Do we want a mayor with a "hit squad?" That is a question all Coronado residents should ask themselves. The "hit squad" should be a household name discussed at dinner tables throughout our town, as it is an exceedingly important question: Do we want a mayor with a hit squad?
First of all, what is the "hit squad?" The phrase was coined by a prominent Coronado resident in 2018 after smear campaigns were run against myself as a citizen activist and Councilman Sandke who was running for a 2nd term that year. I have had many residents ask me about the hit squad recently as we have seen an uptick in social media attacks approaching the November election. So, below is the answer to the question: what is the hit squad?
When you think of a "hit squad," you think of a group of assassins... that is precisely what the mayor's hit squad is, except what they assassinate is the character and credibility of any citizen, candidate, or prospective candidate deemed to pose a perceived threat to the mayor's agenda or future political aspirations. You can see the efforts of the hit squad throughout our local social media as they have infiltrated community Facebook groups and surface to make targeted personal attacks against the character and credibility of Coronado residents who exercise the First Amendment to challenge the mayor on any given topic. You can see the hit squad attacking residents on the mayor's official mayoral Facebook page. These attacks are endorsed and encouraged by the mayor and his campaign treasurer who often "like" the personal attacks against citizens. These public social media attacks are open for the community to see, which presents a danger to any resident who chooses to express their views on a local civic topic, knowing that they may be subject to vicious public personal attacks for doing so. These public personal attacks have a "chilling effect" on the First Amendment exercise of free speech in our town, which has extended beyond social media to, for instance, a fear of placing yard signs and writing editorials to local publications, etc. Many residents are horrified and terrified.
There is much hit squad activity that is not public, however... activity that is done anonymously, in secrecy, with the ultimate aim to "take out" a member of the community by assassinating the community member's character and credibility. I first became aware of this dark undercurrent in our town around May of 2018 when I received an anonymous letter sent to my residence that looked like a ransom note, encouraging me to go public with what the anonymous source considered "dirt" about Councilman Sandke.
Of course I did not go public with the information, but shared it immediately with Councilman Sandke to let him know what was afoot. I was also deeply disturbed at this creepy anonymous effort to sabotage Councilman Sandke. Who would do such thing? And why? We later learned the anonymous letter was only the beginning of a larger smear campaign against Councilman Sandke by a group that launched the smear video against Sandke during election season in 2018 concerning his Council meeting attendance. For weeks in advance of the Sandke smear video, the mayor and his campaign treasurer were telling anyone who would listen about Sandke's Council meeting attendance. It was their hope to get two candidates to defeat Sandke in the 2018 City Council election, as Councilman Sandke represented the biggest perceived threat at the time to run against Bailey for mayor in 2020, and they wanted to send a clear message to Sandke (which was a message received loud and clear as Sandke has opted not to run against Bailey for Mayor in 2020).
I was absolutely horrified to learn shortly after I received this creepy anonymous letter about Sandke that a local writer for the Eagle had received a similar letter... about me.
I thought oh my god, why am I being targeted by this person or group? I am just a citizen, not an elected official like Councilman Sandke. The anonymous letter about me contained an email that I had sent to the City Manager of Imperial Beach relating to my sewage activism, which contained information from a closed city council session in Imperial Beach and potential litigation... it was not the sort of email that the City of Coronado would release pursuant to a public records request because several exemptions were applicable (i.e., closed council session information and potential litigation, etc.), so how did this person or group get this email? I contacted the City of Imperial Beach who investigated and reported they had no record of the email leaving their system. The Eagle writer who received the email did a public records request in IB to see if anyone had done a public records request to get the email - nobody had. So it was very disturbing for me, personally, to know a very sensitive email got into the hands of someone or some group who clearly intended to assassinate my character and credibility in my home town.
I will never forget... it was August 13th, 2018... it was on my wedding anniversary... my family was on the East Coast visiting my wife's family... we were out to our anniversary dinner at a seafood restaurant on the shore, when the targeted smear campaign went public. The administrator of Coronado's largest social media group posted the email in his group, questioned my character and credibility much like a public trial or witch hunt, then gave the thumbs down and banned me.
There was nothing I could do as out of town during my anniversary dinner, but I was horrified, and my family could tell I was horrified, and when I told them what happened, they were horrified as well. The hit squad has zero regard for the adverse effects on the families of those residents they target. While horrified, I was also warmed by the community that supported me during this time, and knew that I had nothing but the best intentions as it related to my activism on the transborder sewage topic.
I later learned that a staunch supporter of the mayor made a public records request in IB to obtain my email to the IB City Manager used in the smear campaign against me, but this public records request was done months after the same email was improperly obtained and sent anonymously to the reporter at the Eagle.
If anyone is interested in the background events leading up to the 2018 smear campaign against me, it is published for the first time in the "P.S." below this letter. All of these efforts - i.e., improperly obtaining my email to the IB City Manager, sending the email with anonymous letter to reporter, later doing a public records request in IB to properly obtain the email, and then launching the email on Coronado's largest social media group and banning me, were all part of a concerted, multi-pronged, coordinated smear campaign by the "hit squad."
In addition to the well orchestrated smear campaign against me in 2018, the mayor and his hit squad have spent years assassinating my character on social media and to anyone who they feel will be receptive to listen. I routinely observe total strangers who don't even know me surface to personally attack my character on social media in the most horrible ways, and I am told they are staunch supporters of the mayor, so it's clear where they are getting their information. The mayor once told a friend of mine that he has "zero respect for Daron Case." Zero. It is a terrifying concept to know the mayor of your town not only has zero respect for you, but is actively engaged along with his hit squad in a multi-year ongoing character assassination against you, personally. This is one reason I have left all social media groups (except ones I administer) and will no longer post political content to social media. The local political climate is dangerous and terrifying.
Last week a Coronado resident questioned the mayor on his mayoral Facebook page about the $300M per the USMCA deal secured for transborder sewage remediation efforts in the Tijuana River Valley. The resident shared a related article I wrote months ago, and a staunch supporter of the mayor attacked the character and credibility of both the resident who shared my article and me, personally. I was home schooling my kids at the time when I was being personally and publicly attacked on the mayor's official mayoral Facebook page. The mayor and his campaign treasurer "liked" the personal attack against me and the resident who shared my article, which operates to endorse and encourage such personal attacks against residents. A day later, the resident who shared my article was the victim of a string of felony vandalism attacks at her home (i.e., 2 attacks over a 3 day period), which CPD believes were "targeted" attacks, as large potted plants were carried from a block away past other homes and windows and thrown thru plate glass windows of the resident's home. CPD was made aware of the social media attacks that occurred hours before the string of felony vandalism attacks targeted against the same resident. While we may never have conclusive evidence of any connection between the social media attacks and the targeted felony vandalism attacks against the same resident, to dismiss the possibility that such a connection exists would be irresponsible by both the public and CPD, and the effect these attacks have on the community is to frighten residents, causing many of them not to post political yard signs and to retreat from sharing local political views on social media. It is a chilling effect on the First Amendment in Coronado.
There are many other Coronado residents who have suffered personal attacks and character assassinations from the hit squad, however I will allow those residents to share their experiences if they choose to do so, and perhaps they will be inspired to come forward from my personal testimony in this article.
In conclusion, the question every resident should ask themselves, in light of the foregoing, is whether we want a mayor with a "hit squad" in Coronado. The answer from any conscientious resident must of course be a resounding "NO," and for that reason, I am calling for the voluntary resignation of the mayor, effective immediately. In the event the mayor does not resign, then the mayor should be recalled.
Daron A. Case, Esq.
P.S., as background information on what led to the 2018 hit squad smear campaign against me, in 2017 after Coronado decided not to join IB in its lawsuit against the IBWC, I publicly thanked Coronado (at a Council meeting and in network news media interviews) for their "Reimbursement Agreement" providing "up to" $50K of legal fee reimbursement to IB based on litigation milestones, and I considered the issue of Coronado joining the lawsuit done. However, I later learned the Reimbursement Agreement came with a gag order prohibiting IB from "criticizing" Coronado's approach to cross-border sewage, and an Imperial Beach elected official approached me months later as the leading Coronado sewage activist to make another effort to get Coronado to join the lawsuit, because, he said, the "Reimbursement Agreement" was not the help IB asked for nor wanted. They believed Councilman Benzian and Councilman Sandke were onboard to join the lawsuit but were outvoted by the rest of Council, and they suspected Councilman Donovan was the swing vote, so they asked me to meet with Donovan to explain to him IB doesn't want the Reimbursement Agreement but instead wants a united front and solidarity in the South Bay by having Coronado join the Port, Chula Vista and IB in their combined lawsuit against the IBWC. Along with another rep from Citizens Against Sewage, I met with Donovan, but he said Coronado will "stay the course" with their "diplomatic approach," UNLESS the City of IB rejected the Reimbursement Agreement, in which case they would reconsider joining the lawsuit. So I reported this information back to the elected official in IB, who told me IB city council had just voted in closed session to reject the Reimbursement Agreement, and he encouraged me to speak at a Coronado Council meeting to make one last effort to encourage Coronado to join the lawsuit, which I did... and I explained to Coronado City Council in a very matter of fact way that the Reimbursement Agreement is not the help IB asked for nor wanted, and they would like Coronado to please join the lawsuit for a united front and solidarity in the South Bay... and I explained IB was going to reject the Reimbursement Agreement. The problem, as I later learned, is that IB did not reject the Reimbursement Agreement... I subsequently learned, that after the closed council session in which IB voted to reject the Reimbursement Agreement, IB Mayor Serge Dedina called the IB City Manager and told him to hold off rejecting the Reimbursement Agreement, and they ultimately never rejected it. It is still unclear to this day how the mayor of IB unilaterally called off an approved action voted on in closed session of IB's city council. As a citizen activist, my time and energy are very valuable to me, and I was naturally upset at IB for not only wasting my time and energy, but lying to me and placing me in a compromising situation where I had publicly told Coronado City Council that IB was going to reject the Reimbursement Agreement (as was represented to me by the IB elected official), which was converted into a false statement by IB's failure to reject the Reimbursement Agreement. So the City of IB threw me under the bus, and then the Coronado mayor and his hit squad ran a smear campaign against me - even though I was only a victim of IB abusing a citizen activist as an expendable pawn with no regard whatsoever for my time & energy, or whether they damaged by credibility & reputation in my community. Below is the email used in the 2018 smear campaign against me, which should now have the proper context.
Resident letters submitted to Coronado Electorate News & Commentary (CEN&C) are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CEN&C. Submit letters to CoronadoElectorate@gmail.com