David Mendez

Lawsuit accuses Brand and Nehrenheim of coordinating with PAC

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Wayne Craig and Nils Nehrenheim stand before City Clerk staffers as they verify petition signatures last November. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

A lawsuit has been filed against Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, Councilman Nils Nehrenheim and principal members of Rescue Our Waterfront, among others, for alleged violations of the Political Reform Act of 1974.

The lawsuit by plaintiffs Chris Voisey and Arnette Travis, states that Brand and Nehrenheim were “controlling candidates” for both their own campaigns for Redondo Beach mayor and city council, respectively, and for Rescue Our Waterfront PAC. ROW PAC primarily supported Measure C, which sought to rezone the Redondo Beach waterfront, in part, to block CenterCal Properties’ Waterfront redevelopment project.

Brand did not responded to a request for comment by press time. The city is not a defendant because neither Brand nor Nehrenheim are being sued in their capacities as mayor and council member.

Voisey and Travis are vocal supporters of CenterCal and the Waterfront project.

“It’s one thing to play politics, and spread conflicting and lying information,” Voisey said in an interview. “It’s another when you’re doing it illegally and not following state law.”

The lawsuit, which seeks a judicial injunction to compel Brand, Nehrenheim and ROW PAC to comply with the Political Reform Act, is intended to “release the truth,” Voisey said. As stated in the suit, an injunction wouldn’t change the results of the March 7 election. Defendants would only be required to file amended campaign statements “publicly and accurately disclosing the circumstances surrounding the decision-making and financing” supporting Measure C.

The lawsuit also argues that ROW PAC and Brand coordinated fundraisers, shared information, campaign messages and other resources.

California Government Code section 92016 and Regulation 18521.5 state that a ballot measure committee is “candidate controlled” if a candidate has “significant influence” over their actions and decisions. The lawsuit argues that previous Fair Political Practices Commission rulings advise that involvement with fundraising activities constitutes “significant influence.”

“The fact that they colluded and continued to run ROW out of the same campaign in collusion with Brand and Nils is the basis of the lawsuit,” Voisey said.

Voisey referenced testimony Nehrenheim gave before the California Coastal Commission on February 8, where the future councilman said he is a cofounder of Rescue Our Waterfront. By that time, Nehrenheim was campaigning for the District 1 City Council seat.

“This is a personal lawsuit, meant to be personal harm as retribution by CenterCal,” Nehrenheim said in an interview. “The only reason we’re having this conversation is because we’re successful.”

Though Wayne Craig, the current President of Rescue Our Waterfront, did not respond to a call requesting comment, ROW posted a response on Facebook accusing Voisey and Travis of being surrogates for Waterfront developer CenterCal. ROW noted that Sutton Law Firm, which is representing Voisey and Travis in the suit, was paid $45,000 to advise the No on Measure C campaign, which was led by CenterCal.

“What’s clear is that this latest lawsuit appears to be yet another CenterCal attempt to intimidate residents and ram through their plan,” ROW said in its post, which also alleges the suit violates California’s “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” statutes.

“SLAPP is about freedom of speech. This is a case of violating FPPC laws that say you cannot collude between a PAC and a candidate,” Voisey countered.

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