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Who Is Paying For Cynthia Ward’s Lawsuit Against Steve Chavez Lodge?

Posted by OC Insider on September 1, 2012

Blogger and Anaheim activist Cynthia Ward has filed a lawsuit to prevent Anaheim Council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge from using his name, Steve Chavez Lodge, on the ballot. Specifically, the “Chavez” part.

The specifics of the lawsuit have been covered by the local media. The assumption is including “Chavez” in his ballot name will help Chavez Lodge in a city where 50% of the population is Latino. Ward is a ferocious critic of his candidacy, presumably she’s trying to deny him any possible advantage.

Here’s a key fact: Ward’s lawyer is Fred Woocher, a liberal and one of the state’s top election lawyers who charges in the $500-an-hour range (more on Woocher later) representing liberal and Democratic causes in the state and around the country. The Lodge campaign is raising a hue and cry, demanding that Ward disclose who is paying Woocher’s fees, the implication being Ward is just a front person for whichever campaign or organization with a strong interest in keeping Lodge off the council – say, the Orange County Employees Association or the campaign of rival council candidate John Leos (the OCEA-endorsed candidate) –.is quietly paying Woocher to represent her.

Ward has been peppered with that question on blogs, in the media and by Lodge campaign e-mails, and she has answered them with evasive replies.

Yesterday, commenting on a Voice of OC story, she gave the appearance of answering it:

“I have not accepted a penny from anyone. Period. I do not know how to be more plain than that.”

But Ward answered a question no one is asking. Woocher is the one accepting the pennies (50,000 per hour, to be exact), not Ward.

The real questions Ward needs to answer are these:

  • Is she paying for Woocher’s legal services on this lawsuit? Yes or no?
  • If not, who is?

Ward was appointed by Supervisor Shawn Nelson as a director of the Orange County Cemetery District, which means she has to file a Form 700 disclosing her economic interests.  An examination of Ward’s Form 700 should dispel any notion she is paying for ultra-expensive Fred Woocher’s representation out of her own pocket.  She simply can’t afford him. The only believable explanation is someone else is paying Woocher, in which case Ward she really does owe the public full disclosure.

As a cemetery district director, Ward is a “designated employee” covered by the county’s gift ban ordinance (Section 1-3-22):

No designated employee shall solicit or accept any gift from any person whom he knows, or has reason to know, is doing business with the County, when such employee, by virtue of his County employment, could make a governmental decision, participate in a governmental decision, or use his or her official position to influence a governmental decision regarding the pending business of the donor, or has done any of the above during the twelve (12) months preceding the donation.

If Ward is paying for the lawsuit with someone else money – and it doesn’t matter if that third party is paying Woocher directly rather than through Ward — it is a “gift” and it falls under the county gift ban ordinance (legal bills aren’t included in the exempted categories), accepting it breaks the law.

If it is not a gift, then it is a political expenditure and needs to be reported as such, or else Ward is acting on behalf of another person or organization that is being deliberately hidden from the public.

And given Ward’s secretiveness on this topic, does anyone doubt she is hiding the identity of her benefactor? She certainly behaves like someone with something to hide.

Of course, Ward can end this controversy right now by disclosing who is paying for Woocher’s $500-an-hour services.

Recent history offers us a clue. Turn back the pages to spring 2007. Trung Nguyen held a 7-vote lead over Janet Nguyen in the 1st Supervisor District special election. Simultaneous recounts were requested by two different parties: Janet Nguyen and a retired union member no one had ever heard of named Gerald Feathers (the net effect was to split the cost of the recount). Like Ward today, Feathers was represented by Fred Woocher and his legal team. As with Ward, it was obvious Feathers could not personally afford the tens of thousands of dollars Woocher and his attorneys were charging. Like Ward today, Feathers refused to say if he was paying for Woocher’s services out of his own pocket, or identify who was footing the bill.

It has since become common knowledge among insiders that it was the OCEA paying for Woocher throughout the long and expensive recount.

The big difference is unlike Ward, Feathers was not a “designated employee” of the county, covered by county gift ban ordinance, so acting of OCEA’s cut-out didn’t violate the law. OCEA fits four of the ordinance’s five definitions of “doing business with the county”:

(1) Seeking the award of a contract or grant from the County; or

(2) Having sought the award of a contract or grant from the County in the past twelve (12) months; or

(3) Being engaged as a lobbyist or lobbyist firm, as defined in this article, from the time of such engagement until twelve (12) months after the award of the contract grant, license, permit, or other entitlement for use, which was the subject of the engagement; or

(4) Having an existing contractual relationship with the County, until twelve (12) months after the contractual obligations of all parties have been completed; or

Anaheim Municipal Employees Association, which is affiliated with and represented by the OCEA, would also fall under these definitions.

Another suspect, the OCEA’s candidate for Anaheim City Council, John Leos, would also fall under these definitions. Leos is county employee and until a few months ago, a member of the OCEA Board of Directors.

Truth the told, it’s hard to think of any likely funder of Woocher’s litigation for Ward who is NOT defined as doing business with the county.

By agreeing to be the plaintiff on this lawsuit against Steve Chavez Lodge, Ms. Ward has allowed herself to wander into a legal-political cul-de-sac from which she might find know exit. She doesn’t seem to have thought through what the potential the implications and consequences for her could be.

The puzzling thing is Ward’s continuing refusal to be transparent about who is paying for Woocher’s representation of her. Anyone who has read her blog posts and comments over the last couple of years knows that hiding-the-ball, obfuscation and evasion are out of character for her, and only make it seem more certain she is covering others.

22 Responses to “Who Is Paying For Cynthia Ward’s Lawsuit Against Steve Chavez Lodge?”

  1. Alex said

    There is one flaw in your assumptions…John Leos either having the monies to afford such a political maneuver; and second, that Leos is somehow tied to OCEA. One of Leos’ challenges around the time of the Primary was the LACK of support from anyone at OCEA. Everyone needs to stop assuming Nick Berardino has “Political Powers” rivaling those of The Great OZ…even on his best days he just aint that good people… Cynthis on the other hand has been around long enough to have resources and friends who may be helping her out…

    • OC Insider said

      And Leos is tied to OCEA. The union spent tens of thousands on mailers last fall building up his name ID. Berardino is practical. Who else out of the candidate field is he goin to back, other than his long time union board member?

      If Cynthia has resources like you say, she didn’t list them on her Form 700. But again – why is she so evasive on this subject? Why not just be upfront?

  2. Anaheim HOME said

    Ever heard of Pro Bono Publico?

    • OC Insider said

      Yes. But Fred Woocher doesn’t work for free, Certainly. not on a case that isn’t major one.

      And if that is the case, then why doesn’t Cynthia simply say so? Why the secrecy?

  3. willie deville said

    isn’t steve baric involved in this adventure. who is paying his fees

    • OC Insider said

      The Lodge campaign. That’s one reason for this lawsuit: force Lodge to spend campaign funds fighting a lawsuit, instead of on voter contact.

  4. OC Insider said

    Then what is stopping Cynthia from disclosing how and who is paying for Woocher? She talks and talks and talks and never answers the question.

  5. Homegrown857 said

    This is really baffling, isn’t it? I see no discussion here about the merit of the suit. To read this, the only important issue facing us, apparently, is who is paying for Mrs. Ward’s lawyer.

    I think many lawyers take cases on contingency. Maybe this suit contains a clause that, should he lose, Mr. Lodge himself will be responsible for the lawyer’s fees. Perhaps Mrs. Ward is not at liberty to talk about the financial aspects of this litigation and so has not done so, which would be in keeping with the reputation she’s earned over the years. Someone with access to the court papers should read through them to see if there is a clause about lawyer fees.

    I doubt that lawyers who are supposedly of the caliber of the ones Mrs. Ward has on her side would look to recouping their expenses from Mr. Lodge unless they felt there was a strong, legitimate case that Mr. Lodge indeed violated legal requirements in the way he stated his name and occupation on official election documents.

    As I think Mrs. Ward has said in other places, a lawsuit like this against the Registrar of Voters and Anaheim’s City Clerk is the only way to seek a redress if a concerned citizen believes election laws aren’t being followed correctly. So that is the road she has taken.

    Now let’s give Mr. Lodge his chance to tell his side and prevail if he is in the right or face the consequences if he is in the wrong. In either case, justice will have been served and the integrity of our election process will continue to be maintained, regardless of how lawyers are paid.

    • Maybe this suit contains a clause that, should he lose, Mr. Lodge himself will be responsible for the lawyer’s fees.

      Bingo, my good man.

      My own article will be out shortly.

      • Wrong Again, Vern said

        No, Vern, it’s not bingo. Such a clause does not make the gift ban go away. The possibility that Lodge might have to pick up the legal fees doesn’t mean she is not, in the here and now, a county official who is receiving free legal services.

  6. Rod Sterling said

    Can someone ask Steve if he would place his hand on the Bible and swear upon it that he is using the Chavez for a non political purposes? I think we all know that answer but are foolish enough to believe he is using it because he wants to identify with his roots now.

  7. Kevin said

    Going after Steve Lodge may indeed be an expensive hobby, but not one that’s out of reach to someone with Ward’s resources. How many hours does Woocher necessarily need to pursue this case? Unlike the Nguyen recount, this seems like a pretty simple matter. Ward is a researcher by profession; she could be the one doing all the legwork on documenting how Lodge has presented himself over time. Woocher assembles a case based on the collected evidence, they have a hearing or two, and bam, it’s done.

    If anyone needs to explain himself, it’s Steve Lodge. How does someone who’s “just a cop” (mirroring his accusations of Cynthia Ward being “just a housewife”) go from living in Murrieta to living in Anaheim, becoming friends with the entirety of Anaheim’s power structure, and mounting a very-well-funded run for Council in just a few short years? (And since Steve Lodge’s latest Form 460 shows that he’s loaned himself $41,000 to run for Council, he’s someone who’s had some first-hand experience with expensive hobbies.)

    • Wrong Again, Vern said

      “Going after Steve Lodge may indeed be an expensive hobby, but not one that’s out of reach to someone with Ward’s resources.”

      Is dat so? What are these resources that Ward left off of her Form 700?

      • Oh, I can answer that! Her mother-in-law died last year and left her and her husband a lot of money.

        Not that any of this has anything to do with what Steve’s gonna have to face on Tuesday.

        • thinkoc said

          While I appreciate Vern trying to defend me, I am not prepared to discuss the death of a very beloved family member on an open blog comment, like some teenager recounting last weekend’s kegger party on MySpace. All I can tell you is that I would give back every penny to have just one more day with her. Every time (hostile) strangers demand to know where my resources come from I am reminded of the reason for my changed circumstances, and it tears the bandage off the still open wound. I sure as Hell do not want to discuss the double whammy of the most painful event of my life, with a public review of my personal finances. Would you? Perhaps “OC Insider” would like to post their American Express number here.

          I will dutifully report any increase in income on my next set of disclosure forms, and you will have to wait for those, because I am not sharing info here. I do not know how to be any clearer than I have been, without sharing personal information that is none of anyone’s business. I have no conflict; I have done nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical.

          But then, I do not think the Lodge camp is particularly interested in the truth. I fact, I suspect they KNOW that this is an effective tool to use against me. There are those around Lodge who have their own knowledge of my family’s situation, and they know that I only worked part-time last year because I was dealing with these family issues with the estate. They also know I find it too painful to discuss, (especially online with strangers) and I cannot imagine a scenario in which they did not tell Lodge he is taking on a pitbull (or porcupine) with the resources to back it up. So one has to wonder, did Lodge and his team throw around accusations knowing survivor’s guilt ensures I will not defend myself? What an example of the milk of human kindness the Lodge team seems to present. This is the leadership Anaheim needs?

          Rather, I suspect the goal of these constant hit-pieces questioning my integrity is not about getting to the truth, I think it is about discrediting me as quickly as possible, lest anyone actually listen to what I have to share after the lawsuit is decided. I DID do quite a lot of my own research, which my legal team was able to use, in combination with some excellent information that their office came up with. The result is a clearer picture of the candidate, and how he appears to have conducted himself over the years, discovered in an attempt to document what he called himself prior to becoming a candidate. Someone is working very hard to ensure my credibility is tainted, possibly before I share what I have learned.

          While Mr. Woocher’s name may be on the door, these smaller cases are passed along to others on staff, I have yet to encounter Mr. Woocher and his $500 an hour Invoice that everyone is so excited about. I think that may be where Vern misunderstood what I said about the nature of my payment arrangements with the lawyers. On the other hand, I do know that at least MY attorney can spell, check a document for typos before sending, complete a sentence, and cite relevant and current case law, so I believe I am getting the better bargain. I guess you do get what you pay for.

          My resources are not the issue here, the lawsuit is, and Vern at OrangeJuice did what others failed at. He asked for, and posted, the (public records) documents that show both Lodge’s arguments and mine. I would encourage anyone genuinely interested in the facts of the case to check the OJ blog and read the primary source information. Decide for yourselves if Steve Lodge appears to have met the legal standard for describing himself to voters as he has requested . If it turns out that Lodge does not meet that standard, then why am I portrayed as evil for demanding that the law be applied equally to all candidates? That is not petty or frivolous, it is fair and just.

          Ultimately what you and I think does not matter, it is up to the Judge, but I feel very strongly that I have done the right thing, and for the right reasons, and win or lose I will never regret having taken the chance.

          As far as reporting of gifts…if Judge Charles Margines rules in my favor Tuesday, and I believe he will or I would not have bet my family’s stability on it, and if Lodge is ordered to cover attorney’s fees and expenses, then have I accepted a reportable gift from Lodge? And if so, must I report the original source of those funds, namely the deluge of outside special interest money that comprises his warchest? I did ask about that, and as it turns out, no, paying the legal bills is not a gift. I do not personally or financially benefit from this case in any way. I have asked for no damages, when I leave the courtroom my circumstances are exactly as they were before I began the case, I am essentially acting in the public interest as a voter. None of the parties are related to the Cemetery District in any way, so there is no opportunity for influence peddling, which is what the FPPC is looking for. There is no reportable gift.
          What is especially troubling is that “OC Insider” writes under a pen name, and then demands transparency from me. “OC Insider” could easily be Lodge’s campaign manager, attorney, Lodge himself, or Lodge’s sister. They certainly appear to have an axe to grind, or an agenda to promote.

          OCPolitical enjoys a reputation for accuracy and credibility, and I like and respect those individuals who are maintaining the site. But if anonymous bloggers are permitted to create posts more appropriate to a gossip column than a political site, that reputation is unlikely to last.

          Great investigative journalism there, “OC Insider.”

          • thinkoc said

            http://saveanaheim.com/

            Ooops. looks like I got scooped on my own story.

            CW

          • OC Insider said

            Ms. Ward, condolences on the loss of your mother-in-law.

            At the same time, you have written a log response to questions this blog isn’t asking and accusations not being made. No one is claiming you are personally benefitting from this suit or that anyone is paying you, so there is no need to keep denying that you are.

            Please, at long last, provide a simple yes or no answer to these questions: are you paying for Woocher’s legal services with your own funds? Are you the only person/entity paying for Woocher’s services?

            A simple “yes” or “no” will suffice. Why you refuse to give a clear simple answer to these very relevant questions is amazing.

          • CW, get out and enjoy your Labor Day. And break a leg tomorrow!

    • Wrong Again, Vern said

      “Ward is a researcher by profession; she could be the one doing all the legwork on documenting how Lodge has presented himself over time.”

      Wrong.

      Cynthia Ward is not doing the legwork on her own. How do I know? Because Cynthia said so herself in one of her comments on Voice of OC on Thursday:

      “Because Lodge appears to have failed to send my attorney a single independent document showing he had not abandoned the Chavez name decades ago, my attorney went digging. And digging.”

      Here’s how it works: Woocher has teams of lawyers who do the research. He charges hundreds of dollars for their time. Plus expenses. Lawyers bill back everything. It’s a safe bet Woocher’s bill will be in at least the $15,000-$20,000 range. That’s more than 10% of Ward’s maximum stated annual income.

  8. [...] of the above publicly.  Close readers, including some anonymous blog denizens, Lodge himself, and this bold anonymous OC Political blogger, perceive a possible scenario peeking through the way Cynthia parses things:  Perhaps OCEA (or [...]

  9. In case any of you fellas wanna look at the actual documents, I got ‘em uploaded but you gotta read my story to find ‘em!

    http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2012/09/it-just-gets-better-steve-chavez-lodge-vs-cynthia-ward-showdown/

  10. junior said

    “I have no conflict; I have done nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical.”

    I accept your statement as true. That still does not answer the questions posed.

    Let’s start with an easy one. Have you discussed the payment of legal bills involved in this case with your attorney?

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