Lawsuit rocks Villa Park election
By Andie King
A lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court by Villa Park City Councilwoman Diana Fascenelli against Steve Franks, acting City Clerk for the City of Villa Park, and Neal Kelley, Orange County Registrar of Voters, alleging that the Declaration of Candidacy papers filed by Councilman Robert Collacott were fraudulent.
There are three seats up for the city council election (Collacott, Fascenelli and Bill Nelson, who is not running), and four candidates: Collacott, Fascenelli, Crystal Miles and Chad Zimmerman. Collacott, the current city mayor, filed for re-election to the city council, as did Fascenelli.
Drop dead deadline
Incumbents were required to file, and were so advised in writing, by “Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, at 5 p.m. sharp pursuant to California Elections Code Section 10225.” (Because incumbent Bill Nelson did not file for re-election, new candidates, not incumbents, were eligible to file until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13.)
The suit asserts that a third party, Mary Beth Felcyn, without the correct notarized authorization required under California Elections Code 8040(2), attempted to file for incumbent Collacott on Friday, Aug. 10. In another violation of the elections code, the dates on the Signature Collections Declaration, showing when the names and signatures were collected, was blank.
The third point of contention alleges that Collacott appeared at the city offices on Monday, Aug. 13, and filed papers, fraudulently backdating his signature to Aug. 10.
The suit names Franks and the O.C. Registrar of Voters as respondents, and requests that Robert Collacott be removed from the ballot.
Franks is named because he is acting city clerk; the registrar must be named in any action relating to election materials. According to Registrar Kelley, “Its only interest in the lawsuit is to advise the court of the various deadlines that the registrar must comply with in order to ensure the statewide general election may occur without interference.”
All parties convened in the North Fullerton courtroom of Judge Craig L. Griffin, Monday, Aug. 27, with Attorney Fred Fascenelli representing Diana Fascenelli, City Attorney Todd Litfin representing Villa Park, and Attorney Rebecca Leeds for Orange County Registrar of Voters. Respondents Franks and Collacott, plus Felcyn and Bill Nelson were in the audience.
Ballots for the election will be finalized on Sept. 11. Due to the time constraints, a live hearing was slated for Tuesday, Sept. 4.
“Villa Park’s reputation and our treasury have taken yet another hit from Councilwoman Fascenelli,” Bob Collacott said. “She and her husband filed a complaint challenging the legitimacy of my candidacy for re-election to city council, expecting that the court would dismiss it. My papers for re-election were filed legally, and in close consultation with the city clerk and were certified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
“The purpose of the complaint,” he asserted, “was to use the courts and the media to disenfranchise our voters, cloud the legitimacy of my candidacy and to slander my reputation for political purposes. This all at considerable expense to the city for legal fees (which are not covered by the city’s retainer) and staff time.”
Court will decide
“It’s all about the law,” Fascenelli says, “Without truth and transparency in the election process, the role of government would be meaningless. The oath that we sign is the proof to the public that they can trust us when and if we are elected to office.”
This is but one of approximately a dozen suits to be filed under election law violations. In a prior action, Andrew Pollard, a candidate for an IRWD seat, alleged that incumbent Richard Vanzini improperly designated himself as an architect, when he was not licensed as such.