The Coast News Group
Many people showed up to Oceanside City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting last year to either show their support for or opposition to the North River Farms project, a 585-unit development that was approved to be built in South Morro Hills. Photo by Samantha Taylor.
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Lawsuit against NRF petitioners, City Clerk filed

OCEANSIDE — A lawsuit alleging “egregious violations” of the California Elections Code and the California Political Reform Act has been filed against the City Clerk, the Registrar of Voters and petitioners opposed to the North River Farms project.

Last month, petitioners gathered enough signatures according to City Clerk Zeb Navarro’s office to put a referendum on the November ballot that could potentially overturn council’s decision to green light the North River Farms development project in South Morro Hills.

The lawsuit alleges the petitioners committed fraud, forgery and misrepresentation in the signature gathering process; withheld important information from signers; and conducted illegal political fundraising for the petition.

According to Mindy Wright, a spokeswoman for project developer Integral Communities, the lawsuit was filed Jan. 14. Integral Communities has stated its support of the lawsuit that was filed by Oceanside resident Barbara Hazlett.

“We’re still waiting on a stamped copy,” Wright said via email.

The lawsuit comes a few weeks after the Jan. 8 City Council meeting when Mayor Peter Weiss accused petitioners of forging his name on the petition, but it was actually another Peter Weiss who lives in Oceanside and works as a real estate agent who signed it.

Kathryn Carbone, an Oceanside resident who was also named in the lawsuit as one of the petitioners, filed a grand jury complaint on Jan. 15 against Mayor Weiss for his accusation.

Carbone said it was “completely inappropriate” for him to accuse signature gatherers of forgery without evidence or proof.

“First of all, those signatures are confidential and were safeguarded by the leaders of the referendum effort, as well as by the Oceanside City Clerk’s office after they were delivered on December 20th, 2019,” Carbone said via email. “So, how did Mayor Weiss gain knowledge that his signature was on the petition?”

Neither Carbone nor Arleen Hammerschmidt, another petitioner who was named in the lawsuit, wished to comment on the lawsuit.

According to Hazlett, petitioners lied to voters and tried to set property owners and farmers back by opposing the North River Farms project.

On Dec. 19, Integral Communities filed a formal submission with Navarro regarding 14 alleged violations of state and municipal law alleged to have been committed during the election referendum process.

Though the Registrar of Voters is currently going through the process of verifying and counting the signatures, the developer wants an investigation into how those signatures were gathered.

“We respect the right to seek voter consideration of government decisions, however, these efforts must be conducted lawfully and properly,” said Ninia Hammond, project manager for North River Farms, in a statement provided to The Coast News. “We seek judicial review of activities that may have violated California’s referendum rules by the organizers of this effort against North River Farms.”

Oceanside resident Nadine Scott, who has been an attorney for more than 30 years, said the lawsuit is a “malicious attempt to stop a committed group of people from exercising their rights under the Constitution.” She added that untrue allegations of fraudulent conduct would be grounds for suit by the defendants.

“This purported lawsuit is an attempt to prevent public participation on matters of public importance such as doing a referendum and exercising ones Free Speech (sic),” Scott said via email.

19 comments

Amy concern Oceanside resident February 2, 2020 at 8:44 pm

Developers complain how expensive affordable housing is to build. Well if Integral would stop fighting the citizens from speaking their voices, they have plenty of money to build affordable housing.
Integral mentions restaurants and breweries in NRF yet never once mentioned any names they were working with to come into the development. Integral is promising rainbows and butterflies and the citizens have realized those rainbows and butterflies turn into an every day traffic nightmare, a safety risk if there’s a fire or flood from the river.
Integral is scared and knows the citizens don’t want their project. Why fight the petition if their project could stand on its own?

Arleen L. Hammerschmidt February 2, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Please consider helping us Referendum Signature Gathers pay our lawyers’ retainer fee, before 2-6-20, to defend us against suit brought by the developers’ attorneys. (About the suit:
https://www.thecoastnews.com/lawsuit-against-nrf-petitioners-city-clerk-filed/?fbclid=IwAR… )
Options to choose from:
– Let Oceanside Vote PAC (General Purpose supporting Referendum, Recall, No on K): https://letoceansidevote.org/?fbclid=IwAR2iBw8WSMM-V1Gg2jW1nRBWbgDSdIEAAdk7h6V8E23OesUcwzx
– Save our Farmland PAC (Specifically supporting Referendum): https://www.efundraisingconnections.com/c/SaveOurFarmland/?eid=2927&fbclid=IwAR3g22ICQ…)

Resident of Carlsbad January 31, 2020 at 1:19 pm

It is unbelievable that this bully developer would continue to try and intimidate the Citizens of Oceanside who legally used their rights to a Citizens Initiative by gathering signatures to fight a questionable City Council decision. It is proven that this developer hired people to try and intimidate and eliminate petition gatherers from their spots at shopping centers, grocery stores, post offices and other public places. It would be easy to prove that they were there, just contact the managers of the stores who can verify that petitioners asked permission to stand outside their stores if given permission.

Carlsbad had a similar Citizen Initiative in 2015 when their City Council voted 5-0 to accept a mall on the south shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Citizens had one month as did the Oceanside citizens to gather 10% of the registered voters in each respective city. Carlsbad was able to gather the signatures for the referendum which became Measure A. And Measure A was defeated in Carlsbad on February 23, 2016. So given that Oceanside has a few more residents than Carlsbad (176,193 (2019) vs 113,250 (2015) ) the ability for residents to gather enough signatures in such a short time is possible since there is recent precedent.

I have read that this developer has filed SLAPP lawsuits in other similar cases and lost. But they continue to bully honest citizens who are exercising their legal rights. I strongly oppose these tactics by the developer and question the legality of Mayor Weiss’ ability to discover *who* gave him the information that his name was on the petition. This smells of corruption and this behavior must be addressed and stopped.

Hill Street January 31, 2020 at 6:31 am

There was blatantly false information being spread during the signature gathering process. Either some of the signature gathers did not understand what the referendum actually was or the purposefully misrepresented it. On Facebook there were multiple posts from gathers who said “COME SIGN THE PETITION TO STOP ALL 3000 ACRES OF MORRO HILLS FROM BEING DEVELOPED, LET OCEANSIDE VOTE”. There are also accusations that there are forged signatures used from copies of the 2018 failed SOAR initiative and that when pulled for a sample count the valid signatures fell under the allotted amount (81% – 404 of 500 valid) requiring a complete inspection of all gathered signatures.

Personally, this is just another pay day for Nadine Scott and Diane Nyagard to Sue another developer for another pay day while using the guise of “protecting communities” and mobilizing the ever present army of NIMBYs in every community. It looks like now non Oceanside resident kathi Carbone is looking to cash in on the gravy train.

BOB January 30, 2020 at 11:32 pm

A timeline for people new to what is going on:

1) Rodriguez was elected based on him being opposed to NRF development.
2) Rodriguez “changed his mind” because the updated plan “was not the same plan he was against”
3) the entire community can not stand him now because he has no integrity and isn’t a man of his word, he’s a puppet.
4) The majority of Oceanside and neighboring towns do NOT want the development.
5) Feller should NEVER be elected Mayor, his interest goes to the highest paying contributor and knows how to smooze people, especially makes the round so at churches, and conveniently stumbles on words in public meetings (everyone can see through him)
6) NRF passed by Feller, Weiss and Rodriguez
7) A small and effective amount of people opposed to NRF took action and got enough signatures for a referendum
8) Integral can make millions off the project so they are going every where which way to get their way and literally LIE and CHEAT… they spread malicious lies for people who know nothing about what’s going on… they aren’t “saving“ farm land, they want to destroy it and gain profit off it… SHAME ON YOU SELF REALIZATION FELLOWSHIP CENTER they entitled Integral to entice developers to develop the land.
9) Integral and a 90 year old woman are suing and claiming they believe foul play in the signature gathering.

Ok that’s sums up the gist….. so Integral will continue with law suits which will continue to strengthen the communities opposition to them. Rodriguez will be recalled. Weiss is leaving he doesn’t care. And Feller wants to be mayor and the churches need to start seeing through his dishonest shenanigans.

Also the houses they want to develop will cost around $2500 per month with a $100,000 down payment…
With community fees as well. AKA a money trap.

They also claim they will have store fronts but off you look into them and other developers they’ve end up building homes instead… It’s all about the money NOT the welfare of the people.

Letitia Pepper January 30, 2020 at 1:36 pm

I just skimmed through Ms. Hazlett’s complaint against the local citizens who successfully mounted this referendum against the developer and his cronies. It’s great, entertaining reading. Although the complaint is verified, the plaintiff had to state, not as fact, but “on information and belief,” that “signature gatherers were rarely seen during [the circulation period] at
grocery stores, shopping centers, farmers’ markets, or the other public spaces where initiative and referendum proponents in Oceanside typically ask voters to sign petitions.” In other words, she seems to be accusing the volunteers of committing fraud by filling in false names and signatures instead of collecting them. Just who “rarely” saw them gathering signatures at all these “typical’ places? I was excited because at first I thought that, for a 90-year-old lady, the plaintiff sure must get around! But it turns out, she’s just speculating based “on information and belief.” I don’t get out much, but I actually saw unpaid volunteers gathering signatures — one near Bed, Bath & Beyond, and one in the Fire Mountain neighborhood. Gosh, the places I saw them getting signatures were not “grocery stores, shopping centers, farmers’ markets, or the other public spaces.” I suspect a lot of the volunteers just went door to door in their own neighborhoods or to the more neighborhood-y gathering places known to them.

Letitia Pepper January 30, 2020 at 9:43 am

Here’s who Barbara Hazlett is: the President of the Republican Club of Ocean Hills in Oceanside. https://www.ccr-gop.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/RCOH-S.-Hasty-August-2018-Newsletter.pdf

Letitia Pepper January 30, 2020 at 9:22 am

FYI. I am an attorney, have been one since 1982, and this looks like a case of SLAPP — strategic ligation against Public Participation. Anyone who has been named as a defendant should consult with an attorney who handles SLAPP cases; some of them will represent victims of SLAPP for free — because the plaintiff who filed the SLAPP suit has to pay the defendant’s attorney! I wonder if Oceanside resident Barbara Hazlett’s attorney warned her she might have to pay her victims’ legal fees before that attorney filed the suit for her.

Esther Bauer January 27, 2020 at 4:44 pm

Our rights our community. North river farms thought they bought off our city Council and mayor. Shame on all of them. I know what I signed.

Arleen L. Hammerschmidt January 25, 2020 at 5:32 pm

Why does anyone pick on people to keep us from exercising our right to referendum? Im’ just trying to protect what’s REAL in Oceanside, and our local environment, for generations to come. It’s my personal investment in a better future for Oceanside.

Roberta Kansteiner January 24, 2020 at 2:08 pm

I have been in a fire that burned faster than we could evacuate even with all lanes going out,we were lucky it was on the coast.That is not the case for us in Fallbrook or Morro Hills, more development or burden on the Highway 76 would be a death trap in a fire. I signed the petiton with a clear understanding of what I was signing, there was no misleading information.

Fawn Hill January 26, 2020 at 8:05 pm

I could not believe my ears when I heard that to get around the requirements for additional fire stations, they would so conveniently change policy from evacuating during a fire to stand (burn) in place. Unbelievable!!! Where can I sign the petition!?

Dave January 24, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Integral is making enough noise that we should be able to get high profile law folks to oppose them…

Mary Ellen Reese January 24, 2020 at 1:14 pm

This is harassment and fear mongering to try to get us to go away! Well, Barbara Hazlett can get sued back! Of course, Integral (who has probably been paying her or her group of Republican club members) will pay her fees. Their business plan is to throw money at these situations until they win. So you can imagine how much they plan to make on this project and others like it! They do this everywhere.

We should come at them in successive waves so that they have to keep suing new groups of residents. They will lose the cases, but meanwhile their bogus “farm” project will get less and less profitable. The best news is that we protect the people who live along the Hwy 76 corridor from getting trapped in the path of the next Lilac fire. Keep So Morro Hills buffer!

In a worst case scenario, if all you have are houses (once again most in foreclosure) and food becomes very hard to get, wouldn’t it be nice for Oceanside to be able to feed itself? We have the best weather in the country. Why waste it by paving over all the arable land??

The people willing to sell us all out in return for NRF money need to be removed from the Council in 2020! Weiss, Rodriguez (if he’s still there) and Feller need to go. Keim should be carefully watched for who he votes with most of the time.

Kathryn Carbone January 24, 2020 at 9:00 am

Kathryn Carbone here, just to clarify I live in Fallbrook and I’m here trying to protect the community and protect the environment. The North River Farms project presents horrifying fire evacuation issues for everyone living in Bonsall and Fallbrook as well as for those living in Oceanside. We (Fallbrook, Bonsall) just never got a say-so or a vote, but apparently our lives have been negotiated with and place on the line in the event of the next fire. I’m working for a better Oceanside in 2020 because the city’s decisions affect my town as well.

Noel Breen January 24, 2020 at 9:27 am

Thanks to Ms. Carbone for your leadership on this matter. The public safety implications of this go far beyond Oceanside’s borders and is truly a regional issue.

Fawn Hill January 26, 2020 at 8:02 pm

Exactly right, Kathryn! This affects all Oceanside residents for many different reasons, for traffic and fire reasons, and many others. We should all care about this!!! I watched the City Council meetings when resident after resident and constituent after constituent pleaded with the City Council for hours, to vote no on this project and even asked Christopher Rodriquez to recuse himself due to the obvious conflict of interest. It took hours to let all of these people speak and yet only Esther Sanchez (as usual) voted against it, and Ryan Keim voted with the people too. Christopher Rodriquez (totally ignoring pleas to recuse himself), Jack Feller and Peter Weiss all voted against the wishes of the people. They must be voted out. I would say we must keep Esther but I believe she is running for mayor. Best of luck to her; she regularly votes how the people request and those are the politicians we need.

David Martinez January 24, 2020 at 7:15 am

What a joke! The same rich developer who routinely lies about its development and who sent out swarms of paid people to harass the unpaid referendum signature gatherers now files suit against the same unpaid signature gatherers. Talk about hypocrisy! Remember boys and girls, only rich developers should be allowed to participate in Oceanside politics. If you’re poor or middle class you’re clearly suspect and you’ll be sued if you dare fight back against the rich developer and its bought and paid for city council. I hope the referendum supporters who are being sued get themselves an attorney and counter sue and take Hazlett and Integral for every dime they have! Also after Mayor Weiss’s accusation has been shown to be a total lie, he should resign. Better yet the signature gatherers should sue him for defamation!!

Sonyaa Miller January 23, 2020 at 11:15 pm

Integral Communities is really really really afraid of letting the citizens vote!!! I wonder why.

Neighboring communities have had petition drives garnering near this number of signatures with no issue. But Integral claims it can’t be done. Do they know how many signature gatherers there were? I think not! Do they think their project will hold up under public scrutiny? I think not! There is a reason the Oceanside Planning Commission repeatedly did not recommend this project. Did their attempts to thwart signature gatherers by sending their own representatives to interfere with the signature gatherers work? I think not! And that is why they are acting like a bunch of whiny babies now. This is the same developer who tried to get one of their representatives on the neighboring Carlsbad Planning Commission. Do they care about legal conflict of interest? I think not! Does this make them look even worse to the community? I THINK SO!

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