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When Anaheim resident Lisa Lewis e-mailed Mayor Tom Tait last week (September 23) regarding Doug Pettibone, the candidate he recruited for Anaheim City Council. In June 1998, Pettibone was charged with four misdemeanor counts of battery, battery against a spouse, assault and harassment. According to court records, he later pled guilty to assault and “maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] another person by loud and unreasonable noise,” and found not guilty on the battery charges.

Ms. Lewis asked the Mayor,

Mr. Pettibone is your neighbor and you personally recruited him to run for our city council, but I don’t know if you are or were aware of his pleading of guilty to an assault. If you were, I would like to know why you decided to ask Anaheim voters like myself to support him for city council. If you were not aware of Pettibone’s pleading guilty to an assault, I would like to know how you are going to respond now that you have been made aware of it.

After replying to her e-mail the next morning saying he was unaware of the charges and would look into it, Tait e-mailed her again early that evening:

Ms Lewis: 

Below is the letter Doug Pettibone sent out today.  I believe it speaks for itself.  

Tom Tait

Pettibone’s withdrawal letter said little about the 1998 incident. And Tait’s reply wasn’t very responsive to Lewis’ request. If the Mayor didn’t know, why not? It’s a legitimate question. Tait recruited Pettibone to run, vouched for him and was asking Anaheim voters to vote for the unknown Pettibone on that basis.

A Pettibone was a vulnerable candidate, which even a cursory investigation would have revealed. For example, Google turns up that Pettibone was the attorney for James Lewis, who ran one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history, stealing tens millions from clients. Pettibone withdrew as Lewis’ attorney after the scam artist became a fugitive, but that wouldn’t stop this from appearing in a campaign mailer. Tait’s defenders would complain that isn’t fair, but the Tait campaign’s attacks haven’t been case studies in fairness and objectivity.

Where was the vetting? Why would Tait vouch for Pettibone to voters without doing rudimentary research that would have turned up these vulnerabilities and saved Pettibone and Team Tait a lot of grief and embarrassment (not to mention Ms. Lewis, who has been targeted by Tait followers and painted as the bad guy). None of this reflects very well on Mayor Tait’s political judgment.