This is the first in our series “House of Lies” which seeks to make public officials accountable for their promises and remarks. This week we focus on Scott Voigts. In succeeding weeks we will cover other Council and Commission members.
The first time I met Scott Voigts we were both campaigning in 2010. He sympathized with me since we were both running against incumbents with much bigger war chests. He said that (with me) he had less than $5,000 he could spend, and wanted to know how I was going to use my limited funds. It turns out, when I looked at the final State required election finance disclosure Form 460 for the 2010 campaign, Voigts spent $37,763.40 which was the most money anyone had ever spent on a Lake Forest election. Looking at his earlier Form 460, while he was telling me he had less than $5,000 to spend he had already accumulated $15,514.99 in his campaign kitty. This was my first hint that when Scott Voigts’ lips were moving, I might not be hearing the truth.
(Interestingly enough, Voigts worried how with this little money we could reach 50,000 people. I told him there were nearly 80,000 people in Lake Forest, and he got a confused look on his face. “No way” he said. “Way” I said. “There are about 50,000 in the old part of town, and another 25,000 people in Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills”. “You mean Foothill Ranch is a part of Lake Forest” he exclaimed, and then scribbled a note on a napkin.)
OPPOSING MUSICK JAIL
His mistaken claim to me about how much he had to spend might be considered clever maneuvering, and not really an outright lie. After all, we were both seeking a seat and were competitors. But to the public, he and I shared a resolve to oppose increasing the size of Musick Jail which borders Lake Forest along Bake Pkwy. Yet no sooner did he get on the Council he voted to approve an agreement with the OC Sheriff to increase the size of Musick to 3,000 prisoners and to allow maximum security cells that could house maximum security prisoners.
Now you could say that his campaign promise wasn’t a lie, because once he got in office he received some information that changed his mind. You could say that, and if this were the end to the tale, you could be right.
One of the items that Voigts stressed in his 2010 campaign, apart from Musick Jail, was term limits. He felt that the incumbents had been there too long and term limits would let some new blood onto the Council. But term limits didn’t sound so good once Voigts was on the Council, so in 2013, when the topic came up (courtesy of Councilman Nick), Voigts argued for term limits that in reality were unlimited. He supported and pushed through an ordinance that says that over 26 years a Council member must take a break for 2 years. IOW – Voigts’ idea of terms limits is virtually unlimited. And he did that despite the alternative and far more reasonable motion made by Councilman Herzog and seconded by Nick, to restrict the limits to 8 years. If we’re keeping track, this might be better classified as a broken campaign promise rather than a lie.
Once in office, Voigts has been caught straying from the truth several times. For example, as Mayor, he claimed that “Lake Forest is the 8th safest city in the U.S.” As readers of this column know, that statement is patently false. The fact that others at the City Hall (e.g., City Manager Dunek, Councilwoman McCullough) also say the same thing, doesn’t make it any more truthful.
The truth is, according to one study that limits itself to the 400 largest cities in the U.S. that have populations of 75,000 or more, Lake Forest does do pretty well in having a lower crime rate than most of these other much larger cities. But when all 20,000+ cities in the U.S. are examined, Lake Forest no longer looks so good. In fact, when compared to our neighbors, we have a much higher crime rate than almost any City down here in South Orange County. Voigts (and everyone else at City Hall) knows this, but it doesn’t make for a good sound bite to tell the truth, so he sticks to the false statement which he’s repeated often.
In 2013 when the Council was discussing campaign finance Voigts claimed that he spent “no more than Peter Herzog” in the campaign of 2010. The truth is that in 2010 Scott Voigts spent $37,763 to get elected to City Council and Peter Herzog spent $27,145.83. That’s 40% more!
Of course he wasn’t the only Council member to mis-state the truth during that discussion. Kathy McCullough spun even more “mis-information” at the time, and in fact, if we were to try to decide who the bigger spinner of tales is, the choice would not be easy. BTW - McCullough comes up next after we finish with Voigts.
Tomorrow we’ll continue this sad saga.