DEL MAR — Deputy Mayor Dan Quirk once again found himself the subject of vehement criticism by his fellow council members on Monday after deviating from the city’s official position when speaking about the rail realignment project and calling it a fraud.
The first-term councilman has been vocal in his criticism of the realignment project that seeks to relocate a crucial portion of the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor off the failing Del Mar bluffs and into tunnels further inland. Quirk has repeatedly advocated for the rail line to be discontinued.
In a Monday email to constituents, Quirk called the San Diego Association of Governments “fraudulent,” and said the agency has led a “misinformation campaign” in an attempt to cover up that the corridor’s low ridership does not necessitate the multibillion-dollar project.
“SANDAG’s dishonesty about the train’s value and utility is egregious. They are including significantly false and misleading information in official public documents to justify this project, which is illegal,” Quirk said in a Monday newsletter to residents.
At a Monday meeting, council members admonished Quirk for not clarifying that he was sharing his personal opinion on the rail in his emails to residents or in an Oct. 5 interview with KUSI. The council also agreed in a 4-1 vote to write a letter to SANDAG clarifying that Quirk’s comments do not represent the city’s position.
“Dan, it makes me sad that we have to write that, because of the fact that you didn’t disclose that you were speaking for yourself … and now we have to write a letter to correct the record. I hope going forward we don’t have to do it again,” said Councilmember Dwight Worden.
This is not the first time the city of Del Mar has performed damage control following Quirk’s public statements. The city also penned a letter to the North County Transit District clarifying the city’s position on rail issues last spring, after warning Quirk several times that he was not accurately advocating for the city’s position as a representative on the NCTD board.
The year prior, Quirk’s fellow NCTD board members accused him of potentially violating the Brown Act by sending emails to multiple board members advocating for certain positions related to the rail.
At the Monday meeting, council member Dave Druker added that by using Del Mar’s city logo as his Zoom background in the KUSI interview, Quirk had indicated that he was representing the city.
“This is not acceptable behavior,” Druker said.
Quirk said he agreed with the request not to use the city logo as his background in interviews but accused the city of trying to silence him.
“I view this effort as an attempt to silence me because I have a position that’s well-informed, fact-based, and very different from the party line of council members here as well as SANDAG,” Quirk said.
His statement led to an argument on the dais, as he claimed that SANDAG had lied about their number of daily freight cars and their statement that they are the second-busiest railway in the country, which Druker said he had no proof of.
Druker added that Quirk’s use of charged words like “fraudulent” could damage the city’s relationship with SANDAG, as they try to work together to find a solution for relocating the rail that will have the least impact on residents.
“We are asking you to be a little bit more sensitive to the position that Del Mar is in with an agency that has a whole lot of power over us,” Druker said. “It’s very important that we use the language that’s appropriate so that we have more power. That’s one of the things we’re asking — you can speak about it, you can use all kinds of words you want, but please don’t tell people SANDAG is lying. It doesn’t do us any good.”
As of now, the city has not taken a position on which realignment route is best but does support avoiding eminent domain and having tunnel portals next to homes.
Throughout the past year, Quirk has also been reprimanded by fellow Del Mar council members and city officials for wasting staff time by asking excessive questions about city efforts including the undergrounding project, Del Mar Riverpath project, and San Dieguito Drive repairs.
In city emails obtained through a public records request, a staff member told City Manager Ashley Jones that responding to Quirk’s questions specifically regarding the undergrounding project and meeting with him for further discussion has cost the city thousands of dollars.
“Estimating about 14 times we’ve answered random Councilmember [Quirk] questions, it comes out to added costs of about $20k. Not to mention it is distracting from work on our real project goals,” the June email said.
In another email from May, Worden advised Quirk to rein himself in and remember that council members “are not project managers.”
“You cannot set policy on your own, take action on your own, or give direction to the [City] Manager and her staff on your own. Nor can you burden the manager and her staff with an endless barrage of questions, work assignments, and demands,” Worden said in the email.
Last month, the city also initiated a third-party investigation, of which Quirk appears to be the subject, into alleged council member misconduct including violation of the Brown Act by sharing information from a closed session meeting.
That investigation is ongoing, City Attorney Leslie Devaney said Monday. Quirk declined to comment on the investigation.