As the June 3 election draws near for the two candidates vying for the top city job of Long Beach, both campaigns have taken the time to fire back against their critics. Mayoral candidates Robert Garcia and Damon Dunn have each taken hits in the past couple of weeks.
Garcia’s campaign has had to face scrutiny brought to light by Dunn, who noted particular issues with the two corporations behind the Long Beach Post, a local news organization that Garcia helped to establish. Dunn’s campaign said that these corporations that listed Garcia as an officer had six tax liens totaling $9,487.
Dunn has had to defend his own record as well. Media reports have noted that he was in default on a home loan during a divorce, and in addition Dunn faced a steep fine by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) when he ran for the office of California’s secretary of state.
Garcia’s campaign doesn’t deny that the Long Beach Post did have the tax liens, and Dunn acknowledges that the home loan was in default and that there were problems with his campaign-finance reports.
In 2009, Dunn was $82,834.55 in arrears on a $1.32-million mortgage for a home in Trabuco Canyon, according to several media reports. Dunn acknowledged that FPPC penalized him when his campaign did not properly report the subvendors in his finance reports. According to several media reports, Dunn was levied a $2,250 fine.
The tax liens against the Long Beach Post have been resolved, according to a former investor with that news organization, and Dunn’s fines and mortgage obligations have also been handled, according to Dunn.
Garcia declined to make an official statement for this story, however, he did send one written by campaign spokesman, Eric Hacopian.
“When people of modest income fall behind in their mortgage payments, we can all sympathize with them,” Hacopian said. But Mr. Dunn is a multi-millionaire Orange County developer who just spent over half a million dollars trying to buy this election, yet he can’t pay his own mortgage payments.”
Although Garcia has acknowledged he was an initial investor and former writer for the Long Beach Post, both the Post and Garcia have said publicly that Garcia is not involved in the operations. The tax-lien situation with the Long Beach Post is described in a statement written by Jay Davis, a former investor and shareholder of Long Beach Post. He spoke out against Dunn’s advertising campaign that focuses on the tax liens and wrote a letter to the Press-Telegram, explaining what happened in the days after former Long Beach Post publisher Shaun Lumachi’s death.
“I’ve been disappointed by the attacks in recent days against the Long Beach Post,” Davis wrote. “When Shaun Lumachi asked me to join the organization as an investor [in] its early years, I was honored to invest and support Shaun and such a great start-up company. I want to be clear, Robert and I were early investors and Shaun served as publisher and manager until his unfortunate death. From there, his wife Dezire became the publisher and worked hard to keep the company afloat. After Shaun’s death, it was I that discovered some minor tax obligations had not been paid. I worked with Dezire to resolve them and we did. In fact, the company paid all its obligations and they moved on. I am unaware of any current liens. I was there, and to say any anything different is simply inaccurate and wrong.”
In a follow-up telephone interview, Davis told the Signal Tribune about his original statement.
“[This is an] attack on my dearly missed friend, Shaun Lumachi, who can’t defend himself,” Davis said. “Therefore, I felt it was it was important to make a statement of clarity on this matter.”
Dunn, however, took a different approach when it came to addressing the media reports that drew attention to the problems with his campaign-finance reports.
“Since I sit at the top of the campaign, I own it,” Dunn told the Signal Tribune in a telephone interview this week. “I have no problem with taking full responsibility for it and saying it was an error that was made in our campaign by our treasurer. It was paid, and I support the FPPC and the fine that they decided to levy against the campaign… and we corrected the mistake, and we move on.”
He criticized Garcia for failing to take responsibility for the problems with the tax liens against the Long Beach Post since Garcia was an officer with the corporation behind that news organization during the years affected by the liens.
He acknowledged his own problems with the default of the home loan. Dunn said that it happened during his divorce, but he said that during that time, he ran his business perfectly, paying every loan on time and finishing every project within budget and on time.
“My personal situation didn’t impact how I ran my business…zero equivalence to how I managed my business,” he said. He explained that the situation was complicated. He had moved out of the property, and the home was sold for less than what was originally paid.
“But I take responsibility for it,” Dunn said. “I own it. And it happened. And you know, we move forward.” ß