A powerful ad hoc coalition of Roseville city leaders past and present has issued a letter calling out City Council candidate Phil Ozenick for what its members deem an exaggeration of his role in the creation of a local retirement community.
"Phil had nothing to do with Sun City," said Susan Rohan, Roseville's vice mayor and one of eight to sign the letter sent to residents of the retirement community.
Attack ads are not unusual. What is unusual is how Ozenick, a former City Council member and county supervisor, has become the lightning-rod candidate.
In addition to his elected service, Ozenick, 86, has spent decades wrestling with City Hall as the president of Friends of Roseville, or FORE.
On Monday, city officials breathed a sigh of relief after Ozenick failed to gather enough signatures to put on the ballot a proposal to cap City Hall pay and benefits at $175,000 a substantial cut for some officials. The proposal was almost universally panned by his council opponents.
"Phil has not held back in criticizing people over the years," said Bill Halldin, a Placer County political observer who has endorsed two other candidates in the race. He said that many people feel Ozenick "would be wrong for Roseville," and they are going the extra mile to keep him off the City Council.
Ozenick has fired back. In an ad in The Bee he said the letter and attack ads are full of erroneous statements by the "power structure in Roseville," and are "born out of old grudges, petty jealously and fear."
The seven candidates in the Nov. 6 race for three City Council seats are incumbents Pauline Roccucci and Carol Garcia, government relations manager Bonnie Gore, small-business owner Scott Alvord, regulatory compliance analyst Tracy Mendonsa, retiree John Schwartz and Ozenick.
The letter and another attack mailer targeting Ozenick were sent out by the League of Placer County Taxpayers, a one-time nonprofit group that was recently and controversially reformed as a political action committee.
Also, the North State Building Industry Association, which usually supports Republican candidates such as Ozenick, sent a mailer to Democrats urging them to "Vote for anyone but Phil Ozenick."
Rohan said she was moved to action by Ozenick's attempt to mislead retirement community residents.
In his candidate statement, mailed to all registered voters, Ozenick wrote, "I served 33 years in the USAF, four years on the City Council, bringing you Sun City Roseville."
The Sun City retirement communities in Roseville and Lincoln are viewed as powerful voting blocs.
In the letter, Rohan, a former Del Webb employee, and former City Manager Al Johnson join others in refuting Ozenick's statement, noting that he wasn't on the City Council when any of the votes were taken to approve the community.
"He is trying to dupe people into believing he played a role he didn't play," Rohan said.
In addition to Johnson and Rohan, the letter is signed by former mayors Claudia Heinlein, Harry Crabb, Gina Garbolino and Jim Gray, outgoing councilman John Allard and Placer County Supervisor Kirk Uhler.
Rohan said the letter signers have not collectively endorsed a candidate and are simply attempting to correct the record.
Ozenick is not backing down from the statement.
"I reaffirm my comment that I brought Roseville Sun City Roseville," Ozenick wrote in a letter faxed to The Bee. He states that he entertained John Murray, developer of Sun City Roseville, at his home in 1987 and talked about how to knock down opposition to the project.
The developer has since told Ozenick he doesn't remember the conversation.
"Convenient," Ozenick writes, of the meeting that allegedly took place 25 years ago.
The group behind the letter has created a controversy of its own.
The League of Placer County Taxpayers then operating as a 501c(3) non-profit organization filed for dissolution with the secretary of state's office in 2011. Wally Reemelin, the former president, cited a lack of membership and leadership.
Uhler and allies stepped into the void and formed the League of Placer County Taxpayers as a political action committee.
Reemelin said he'll fight the takeover of the name.
Uhler, whose district covers much of Roseville, defended his use of the league's name and said Ozenick would be bad for Roseville.
"Much of what Phil Ozenick has done and continues to do is shortsighted and is not in the long-term interest of business or residents of Roseville."
Ozenick called it dirty politics. "It's obvious that that group doesn't want me on the City Council."