The campaign for Monterey Park City Treasurer has gotten uglier in the finals days leading to up to tomorrow’s election, with one elected official threatening legal action against his challenger over campaign flyers he alleges are “lies”.
The flyer in question states that current City Treasurer Joseph Leon “violated state law by over billing taxpayers for healthcare benefits.”
“I haven’t violated any state law,” Leon told EGP, noting that he has not been charged of any crime.
In a letter to his challenger Stephen Lam, Leon is demanding that Lam “cease and desist” from making such claims on the grounds that the campaign materials are “designed to intentionally mislead voters,” and that they are “damaging” to Leon’s reputation: Leon is an attorney.
The letter further demands that Lam stop the distribution of such campaign materials and issue a press release retracting any false information.
In March 2011, EGP reported that Leon along with other city officials were billed a total of $85,000 in overpaid health care benefits after the then city attorney corrected a policy that was interpreted to be in violation of state law.
Leon was billed $30,027.27 for his “overpaid” health care benefits, which have yet to be repaid. Leon told EGP he wrote a letter to the city manager and city attorney to get more information about the bill but never got a response or direction.
However, Monterey Park City Manager Paul Talbot told EGP that the overpaid benefits were not the elected official’s fault but rather a change in interpretation by the city’s attorneys. He said the city doesn’t know if the elected officials are violating state law for receiving or not paying back the benefits.
According to Talbot, there has been some question as to whether the revised interpretation was correct, but because a majority of the council has a conflict of interest in deciding the issue, the matter was referred to the District Attorney’s office to determine if criminal charges or legal action should be pursued, something they have yet to make a decision regarding.
It should be noted that the policy allowing for the payment of the benefit was decided before Leon was elected to office.
Leon told EGP that if he loses the election he might pursue further legal action because the election results will help prove his damages.
“Hopefully people will see that [Lam] is sending out lies,” said Leon.
EGP attempted to contact Lam but calls to his business and campaign offices were not returned.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Paul Talbot’s name.