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Clean Water Coalition could face investigation into legality of organization

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Posted: Monday, October 30, 2006 10:00 pm

A recently formed coalition to defeat a Lodi ballot measure may have filled out organization papers illegally, according to local residents who support the measure.

The Clean Water Coalition of Lodi, formed by mortgage broker Chad Yourdon, filed a financial disclosure statement with the Lodi city clerk on Oct. 26. Yourdon's signature on the statement does not match Yourdon's signature on the statement to organize the coalition, which was filed with the secretary of state in Sacramento on Oct. 4.

Lodi residents John and Judy Young have filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission, which investigates election fraud, asking them to look into possible violations in forming the coalition. The Youngs have campaigned in support of Measure H, which would rollback the city of Lodi's water rate increase.

Wayne Imberi of the commission's Enforcement Division would not comment on an ongoing investigation but said all complaints are looked into and fines of up to $5,000 can be levied for intentionally filing election forms inaccurately.

The coalition, which seeks to defeat Measure H, has paid almost $3,000 for billboards that say, "No on Measure H. No more lawyers."

The coalition's Web site, http://www.noonmeasureh.org states that its goal is to, "Keep our city services and make our water safe to drink."

Water rates were raised to pay for cleanup of Lodi's groundwater, which is contaminated with the chemicals PCE and TCE.

Yourdon, a 2000 graduate of Lodi High School's Career Center, would not comment on whether or not he signed both campaign forms. Asked if he had signed the papers he said, "I don't see how this is relevant to the Clean Water Coalition."

John Young said he thinks other individuals, who prefer to remain anonymous, are using Yourdon to form the coalition and campaign against Measure H.

"We are concerned that we can't find out who is really behind the coalition," Young said. "We are concerned that they would spend so much money fighting this instead of cleaning up the water."

Lodi City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said the signatures appear to be from two different people, even though they are both signed under Yourdon's name. He said signing a government document using someone else's name amounts to perjury.

According to the financial disclosure statements, the coalition has raised $16,500 from three donors.

Measure H at a glance

Measure H would repeal Lodi's water rate increase, which accounts for around $3 million annually to pay for the cleanup of the city's contaminated groundwater.
Supporters say:
The water rate increase is unfair because all of Lodi's citizens were not given a choice in the matter. They believe the city can find other ways to pay for the cleanup.
Opponents say:
The city's already tight budget would be in shambles if H passes. They say the city is still required to pay for the cleanup and important services such as public safety would have to be cut to make up for the $3 million shortfall.
- News-Sentinel staff.

Lustre Cal donated $10,000 to the coalition. The nameplate printing company has been named in a city of Lodi lawsuit as one of the sources of groundwater contamination. The Lodi News-Sentinel was also named in the lawsuit and settled with the city. Lustre Cal has not settled.

Bruce Burlington, one of the owners of the San Joaquin Sulphur Company, donated $500 to the coalition. The North Sacramento Street company is also named in the city lawsuit and has not settled.

The California Association of Realtors gave the coalition $6,000.

Jane Lea, a Lodi City Council candidate and leading supporter of Measure H, said the opponents of the measure are more concerned with their pocketbooks than with cleaning up the water.

"It appears that (the coalition supporters) are involved in litigation from the city," she said. "Those people want the citizens to pay for their mess."

Contact reporter Matt Brown at mattb@lodinews.com.

First published: Tuesday, October 31, 2006

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