Brand, Nehrenheim campaign lawsuit set for trial
by David Mendez
A lawsuit filed by two residents against Redondo Beach elected officials is going to trial. A judge has denied multiple motions to dismiss the case.
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand and Councilman Nils Nehrenheim, Rescue Our Waterfront PAC President Wayne Craig and Brand For Mayor 2017 treasurer Linda Moffatt will be defended by joint legal counsel in September against a lawsuit, filed by residents Chris Voisey and Arnette Travis, accusing Brand and Nehrenheim of being controlling candidates and coordinating with ROWPAC.
The suit also alleges ROWPAC broke election law by filing paperwork with the Fair Political Practices Commission as a General Purpose Committee, backing both candidates and ballot measures, rather than as a Primarily Formed Committee that focuses on specific issues in a specific election.
The motion for a summary judgment was denied by California Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey. The court’s minute order cites accusations by the plaintiffs that the defendants “exercised significant influence, were controlling candidates or committees or failed to disclose information.”
According to Voisey, the lawsuit seeks “fair disclosure and honesty” by Brand, Nehrenheim, and ROWPAC.
Brand contends the lawsuit is harassment, backed by CenterCal Development, using Voisey and Travis as pawns. CenterCal, the city’s estranged development partner for the Redondo Beach Waterfront, was vehemently opposed by Brand and Nehrenheim, and stymied by the
passage of ROW-backed Measure C. Both Voisey and Travis supported the Waterfront development.
Brand believes that the lawsuit would fall under Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – or SLAPP – statutes were it filed by CenterCal, rather than private citizens.
“There are attorneys out there like Bradley Hertz, who are happy to file private enforcement actions,” Brand said.
Hertz was a paid legal representative and assistant treasurer for the No on C campaign. Hertz said that he became known to Travis and Voisey through his work in Redondo Beach.
“These lawsuits are nothing but harassment that could end up costing all of us a lot of our own personal money. The city is not representing us,” Brand said. “Developers are known for these kinds of predatory lawsuits … they’re not just trying to shut us up, but to shut up the whole community while they try to ramp more projects down their throats.”
Voisey declined to say how the lawsuit is being funded, and whether or not CenterCal is backing the lawsuit. CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning could not be reached for comment.
“What I can tell you is that there are a lot of inaccuracies. The portrayal by the defendants is their version of it without knowing a single fact,” Voisey said.
Brand, Nehrenheim, Moffatt, Craig, and ROWPAC are funding the lawsuit out of their own pockets, Brand said. The group has a joint legal defense agreement, which has raised money through public fundraisers, promoted through social media.
One fundraiser, hosted by ROWPAC, was held on June 27 and promoted by Nehrenheim on his public-facing Facebook page, prompting debate by residents as to whether or not a politician should use their social media pages to promote funding for their legal defense.
Though Nehrenheim did not respond to requests for comment, he did reply to a Facebook user, stating he has “a legal debt of over $70,000 that I am personally responsible for,” and that he invited the public so they can “hear what’s going on.”
The City of Redondo Beach has social media policies in place, though the City Council declined to follow staff recommendations to adopt a social media policy for elected officials. A motion to do so, made by Councilman Christian Horvath in 2016, died on the floor for lack of a second.
Brand noted that he will hold a legal defense fundraiser of his own on Aug. 9, at the R10 Social House restaurant. Anyone interested in more information, he said, can find it at BillBrand.org, his political candidacy page – complete with an FPPC identification number.