City councilmember Myrtle Cole is looking for cash to fight a defamation lawsuit filed by her former opponent, Dwayne Crenshaw. The lawsuit accuses Cole of dirty politics when her campaign sent out mailers placing Crenshaw at a known drug house more than 20 years ago, despite the claims having been debunked years prior.
According to the June 19 disclosure, the "Myrtle Cole Legal Defense Fund" committee was established for the "defense of civil case for alleged defamation."
The flyers, first covered by online news organization Voice of San Diego on May 16, 2013, date back to 2002, when Crenshaw was running for council against Charles Lewis. At the time, current councilmember Cole served as the campaign manager for Lewis.
Under Cole’s employment during the 2002 Lewis-Crenshaw race was longtime political consultant Larry Remer. In an effort to discredit Crenshaw, Remer created a flyer noting two 1992 articles that appeared in the Daily Aztec reporting on an incident near San Diego State University, where then-student Crenshaw had been approached by a police officer while waiting for a friend at a known drug hangout. The articles included quotes from an officer that appeared to poke holes in Crenshaw's story. Remer, Cole, and gang pounced on the discrepancy and made a flyer to capitalize on the incident.
"It was 3:00 a.m. Dwayne Crenshaw was outside the drug house...waiting in the van. When his friend didn't come out..." read the flyer.
Not long after, the flyer was the subject of a -U-T San Diego article that debunked the claims.
Fast-forward ten years: Cole was vying for Tony Young's council seat after he announced he was retiring from the council. Cole again called on Remer. Remer again dredged up the old flyer. The decision to distribute the flyer didn't go over well with some, including those at San Diego CityBeat, who attacked Cole for the mud-slinging.
Cole eventually won the race by less than 2000 votes. After the loss, Crenshaw filed a complaint against Cole. The lawsuit is currently making its way through the courts. As it does, Cole's campaign consultant Remer defended the camp's decision to run the article.
"I relied completely on the Daily Aztec articles in preparing the 2002 flyer," testified Remer in an April 18 court declaration. "I believed then, and I still believe today, that the flyer accurately represented the story that was published in the Daily Aztec. Moreover, I believed then, and I still believe today, that all of the facts stated in the flyer are completely true.
"I prepared the mailer at issue for the Cole campaign by making minor modifications to the flyer that I had prepared about Dwayne Crenshaw for the 2002 Lewis campaign. The primary purpose of this campaign mailer was to highlight Crenshaw's history of not telling the truth, and I believed that the 1992 incident — which had been reported in the Daily Aztec newspaper under the headline ‘Crenshaw's story of van use questioned by SDPD officer’ — was highly relevant to Crenshaw's penchant for not always being truthful."
In the declaration, Remer says Cole gave him permission to use the attack ad.
"After preparing the mailer, I showed it to Ms. Cole and received her approval to distribute it for the campaign. Ms. Cole had been Charles Lewis's campaign manager (and technically my boss) during his 2002 campaign in which I served as the political consultant, and she was therefore familiar with the flyer that had been distributed during that campaign containing similar content regarding the 1992 episode involving Mr. Crenshaw. Ms. Cole did not express any concerns to me regarding the truthfulness of the statements in this latest mailer, nor did she make any mention of the police officer (Cahill) having complained about the quotation attributed to him in the 2002 flyer or give me any other indication that any of the statements in the 2002 flyer were incorrect.”
Concludes Remer, "I have been a political consultant for 25 years, and before that I was a journalist. I have not and would never knowingly prepare and distribute campaign mailers or any other materials that contain false factual assertions. Not only do I believe this to be unethical and unprofessional, but doing so can often backfire, providing fodder for an opponent and resulting in negative publicity and an adverse reaction against my own candidate or cause. I believe that the mailer I prepared for the Cole campaign last year adhered fully to this standard. It was a hard-hitting, but completely truthful, piece that provided relevant information and that raised legitimate questions regarding the qualifications of Dwayne Crenshaw to be a member of the San Diego City Council."