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Strawbridge Ethics Complaint Letter
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Strawbridge Complaint: DISMISSED
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VIOLATION OF THE VOLUNTARY CODE OF ETHICS & THE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR

MEMBERS OF CITY COUNCIL AGAINST CHRISTINA STRAWBRIDGE

FILED BY TERRY SCOTT & JENNIFER HANLEY ON WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2022

A Smear Campaign, by definition is “a plan to discredit a public figure by making false or dubious accusations.

The term “campaign” is defined as, “an organized course of action to achieve a goal.”

 

Our complaint will show that on Friday, October 21, 2022, Christina Strawbridge submitted and then published a letter of complaint making multiple false and dubious accusations against Terry Scott and his campaign manager, Jennifer Hanley. We’ll also show that Ms. Strawbridge sought to spread and amplify this misinformation in a “well organized course of action” as an attempt to denigrate Terry Scott and Ms. Hanley by publicizing her letter online, across social media and in the local newspaper. On Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 11:52am, Ms. Strawbridge’s complaint was dismissed by the City Attorney citing that the complaint, “could not be tied to any of the items listed on the Voluntary Code of Fair Campaign Practices'' and no violation was issued against the Terry Scott Campaign.

 

The complaint contained numerous falsehoods and a misrepresentation of facts. Christina Strawbridge accused Terry Scott and his campaign manager of being dishonest, unethical and guilty of wasting the time of City staff with frivolous demands. She also accused the Ms. Hanley of “threatening a church” and repeated this inflammatory language in her comments made on social media posts and again in a volatile and slanderous follow-up post as a retaliation once her claim was dismissed by the City. None of these allegations were true. In fact, the Scott inquiry resulted in two legitimate sign violations against the Strawbridge campaign, no threats were made to the church, and all interaction was minimal and well within the scope of city staff responsibility.

 

Ms. Strawbridge submitted the complaint to the City Clerk on Friday during closed office hours sometime before noon. We know this, because she had her letter of complaint published in the Sunday edition of the Benicia Herald; a publish date subject to a 12pm deadline on Friday. Ms. Strawbridge published the letter on her public campaign website, and then proceeded to re-post and share the link on social media, exposing the Scott campaign to the court of public opinion. Her supporters were not kind. They called Terry Scott and his campaign “pathetic” and “despicable”. Some responded by leaving negative and rude remarks on Terry’s Facebook posts as retaliation, all fueled by the false and malicious allegations made by Christina Strawbridge. 

 

Ms. Strawbridge appeared to relish in the attention, as a few of her supporters offered sentiments of praise and support. The Strawbridge campaign also benefited from the attack campaign as sympathetic supporters offered to post her large signs in their yards, which Christina eagerly accepted. She later flaunted the installments with photos and antagonizing captions as a campaign marketing tool.  

 

This was Christina Strawbridge's plan. Executing the release of her letter on multiple platforms in close succession on a Friday, when city offices are closed, meant that she would have at least three days of unbridled opportunity to spread, fuel and influence Benicia voters without accountability. Christina Strawbridge showed absolutely no regard for the City’s lawful process, nor did she care whether or not the City Attorney would find her claims to be legitimate before she chose to spread harmful slander to as many people as she could. Rather than wait for the City Attorney’s response, Christina Strawbridge made sure the damage would be done to her opponent's campaign either way. Both Terry Scott and Jennifer Hanley showed great restraint and patiently waited, respecting the City's lawful process to handle such matters. When the City responded with their decision to dismiss her complaint, instead of maintaining her composure and or retracting her allegations, Ms. Strawbridge responded by doubling-down both on her website and again on social media. She proceeded to call Ms. Hanley and Benicia resident Lori Grundman out by name and dedicated an entire web page to defaming them. Lori Grundman is not, nor has she ever acted as a member of the Scott campaign team. Christina Strawbridge targeted Ms. Hanley, implying that Ms. Hanley was "indecent and dishonest" for doing her job, serving as a trusted and dedicated campaign manager who sought to ensure all candidates running for office play by the rules. She did not deserve to be harassed and retaliated against by a candidate, let alone a sitting Councilmember, simply for being thorough and having great attention for detail. While Terry Scott may be running for office, and Ms. Hanley may be assisting with Terry Scott's campaign, above all they are still private citizens, residents and a constituents first.

 

These character assassinations have long term consequences for both Mr. Scott and Ms. Hanley. There is no way to measure how much damage this attack may have caused to both their personal and professional reputations. Christina Strawbridge’s deliberate actions are the very definition of a negative smear campaign and therefore are clear violations of sections 1) and 2) of the voluntary code.  Her egregious behavior as a sitting Councilmember also constitutes a clear violation of the Benicia City Code of Conduct Section 3) 'Conduct of Members" of which she swore by oath to respect and uphold.

 

Benicia Voluntary Code and Campaign Practices

(1) I SHALL CONDUCT my campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting my record and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of my opponents which merit such criticism and without false or misleading statements.

 

(2) I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, libel, slander, or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal or family life, including whispering campaigns involving such statements.

Benicia City Code of Conduct for Members of City Council, Boards, Commissions and Committees

3) The professional and personal conduct of members must be above reproach and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the Council and commissions, the staff or the public.

 

In light of the City’s dismissal of Ms. Strawbridge’s complaint, along with the submitted citations, below evidentiary attachments and emails, we request that Christina Strawbridge be found in contempt for violating Sections 1 and 2 of the Benicia City Voluntary Code, along with Section 3 of the Benicia City Code of Conduct for Members of City Council. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Terry Scott and Jennifer Hanley

Click to view the Violation of the Voluntary Code & Code of Conduct Complaint Against Christina Strawbridge submitted by the Terry Scott Campaign on Wednesday, October 24, 2022 to Benicia City Clerk's Office