Hermosa Beach’s city manager contests E & B oil ad
On Monday evening, Hermosa Beach City Manager Tom Bakaly issued a letter via email to Matt Knabe of E & B Natural Resources’ public relations firm Englander, Knabe & Allen (EKA) taking issue with a full page ad posted in local papers and mailed to Hermosa residents. In the ad, titled “Hermosa Numbers Don’t Lie Ad,” the ad reads “The City of Hermosa Beach could receive new net revenue of $627,370,000” next to an image of the Cost Benefit Analysis document with the city seal.
“I have reviewed the E & B add titled, ‘Numbers Don’t Lie’ and have determined that the ad is deceptive and misleading,” Baklay said. “The ad clearly attributes the applicant’s estimates of the revenue to the City study by showing a picture of the City’s Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). In fact, the CBA found significantly lower returns more probable. Further, inclusion of the City’s logo in the ad, even though as part of a document, gives the false impression that the City endorses the higher estimate.”
Bakaly pointed to Section 2.08.030(B) of the Hermosa Beach Municipal Code which forbids the use of the city seal in campaign material.
Bakaly asked E & B to issue an immediate press release correcting the ad and to remove the cover page of the CBA supplement from the ad and redistribute it. He asked for these actions to be complete by the end of business day Wednesday, February 11.
Knabe responded that E & B would not be taking either action.
Councilwoman Nanette Barragan was surprised to see the ad and let residents know while she was canvassing over the weekend that the information was inaccurate.
“I think it’s a desperate attempt on their part to purposefully mislead the public,” said Barragan. “This is not the kind of business we want here and I am glad the city manager did what he did.”
Matt Knabe sent the following response to Bakaly:
“Thank you for your concern about our recent mailer. We respectfully disagree with your opinion. We are entitled to run our campaign to advocate for our position. We do not believe that ‘more probable’ is misleading. We took that from the city’s own report. We can use the information to our best advantage. That’s what our opponents are doing against us.
As for the city logo, we re-printed the official city report and while we don’t plan on retracting the piece in any way, we will pledge not to use the logo moving forward.”
Knabe also used the opportunity to question Measure O opponents’ advertising conduct.
“We request the same of our opposition who used the city logo in their most recent video,” he said. “I would like to know if they pulled permits. I must also point out that [Keep Hermosa Hermosa] recent mailers are full of misleading statements under your rules. Have you made the same request of them?”
EKA had harsh words for the city manager.
“Once again, Tom Bakaly is working contrary to the spirit of the Settlement Agreement and has shown that instead of being an impartial City Manager, he is using City time and resources to campaign against Measure O,” the company said, via Amy Roth and Eric Rose. “His leak of this email, which has a Wednesday response date, and his failing to provide our response, shows his bias.”
Bakaly mentioned the matter briefly at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
“Since they refused to do what we asked, I’ll be speaking to the city attorney about where we go next with this,” he said.
Councilperson Hany Fangary asked City Attorney Mike Jenkins what that next step could be.
“We have established a protocol for when campaign communications are brought to the city manager’s attention as possibly factually inaccurate that the city manager contacts the author of the materials first,” Jenkins said. “Then if they are not corrected that he would have a fact checking place on the city’s website to place that information. The city manager has followed that and this is the only action we will be taking. It is my opinion that it would not be appropriate for the city council to take any further action on this before the election.”