Updated: Document Raises New Questions About Candidate’s Claims

City Council candidate Jon Madison
City Council candidate Jon Madison

Embattled Laguna Beach City Council candidate Jon Madison, whose academic and professional claims could not be independently verified earlier this month, on Monday said he has obtained one of two college transcripts that demonstrate the veracity of his resume.

Even so, the authenticity of the document Madison produced only raised more skepticism. The Cornell University diploma purporting to grant Jon Jay Joseph V. Madison a Ph.D. in horticulture on May 26, 1979, does not appear to bear the signatures of Frank H.T. Rhodes, who was Cornell’s president in that year, or David L. Call, who was dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Arts in 1979.

The Office of the University Registrar has no record of Jon Jay Joseph Madison attending the university, spokesman Joe Schwartz said Tuesday, reiterating a similar query made by the Indy on Sept. 8 under a slightly different name, Jon Jay Madison.

In the statement released Monday, Madison conceded he did not take the California State Bar exam and thus cannot properly describe himself as a lawyer, a claim he made in a sworn 2012 application for appointment to the city’s Heritage Commission.

The Cornell diploma, transcripts, voter registration and a birth certificate are available for inspection at Madison’s place of business, Madison Square & Garden Café, though the restaurant was closed on Tuesday.

Madison did not respond Tuesday to email and phone queries.

In his statement, Madison said he is still seeking his diploma from the UCLA School of Law, but expects it shortly.

“I expect these documents to put an end to the speculation about my credentials, although there will be those who prefer to believe innuendo and rumor,” Madison said in a statement.

Madison is one of seven candidates running for three open seats in the Nov. 4 election. He moved to Laguna Beach in 1982 and in 1998 opened a restaurant in a restored 75 year old home. Since then, Madison’s earned a reputation for generosity, hosting numerous fundraising benefits for nonprofits, and was appointed in 2001 to the city’s Heritage Committee, which advises the City Council about historic preservation issues.

“I hope that intelligent and open-minded voters will understand that a cross-country move in my young adult life, a deplorable and thorough identity theft by someone I once trusted, a clerical error on my voter’s registration record, and university records departments that lost track of me all combined to make it appear, with an assist from an opponent, that I deliberately misled the very people I am asking to entrust me with a public office,” said Madison’s statement, adding that the scrutiny has made him more determined to prove himself to voters.

Earlier Monday, two of Madison’s most prominent supporters reiterated their steadfast loyalty to him.

“He says the academic degrees will be coming,” Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said. “I believe he is what he says he is,” she said.

“Jon’s done so much for the community, I’m not concerned so much about his education,” said incumbent Kelly Boyd, who is seeking another four-year term. He pointed out he attended “the school of hard-knocks” and never pursued a formal education past high school.

City Attorney Phil Kohn said Monday he has received no formal direction from the City Council in reference to Madison’s 2012 sworn statement seeking appointment to the city’s Heritage Committee, where Madison described himself as a lawyer.

Kohn said there is no remedy within the city’s municipal code for falsifying a sworn statement. Perjury falls under a state statute and would be prosecuted by the district attorney, Kohn said.


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  1. Common Jon. This shouldn’t be so difficult. No doubt you have been a gracious host, but that does not supersede the need for honesty and integrity, the starting point for public service. The council decides issues that shape our community for a generation or more. If the people of Laguna Beach cannot trust you on something so basic as your education, we certainly cannot entrust you with shaping policies that will affect our city and our lives.

  2. Common Jon. This should be a simple matter. No doubt you’ve been very gracious in many ways, but earning the public trust with honesty and integrity is paramount. If you cannot trust the community to know who you are and what shaped you, we cannot entrust you to decide on policies that will shape and affect our city for a generation or more. As I said, it’s very simple.

  3. Well as you might suspect Jon Madison is up to his old tricks. He moved to Cathedral City to a community called the District at the edge and was elected to the board as the vice president of the HOA. It appears that he has continued his dishonesty telling residents there that he is an attorney and has been for the last 18 years and has a PhD in horticulture along with other accolades he’s bestowed upon himself. Reports from the community state that he has slandered many of the homeowners there.


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