A flier distributed in Cotati this week mocking support for a June 3 ballot measure to raise the city's sales tax is sparking heated objections and promises of legal action by those who say the mailer falsely quotes them.
The two-page flier titled "Who's Behind Measure G the massive one percent Cotati sales tax increase?" purports to quote four current City Council members, one deceased council member, the city manager, the police chief, two business owners, a community activist and the town historian with comments favorable to a tax hike.
The problem is, several of them said, the words are fabricated. At least two of them are exploring their legal options.
The flier, hand-distributed to an unknown number of people, is unsigned. But recalled city council member and city gadfly George Barich acknowledged Wednesday he produced the piece, which he called a newsletter, not campaign literature.
The piece includes what appear to be quotations from City Manager Dianne Thompson and Police Chief Michael Parish, suggesting Thompson is dishonest and Parish is willing to arrest critics at City Council meetings.
The piece asserts Thompson said: "Telling the truth is an option and a choice this council will simply have to make ... To balance a city budget, sometimes you just have to get creative with the numbers."
It quotes Parish as saying: "If we don't raise more taxes, I may have to take a pay cut. Furthermore, I can and I will arrest anyone calling me or any city council member a liar during a city council meeting."
Thompson and Parish both said they never said those words to Barich or anyone else.
"I did not say that, nor would I ever say that," Parish said Thursday. "I think his goal is just to distort the truth."
Although Parish characterized the piece as "slander and libel against me," he said he wasn't going to bother with legal action. "I'll be the bigger man," he said.
Resident Joan Simon, who has been active in Cotati politics for years, said she already has contacted a lawyer to explore "libel and other causes of action" against Barich, a longtime political adversary.
A quote Barich attributed to Simon suggests she supports higher taxes despite whatever potentially negative effects they might have on local consumers and businesses.
"I personally don't mind higher taxes," the quote says, in part. "Higher sales taxes will most likely drive some shoppers and business out of the town for good."
She called the piece "a pack of lies" and a sign of desperation by opponents of Measure G. "I don't get cowed by bullies easily," she said. "Mr. Barich can expect to see me in court."
Barich, who for years has been a lightning rod of controversy in Cotati politics, said the words attributed to the 11 people whose photos are included are "absolutely actual quotes," as relayed to him by others or that he witnessed.
Untrue, said Councilman Mark Landman, who said he also is looking into legal action against Barich.
"There's not one quote here that is not a complete fabrication," Landman said. "As a local official, I'm used to people taking shots, and that's part of the job. I'm fine with that. But this crosses a line, when you purposely falsify statements."