"House of Lies" Gets New Occupant

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

This is the second in our close ups for the occupants of the “House of Lies”, Lake Forest’s own prime real estate where we can take a close look at the veracity of who’s saying what. The last article featured the antics of Scott Voigts. Today we focus on Council woman Kathy McCullough.



During the 2012 Candidate Forum I criticized the City Council for accepting money from “vested interests”. An angry Kathy McCullough, who was in the audience, came up to me at the conclusion of the forum and scolded me for telling lies. She claimed she never took any money from vested interests for her election campaigns. I told her I couldn’t list any specifics from memory, but I was pretty sure she had. Again she accused me of lying and I promised to do my homework and send her the facts. I promised to apologize publically if I was in error. I went home and sure enough, found more than $10,000 of “vested interest” money which she had accepted over the years (see tomorrow for a partial list). I sent the information to her and never heard back. Subsequently, several people told me that McCullough had been going around during the Candidate Forum telling people that I was lying. I shared with them the results of my investigation. So, not only had Mrs. McCullough been lying about not taking money from “vested interests”, she’d been lying about me. I guess, in the pantheon of liars, lying about lying is to be expected.

It was only a few months later when I found Mrs. McCullough once again stretching the truth, again about accepting money, and I revealed it in an editorial in The OC Register. To view that story Click here   Shortly after publication, she asked me to have lunch with her and her husband. We met at Denny’s and for nearly half an hour she spoke, nonstop, about everything she had done for the City, how hard she worked, etc. Each time I tried to interrupt she asked that I wait until she was finished, so I could see the “whole picture”. Because I was brought up to respect my elders, I sat there, finished my lunch and waited. Meanwhile, as she talked, she slowly took out a bunch of papers that eventually were piled more than a foot high. Finally, either from hunger or exhaustion, she took a breath and I got the chance to ask - “What specifically did I say that you think is untrue?” She rustled through the papers, continued chastising me, but eventually came up with nothing. The only offense she could come up with was that I used the word “claimed” in my editorial, and she didn’t like the way that sounded. Apparently nothing I wrote was incorrect, but she was upset because she didn’t like the way it sounded. It didn’t occur to her, that if what I said was factually true, perhaps it’s what she did that didn’t sound right, rather than my report of what she did.

Tomorrow I will report more fully on Mrs. McCullough. She’s up for re-election this year, so it’s fitting that her record comes before the public. You can expect that Mrs. McCullough will deny any of the facts included in the article, but when she bends your ear with allegations that it’s “all lies”, be sure to ask her what specifically is untrue.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

MFriedrich March 12, 2014 at 07:00 PM
It's probably best to come to these meetings well prepared - have the allegations and linked facts ready and waiting, so that when they first protest your allegations, you can rattle off the fact-based rebuttals as questions that crush their denials in full public few, preferably on camera. Denial is the knee-jerk response of all politicians in damage control mode. Very few politicians keep good mental inventory of all their past lies and deceitful practices. It's just the water they have to swim in. Not an excuse. Just reality. As for Ms. McCullough's protest and that of politicians of her ilk, it may surprise them to know that a person may simultaneously be "hard working", "industrious" and "on the take". These characteristics are not mutually exclusive. It seems that the politicians on the Lake Forest city council just don't get it. Accepting bribes for political favors is just about the most un-American thing you can do in service to the public. Except it's never been about ethics or public service or the common good. This is all about the power and the power trip -the exhilarating feeling that comes with public office, wading in a pool of money, non-commitment and no accountability. Being untouchable.
Jim Gardner March 12, 2014 at 07:45 PM
Well said.
Matt Stern March 12, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Although I appreciate the exposes on our elected officials, we must start looking at ways we can make things better in our city. The steady drumbeat of criticism can be discouraging without a hopeful melody of change. Again, I look at my friends at the Reseda Neighborhood Council who are busy promoting their community elections this coming Sunday. They have a full slate of candidates for 7 volunteer positions and enthusiastic people throughout the community who want to help. Reseda is community with larger issues and fewer resources than ours, but they seem to have more enthusiasm and community involvement. The question is, how do we inspire that level of involvement in Lake Forest?
Jim Gardner March 13, 2014 at 01:51 AM
Excellent question. Many people have been asking the Council to do positive things, like set up a Traffic Committee, set up a Community Foundation, set up an ad hoc committee to find a location for a dog park, etc. The Council continues to resist. Perhaps if more people showed up at meetings and pressed the Council to begin these initiatives. we'd see some progress. Do you have any specific suggestions?
Matt Stern March 13, 2014 at 02:09 AM
Why do we need the City Council to do things for us? Let's pick a project like, let's say, a dog park. If the City won't build one, let's see if a group of citizens want to do the work to make one. People can find out what's required in the way for zoning, liability, and equipment. Are there animal welfare, charitable organizations, and corporations that can help us? My suggestion is that if we want things done, we can't wait for the City Council to do all the work for us. We need to be proactive. Citizens need to put together a plan, get community and business backing, and if we need Council approval or funding, we'll have a complete plan ready to present to them. And when they see it has sufficient public and corporate backing, they will have no choice but approve it.


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