By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Mayor Dave Garofalo blames competitive tension for the public allegation that he accosted and threatened an elderly woman who was bidding for the right to publish the Huntington Beach Visitors Guide.
"We've been competitors for decades," Garofalo said on Nov. 7 after listening to Natalie Carlson of Century Publishing tearfully withdraw her proposal. "I want to state for the record that she was doing this for personal gain."
Carlson appeared before Conference and Visitor's Bureau board members—including Garofalo—who were gathered to select a publisher to replace Garofalo. The mayor's longtime contract to print the Visitors Guide was voided when it was revealed that Garofalo solicited advertising dollars from companies with business before his city council.
According to Carlson, she ran into Garofalo on Nov. 3 while picking up George W. Bush campaign signs at a local business. She says Garofalo harassed her because of a Sept. 24 opinion piece Carlson wrote for the The Orange County Register, in which she defended city funding of the nonprofit Visitor's Bureau.
"The mayor followed me out of the business and started yelling at me as I walked to my car," Carlson told the stunned board, which was meeting in the elegant Cielo Mare banquet room of the Waterfront Hilton. "To my shock, he said he was going to get me. He called me vulgar and vile names on two occasions and repeatedly told me that he would spend the rest of his life getting revenge on me.
"Dave repeated that there were 12 people he was going to get, no matter how long it took, and I was on that list, and he would get revenge," she said. "He just continued yelling, using foul language, and berating me, waving his arms and screaming his threats that he would 'get' me no matter how long it took—he would have revenge."
After the board meeting, Garofalo explained that he was angry with Carlson for not revealing in her Register piece that she was a bidder for the contract that was stripped from him because of alleged conflicts of interest. He called her allegations of threats "absurd."
But others allege similar run-ins with Garofalo. Only a few days earlier, on Halloween night, Huntington Beach Independent columnist and local attorney Ron Davis says he encountered the smiling and laughing mayor while out on Main Street with his children and grandchildren.
"At first, he just made disparaging comments and mannerisms," recounted Davis. "Eventually, I went up to him, and he said I was a hack columnist and a piece of garbage. He said the Independent was a piece of garbage."
These insults didn't particularly concern Davis, who has written three columns criticizing Garofalo for alleged conflicts of interest. But Davis said Garofalo's next statement was different.
"He also said, 'I'm going to get you,'" Davis told the Weekly. "What really bothered me was that he then said, 'I'm going to sleep with a smile on my face when I do it.'"
Davis, who says Garofalo subsequently met with him for an hour and a half, insists that Garofalo's threat was merely political—not physical. For that reason, he says, he didn't report it to the police.
But the incident affected Garofalo enough that he discussed it during the Nov. 6 Huntington Beach City Council meeting.
"It's not easy to be human when you're mayor," Garofalo said in a backhanded apology. "I had a loss of temper with a constituent. I extend a sincere apology for venting on Ron Davis for his venting on me for a year."
The Weekly previously reported the story of Mike Ramsey, who owns Ecology Tire in Huntington Beach ("Huntington Beach Babbitt," Aug. 18). Ramsey said that after he finished running the annual Pacific Shoreline Marathon last January, Garofalo strong-armed him at the finish line.
"Dave grabbed my hand and started squeezing—a lot harder than a gentleman's handshake," recalled Ramsey, who had earlier been quoted in the Weekly explaining why he wouldn't invest in local Pacific Liberty Bank, where Garofalo sits on the board of directors ("How the System Works," Dec. 3, 1999). "Then he grabbed the back of my arm with his left hand and started squeezing my arm hard, too. Dave told me I was a fucking asshole for being quoted. He told me that the things I had said had made his mother cry."
Garofalo's attendance at the Visitor's Bureau meeting exemplified his inability to keep his personal business relationships from intruding into his public service. On the one hand, his job as mayor automatically gives him a nonvoting seat on the Visitor's Bureau board of directors. On the other hand, Garofalo's questionable business and political practices prompted the bureau to kill his contract and call for new bidders.
To make matters stranger still, Garofalo is tied to two of the six bidders who made presentations at the Nov. 7 meeting. First up was Team Publishing, currently operating out of Garofalo's office suite at Seacliff Office Park. The third bidder was AQC Corp., which supposedly bought Garofalo's publishing business in 1999. Although AQC president Jeff Laird said he no longer pays Garofalo, he admitted that the Huntington Beach mayor works with him as a publishing consultant. Laird said Garofalo is not paid for consulting.