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Former Loomis mayor Calvert sues political action group

By: By Carol R. Percy Of the Loomis News
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Former Loomis Mayor Sandra Calvert is suing a political action group, saying its defamatory campaign ad lost her the 2014 election.

Sandra Calvert filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Court on Jan. 15 against the Region Builders Political Action Committee, according to her attorney, Douglas Watts, on Jan. 29.

Calvert was mayor in 2012 and ran for re-election to the Loomis Town Council in 2014, along with four other candidates. Calvert lost the election, finishing in fourth place, receiving 14 percent of the vote, she said on Jan. 29.

When the Loomis News asked Calvert about specific details concerning the lawsuit against Region Builders, she referred questions to Watts.

Watts said that Region Builders mailed out a negative advertisement the day before the 2014 election that stated, "She (Calvert) attempted to shake down a religious charity for $662,000 for tree mitigation."

"People opening up that letter would have said, ‘Holy crap, there's a crook running for office.’ Which was of course what they wanted," Watts said.

The term "shakedown" is the same as saying that "somebody is an extortionist," Watt said.

"It would make a reader believe that Sandra is a corrupt politician on the take, trying to get money for her own benefit," Watts said.

Calvert hopes to show the Region Builders Political Action Committee that its negative campaign tactics will not work in the future, according to Watts.

"Sandra's hoping these kinds of defamatory statements will never happen again in Loomis politics," Watts said.

Former Loomis Mayor Gary Liss said on Jan. 29 that the “late-hour smear tactics being used by political action groups” has been occurring during Loomis campaigns for about eight years.

"This type of last minute 'hit piece' has been going on with Loomis politics since 2006," Liss said.

The "paper trails" have led back to campaign opponents or to groups based in Orange County, according to Liss.

Liss, who served as Loomis’s mayor in 2010, ran for Loomis Town Council again in 2012.

"There were negative robot telephone calls made to Loomis residents the weekend before the election using false statements similar to those used against Calvert,” Liss said.

"I applaud that Sandy's fighting back against this increasingly harsh language (used by the Region Builders Political Action Committee) that is now crossing the line that's considered libel," Liss said.

Current Loomis Mayor Rhonda Morillas said Monday that factors other than the Region Builders’ mail-out may have influenced Loomis voters.

Calvert missed “quite a few” Town Council meetings and angered some voters for not supporting council member Dave Wheeler in taking his seat on the council, according to Morillas.

“I don't believe the mailers were the reason she (Calvert) got such low votes.  If you check, Loomis has a high percentage of mail voters.  The mail (from Region Builders) came one day before the election,” Morillas said. “(Calvert) also made quite a few people mad for not wanting Dave Wheeler seated after he was elected.  He had a large following of supporters. Sandra did not have the same support.” ­­­­­­­­­

Ashley Titus, a Sacramento-based attorney for Region Builders, emailed the Loomis News Monday that Calvert’s lawsuit is “frivolous” and that Region Builders “will vigorously defend itself against any attempt to silence it from speaking on matters of importance to its members.”

“Region Builders exercised its First Amendment right to speak in the context of a political campaign, provided the voters with factual information regarding Sandra Calvert’s record as a public official and the voters decided to retire her from the Loomis City (Town) Council,” Titus said.

Dave Wheeler, a Loomis Town Council member who ran for council along with Calvert in the 2012 election, said negative comments by opponents were "the price of running for political office."

"There were a number of things that were misrepresented about me (in the 2012 Loomis Town Council election) that go with the territory,” Wheeler said. “It happens in any election."

But in the end, Wheeler said, voters decide "what's fact and what's fiction" in the campaign.