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Recall group threatened with lawsuit

Greg Risling

The Mark Nielsen faithful is fighting back.

Accusing Citizens for Ethical Government of making false and misleading statements about them, a band of El Dorado County investors has threatened to sue the group spearheading the recall effort against Nielsen, the county’s District 3 supervisor.

The investors are eight developers represented by Sacramento attorney Andrew George.

George’s clients contend that the mailers are defamatory, because they allegedly link the developers’ support for Nielsen to a lease on a county-owned building.

“This defamatory allegation is extremely serious and damaging to my clients’ reputations,” George said. “Such false allegations of political corruption are particularly harmful to my clients. Moreover, the manner in which you put the document together was fraudulent and malicious and justifies an award of punitive damages.”

In one particular flier titled “The Corruption Continues,” the lease signed by the eight investors along with their campaign contributions to Nielsen are listed. The recall group estimates that nearly $3,000 was donated by seven of the developers.

The county signed a seven-year lease with the investors for the former Blue Shield building on Briw Road in Placerville. On different occasions, one in August 1995 and again in November 1996, the Board of Supervisors approved a rental agreement for two office spaces in the building. The monthly rent for the total of more than 39,000 square feet is approximately $33,000.

CEG spokesman Bob Salazar said the intent of the flier wasn’t directed at the investors. Rather, it was designed to point out the fact that Nielsen voted on these agenda items, knowing that these people contributed to his re-election campaign.

“Mr. Nielsen should have bowed out when they had to vote on the building lease,” Salazar said. “Nielsen voted to approve the lease and we question whether he should have participated or not. We feel that was unethical behavior as our county supervisor.”

Nielsen has been through the wringer over the last two years, with a grand jury accusation hovering over his head and now the recent recall movement. Most of the recall charges were based on the 1994-95 grand jury allegations that were dismissed by a judge last Friday.

But CEG still has some ammunition left, citing the botched Nielsen-led attempt to prohibit District 1 Supervisor Sam Bradley from boards and commissions, and Nielsen’s record on development issues.

More than 1,500 District 3 voters have signed the recall petition since its August release. The grass-roots group has until Nov. 10 to collect approximately 3,367 signatures – 20 percent of the district’s registered voters – before an election can be placed on the ballot.

According to George, the investors want a retraction from the 300 people who signed on as recall supporters.

Salazar said three people have already complied with what he characterized as a strong-arm tactic, because they don’t want further involvement and fear that they may be named defendants in a lawsuit.

“We have some senior citizens who wanted to be informed about the recall but not be sued,” said Salazar.

Salazar also denied a widespread allegation that some of the recall signatures were falsified or forced.

“We can document every name,” he said. “This is a means of intimidation and a violation of free speech rights.”


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