Candidates Endure More Scrutiny in Backlash of Scandal

Political Briefs

The recent disclosures of falsehoods in the biography of a candidate for City Council have eviscerated “the honor system” in Laguna Beach’s political culture, as one elected official put it, intensifying scrutiny of every candidate’s claims.

Residents are quick to find flaws in statements from the seven candidates seeking election to Laguna Beach’s City Council on Nov. 4.

Why does candidate Michele Oliver Hall describe herself as a “community volunteer” in the official ballot statement, which registered voters received last week, asked voter C. Deborah Laughton in a letter to the editor, published in the current edition.

“When did a past president of the Laguna Beach Republican Club and chair of the OC GOP become a community service volunteer versus a political service volunteer?” she questioned.

“Laguna has already had enough problems with city council candidates omitting details or ‘fluffing’ their resume,” Laughton said, a reference to now discredited academic and professional claims of candidate Jon Madison, owner of Madison Square Garden & Cafe.

Hall, who also works as a yoga teacher, defended her description. “In order for the Registrar to approve my statement, I had to list why my statement was true with a list of my volunteer activities,” said Hall. “This is not ‘fluff’ and I am happy to provide a detailed list of the organizations I have proudly served,” she said, and went on to cite serving meals at Friendship Shelter and volunteering in classrooms at St. Margaret’s, Top of the World and Presbyterian preschool. More recently, she organized support for a friend’s ailing son and assisted a Boys and Girls Club fundraiser.

An inconsistency in another candidate’s biography drew the attention of local resident Bill Rihn.

Candidate Paul Merritt described himself as a 60-year local resident in a Sept. 19 letter to the Indy, which contradicted his statement of a 30-year residency provided in a July interview with the paper.

“Was he a resident of Laguna Beach while on the Laguna Niguel City Council?” Rihn asked.

Merritt conceded his responses lacked precision. His family moved to Laguna from Pasadena in the early 1960s, but he estimates his cumulative time in town at 30 years.

Former Rep. Chris Cox swore him into office in 1989, when the neighboring city was incorporated, Merritt said. He served one term and also served on non-elected planning and public safety commissions in Niguel, said Merritt.

The candidate also explained why he dropped his given surname, Christiansen, in 1998.

“I use Merritt to honor my great grandfather who contributed to my expense for higher education,” said Merritt. He earned bachelor and juris doctorate degrees in 1980 and 1981 from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton. He holds a current real estate broker’s license and works as an unlicensed, private trustee.

“The ‘name’ issue has been a made up distraction by some who cannot find gaps in the real issues raised by my campaign, i.e., public safety, the canyon, etc.,” he said.


Economic Topics to Dominate Next Candidate Debate

Issues involving Laguna Beach’s downtown and development trends are the focus of Firebrand Media’s second public debate Tuesday, Oct. 14, among the seven candidates seeking election next month to the town’s City Council.

The public is welcome to attend the 6:30 p.m. program at City Hall, which will be preceded by a 6 p.m. reception. The event is co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors.

The program will be jointly moderated by public relations specialist Joan Gladstone and Indy Editor Andrea Adelson.


Christoph Disavows Support for Merritt

Former elected official and Indy columnist Ann Christoph renounced a campaign brochure circulated on behalf of Paul Merritt, one of seven candidates running for Laguna Beach’s City Council in the Nov. 4 election.

Merritt published an unauthorized photograph of Christoph in a brochure, which she believes leaves the erroneous impression that she supports his candidacy.

“I am sorry he has put me in the position of having to explain that I do not want my name or image associated with his campaign,” said a statement from Christoph.


Michele Hall
Michele Hall

Hall Pitches for Votes

City Council candidate Michele Oliver Hall, of the 1985 Laguna Beach High School class, is the first speaker to the school’s alumni association about LBHS grads making a difference in the local community.

Alumni are invited to the 4 p.m. event Sunday, Oct. 12, at 715 Bayview Place in Temple Hills, which is hosted by Peter French and organized by association presidentWendy Potter. Guitar-playing math teacher Gary Shapiro will entertain.A donation of $50 per person is suggested.
Please RSVP to Potter at 949 933-2469 or [email protected].





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  1. Why doesn’t Ms. Adelson address Rob ZurSchmiede’s desire to not be associated with Toni Iseman on the Village Laguna slate?


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