The Coast News Group
Former Escondido Mayor Jerry Harmon speaks to a crowd in front of City Hall on Oct. 15, announcing a lawsuit against the city. Photo by Ellen Wright

Former mayor suing Escondido

ESCONDIDO— Former Mayor Jerry Harmon has announced a lawsuit against the city for allegedly using public dollars to prevent former police chief Jim Maher from running for Escondido City Council.

“It appears that city leadership… has again crossed the line to use public dollars to attempt to prevent Jim Maher from seeking public office in Escondido,” Harmon said. “Specifically Mayor Abed, the city manager and city attorney have failed to safe guard the city’s resources.”

Maher filed a lawsuit in San Diego Supreme Court on Aug. 13 claiming the city withheld half of his retirement payment. The lawsuit states the city did not pay because Maher or his wife breached the confidentiality clause in his retirement contract.

Both the city and Maher have stayed quiet as to why the former police chief was forced to retire.

Harmon is not working with Maher on the lawsuit. Harmon claims that the city attempted to withhold the other half of the former police chief’s $150,000 severance pay until he signed an agreement to not run for office in Escondido.

According to Harmon, if the allegations are true, the city officials have violated the California Elections Code.

Maher is not a resident of Escondido, so he would have had to move to the city in order to become eligible to run for office.

Harmon claims City Attorney Jeffrey Epp wrote a letter asking for Maher’s signature, which would bar him from local politics and grant him the rest of his severance pay.

Harmon said he could prove it was written by Epp by right-clicking on the letter in an email and finding its properties. He says Epp has neither confirmed nor denied he wrote the letter.

Harmon is asking for an investigation into the matter and corrective action. He’s sent the information to the San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the San Diego County Grand Jury, the state of California Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney General and the California Bar Association.