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— But, says former councilmember Bruce Henderson, the settlement agreement simply does not ban the group's members from continuing to work against the project. Also, "The only way you can intimidate and bully a councilmember is through a threatened recall." In the lawsuit, the use of the plural "city councilmembers" is also intriguing. Henderson adds, "The suit is one of the most ridiculous I have ever seen."

Peters's aide Williams claims he doesn't know about the lawsuit. He also says that the recall effort stumbled because the anti-Peters group had difficulty gathering signatures.

There may be something to that, because it takes a slug of money to collect signatures, and the City of San Diego, unlike the state, has made it quite difficult to gather recall signatures. Earlier, the recall group went to federal court, suing the City of San Diego, which, by a novel legal interpretation, decrees that people wanting to recall a city councilmember cannot take large donations to fund the signature-gathering process. Those pursuing a recall are restricted to $250 donation limits, as in a general election. This is not true under state law, as fundraising for the recall against Governor Gray Davis attests.

Last week, a hit piece directed at Haskins and Schmidt was published by the Encinitas-based Surf City Times and distributed in La Jolla. Among many things, it charged that the anti-Peters group used the $51,175 settlement money to gather recall signatures. "We absolutely never touched any of that money to gather any signatures -- it's a lie," says Haskins. He and Schmidt believe the hit piece was financed by the development industry.

"Based on other cases, including from the states of Washington and Colorado," says Haskins, "our strong opinion is that the city cannot insulate councilmembers from being recalled." The city won the suit in federal court, but the recall group is appealing the decision. Reversing that decision is crucial to the future of city-council recalls, says Henderson.

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