit business groups, in order to get funding, should have to apply for yearly grants, just as other non-profits do. Encinitas should have learned a lesson with the former Chamber of Commerce, which we heavily subsidized, paying $94,000 for it to move from a better location, more easily accessible from the freeway, by the old Smart & Final location, which the volunteers preferred. Encinitas First was published through the former Chamber of Commerce, which blatantly supported through “puff piece articles” both conflicted and convicted ex mayor Dan Dalager and outgoing mayor, Jerome Stocks.

    Our city needs more separation of powers and more checks and balances in a system where Council sits as judge, jury and executioner, the judicial, legislative and executive branches, all rolled into one. Independent non-profits are fine, and desirable, although they should not serve as tools for the incumbents who look for loopholes to skirt around the rules. And non-profits should not have deals set up whereby they are subsidized by taxpayers and consumers to promote overdevelopment in the name of smart growth or sustainable growth, patting themselves on the back, heaping awards on one another.

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