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Letter flap blows up

Ferry’s attack galvanizes water-agency candidate; prosecutors investigate unrelated allegations

Posted: October 1, 2010 9:46 p.m.
Updated: October 2, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

A Santa Clarita city councilman’s letter opposing a water-board candidate has left both the councilman and the candidate under scrutiny, but the candidate said Friday it’s given his campaign a boost.

Mayor Laurene Weste said Friday that the letter — written on city letterhead — from Councilman Frank Ferry to the employer of water district candidate Kevin Korenthal will be reviewed by the city. She offered no elaboration.

Meanwhile, Korenthal, who is running for the Castaic Lake Water Agency board in November’s election, said he had to do a lot of explaining after the letter was delivered to the main office of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. and to several ABC chapters in California.

“I spent today doing some damage control with my employer,” Korenthal said Friday.

Korenthal said he is an advocate and executive director of ABC’s California Cooperation Committee.

“If there’s a perception that (Korenthal is) speaking on behalf of our organization, then that’s an unfortunate perception,” said Bart Hacker, president of ABC’s Los Angeles-Ventura Chapter.

Hacker, whose chapter includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said he just wants to make Korenthal’s relationship with ABC clear — he’s a candidate, not a spokesman.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance that has happened,” he said. “Obviously, there is an impression that he (Korenthal) is speaking on behalf of ABC. He does not speak for this organization.

“We did endorse him as a candidate, but he does not speak for ABC. This is an important distinction.”

Letter called ‘unethical’
Ferry’s letter, dated Monday, says campaign rhetoric on a Korenthal blog represents an attack on the current Castaic Lake Water Agency board, along with the City Council, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and other local elected officials.

“I have no idea what the various elected officials and governmental agencies of the Santa Clarita Valley have done to offend your association,” Ferry’s letter opens, and then proceeds to recommend the association endorse the water-board incumbents rather than Korenthal.

Clearly linking the campaign blog with the association, Ferry wrote, “I certainly do not agree with your apparent position that the hard-working members of the CLWA board, City Council and county Supervisor Antonovich have somehow failed to serve the residents of this valley, and I find your arguments offensive.”

Korenthal called Ferry’s letter “unethical” and accused the councilman of overstepping his authority when he voiced his personal views on city letterhead.

D.A. investigations
Dave Demerjian, who heads the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division, said he has received no complaints about the letter.

Demerjian said it is against the law for a public official to use public resources for campaign purposes.

Asked if Ferry’s use of city stationary to complain about a candidate constitutes a public official’s use of public resources for campaign purposes, Demerjian would say only that he has not received any recent complaints about the incident.

Asked to elaborate, the deputy district attorney said he’s received a total of four complaints about Ferry — two of which were dismissed the day they were received.

A still-open complaint filed against Ferry on March 22 deals with an allegation of misappropriation of funds.

The other outstanding complaint, filed April 19, involves a claim of “residency violation,” which means a claim that an elected official does not live where he or she claims to live.

Boost for campaign
Ferry’s letter has served to drive more people into Korenthal’s camp, the candidate said.

“Before the news about the letter, people were on the fence. And then when they saw me attacked, they thought: ‘He’s more in the right than the other guy,’” Korenthal said Friday.

“I’ve had numerous calls from people who would like to (be) involved in my campaign.”

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