“I am who I am. I am an honest man. I’m not trying to deceive anybody. I’m just here to work tirelessly to get this city moving again,” said restaurateur Jon Madison, a City Council candidate responding to a newspaper article questioning the details of his resume.
Since the story was published Sunday, Sept. 7, in the Orange County Register, Laguna Beach has been abuzz over scrutiny of Madison’s academic and professional credentials: namely that Cornell University and UCLA School of Law could find no evidence of the degrees Madison said he earned from those schools, and that a spokesperson for the State Bar of California found no listing of Madison’s membership. The story also reported inconsistencies in Madison’s name and date of birth on voting records.
The Indy has since queried Cornell, UCLA and the state bar this week, none of which could find Madison in their databases.
And this week, an earlier description of Madison as having earned a law degree from UCLA and worked as a specialist in property management law was removed from the “about” section of his campaign website.
Even so, Madison’s supporters have rallied behind him. “I continue to see Jon as one who has made a tremendous contribution to Laguna Beach, and unless something ugly surfaces, I think he’s a good guy,” said local developer Sam Goldstein, who established a campaign committee to support Madison’s and Michele Hall’s bid for City Council in the Nov. 4 election. Seven candidates are vying for three seats.
“It sounds like someone is trying to put a political hit on him…I’m sorry they’ve taken it to that low level and I’m saddened by all of it,” he added.
Mysteriously, some of Madison’s supporters, including fellow Heritage Committee member Anne Frank, received anonymously sent copies of the Register story in the mail.
“Why would I lie about these degrees?” asked the owner of Madison Square and Garden Café, who is also the current chair of the city’s Heritage Committee.
“Jon Madison is not defined by any of this stuff. Jon Madison is defined by who he is and what he does,” Madison added. And certainly any number of local charities can attest to his benevolence in hosting their events at no charge, as well as footing the food and drink bill, since opening the restaurant in 1998. His generosity prompted the Assistance League of Laguna Beach to name him businessman of the year in 2013.
In an interview this week, Madison said he prefers to focus on the issues such as heritage preservation, filling the roughly 30 open storefronts with businesses that will cater to residents and bringing Laguna into the 21st century while maintaining its quaint character.
He described the Register story as character assassination and said it has prompted an outpouring of support from loyalists, who urged him to stay in the race. In the most recent July 31 reporting period, Madison leads his rivals in donations.
Madison campaign contributor Jane Egly, a former mayor, said Tuesday that she and her husband Paul, are both “totally behind” Madison.
Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson released this statement on the condition it be published in full: “As far as I know, Jon Madison’s claims are true. Regardless, I have provided my support of him based on his fine record in Laguna Beach during the time I have known him. I think it is most unfortunate that another candidate running for City Council probably initiated this disgusting character assassination and fed their research (and my personal cell phone number) to a former reporter who is a former colleague of Marty Wisckol. When I asked Mr. Wisckol (who is well known for covering federal, state and county issues) when he called me why he was bothering with an investigation into a little City Council race, he told that me he had received a ‘tip’. Some people – and one specific group – in town will do anything to win, whether it is to lie, mislead or defame. It is vile to me — and should be to other voters in Laguna Beach, as well.”
And yet many residents remain baffled by Madison’s recalcitrance in explaining the discrepancies revealed in the article, regardless of what motivated their revelation.
To be clear, Madison’s campaign website says that he “headed off to Cornell for college.” It also says that he earned “multiple degrees in plant physiology and horticulture, as well as in landscape architecture and urban planning.” It does not explicitly say those degrees came from Cornell.
Though Madison has listed “lawyer” as an occupation on two past applications for the Heritage Committee, a spokesperson for the State Bar of California said that no one by his name appeared in their database. That does not preclude a license from another state, though neither did Madison’s name surface in the Martindale Directory, a national attorney database.
“Are people this desperate that they have to fabricate things to take the emphasis off what’s really important in the community?” asked Madison, seemingly unperturbed, in an interview earlier this week. He also alluded to disclosures in the coming weeks that might surprise detractors.
“I’m not running away,” he said. “I sleep like a baby at night.”View Our User Comment Policy