Cole cash

Councilwoman’s legal debt could be bailed by city-hall lobbyists

It has cost San Diego city councilwoman Myrtle Cole at least $24,878 in legal fees to ward off a defamation lawsuit by disgruntled former challenger Dwayne Crenshaw, and the District 4 Democrat has turned to some well-heeled city hall lobbyists to help pay the piper.

Crenshaw's charge that he had been defamed by a Cole hit piece involving cops and crack houses was thrown out of court on July 24 by judge Richard Strauss, who ruled that discussing Crenshaw's allegedly checkered history was fair game.

“Minor inaccuracies do not amount to falsity so long as ‘the substance, the gist, the sting of the libelous charge can be justified,'" concluded Strauss, according to an account in U-T San Diego.

“While the mailer may not precisely describe the events of that night, the statements therein are not provably false.”

During last year's special election to replace resigned councilman Tony Young, now a city-hall lobbyist himself, Crenshaw had the backing of the GOP Lincoln Club and other business lobbying interests in his bid against Cole, supported by organized labor.

Among the Crenshaw donors during the 2013 campaign were Al Ziegaus and his son-in-law Chris Wahl, proprietors of the Southwest Strategies lobbying boutique, who each gave $1000; Southwest contributed $2000 to the Lincoln Club on February 28 of that year.

Ziegaus, along with wife Connie and daughter Jennifer, also kicked in for Cole, with a total of $1750, the filings say.

Now the Ziegaus family is back with its checkbook.

According to a July 31 disclosure made by the Myrtle Cole Legal Defense Fund, Ziegaus and Wahl, identified as CEO of Southwest Strategies, each gave $500 on June 27 to help defray the councilwoman's legal fees.

Other donors included La Jolla attorney Candace Carroll, with $500, and physician Alen Cohen of Encino, along with Nas Cohen, identified as a marketer with Alen Cohen, MD, Inc., with $550 each.

The committee concluded the period with $2530 of cash on hand and a $24,878.26 debt to San Diego's Lawton Law Firm, according to the filing.

Wahl, known for his private access to city officials, led this year's victorious take-no-prisoners ballot battle against the Barrio Logan Community Plan, funded by military contractors including General Dynamics and BAE.

"On behalf of my client, General Dynamics NASSCO, I would like to request a meeting next week, if possible with City Attorney Goldsmith," reads an October 2013 email Wahl sent to city hall.

"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss Barrio Logan issues, including next steps related to the referendum of the Community Plan."

In an October 28 email to Wahl after the closed-door appointment was confirmed, Goldsmith assistant Carmen Sandoval said, "Great, we will see you all then."

Records show Wahl and other Southwest Strategies employees gave a total of $1555 to Goldsmith's 2008 campaign.

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She should pay her own legal since she chose to run a dirty (smear) campaign.

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