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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

PAC faces hurdle in lawsuit against Democratic Club

Money troubles persist for a local Democratic political action committee after its lawsuit against the Democratic Club of Claremont was tossed out of court because of a bounced check.

According to a clerk’s notice filed April 30 by the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Inland Communities Democratic Headquarters PAC attorney, Kevin Taylor, bounced a $435 check when filing the complaint on March 11. The PAC had 25 days to cover the fees, but failed to meet the deadline.

After repeated calls by the COURIER to Mr. Taylor, a Beverly Hills attorney who represents the PAC, the lawyer said he was surprised to learn the case had been voided by the court for unpaid fees and admitted it was the first he’d heard of the court’s decision.

He insisted, however, that the bounced check had not been drawn from his law firm’s bank account or by his client.

“The check did not bounce from my client’s trust account,” Mr. Taylor asserted. “Taxpayer money was not used at all. This was a personal check out of my own account.”

Yesterday morning, Thursday, May 8, Mr. Taylor resubmitted payment in downtown LA to have the case reinstated, the Los Angeles County Clerk confirmed.

“I paid with cash,” Mr. Taylor said.

A retainer payment of $8,160 to Mr. Taylor was drawn on March 11 for attorney’s fees, according to the PAC’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing for the first quarter of 2014. Additional payments include a $25 “bounced check” fee to Wells Fargo bank and a $10 payment for the cashier’s check to the attorney.

The suit was brought by the PAC’s executive board—Zephyr Tate-Mann, Rudy Mann and Bob Gerecke—which charged the Democratic Club of Claremont with fraud and breach of contract, among other infractions. The PAC seeks to recover $64,000 from the club for fundraising in the 2008 presidential election—fundraising conducted solely by Mr. Mann on behalf of the PAC, according to the complaint.

The PAC filed the lawsuit on March 11, roughly two weeks after attorney Daren Hengesbach sent a letter to Mr. Mann seeking to recover an unrelated $12,600 loan made by the Democratic Club of Claremont in 2009. The loan, according to the club, was given for the specific purpose of paying for a permanent local Democratic headquarters.

According to a promissory note signed by PAC members Mr. Mann and Mr. Gerecke, as well as Democratic Club members Gar Byrum and Debi Evans, the PAC is obligated to “repay [the $12,600] without interest when and if the PAC abandons its effort to establish a facility for use by Democratic candidates and organizations.” The promissory note also stipulates that if the PAC finds a building, the club will deem the $12,600 a contribution.

From October of 2009 to February 2014, the PAC had not purchased or rented a facility to be used for political meetings of regional Democrats. Verbal requests by Democratic Club members were made to the Manns over the years for an accounting of the $12,600, however, nothing ever materialized. Ms. Tate-Mann maintains that the money was not a loan but was owed to the PAC for her husband’s fundraising efforts.

The Democratic Club of Claremont has now filed a lawsuit against the PAC, Mr. Mann, Ms. Tate-Mann and Mr. Gerecke for failing to repay the $12,600 loan in light of not securing a headquarters.

“[The PAC] had an obligation to the people who donated the money,” Mr. Hengesbach said.

Although the PAC’s suit against the club has been reinstated, additional hurdles exist.

“The PAC did two things wrong,” Mr. Hengesbach explained. “They filed in downtown Los Angeles, when they should have filed with the Pomona court. The second is, they didn’t answer our complaint, which was due April 30.”

Mr. Hengesbach also believes the two cases will likely be consolidated by the courts at some point.

With the April 30 deadline passed, Mr. Hengesbach’s next step is to file a Request for Entry of Default on behalf of the club, which could allow for the court to decide the case without hearing from the PAC.

—Kathryn Dunn

editor@claremont-courier.com

 

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