Former OC GOP Chairman Denies Lake Forest Councilman Offered Him Cash

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Former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh has denied allegations that Lake Forest Councilman Adam Nick tried to give him cash in a not-so-subtle attempt to buy influence.

However, Baugh confirmed in an email to Mayor Scott Voigts, who first made the allegation, that Nick tried to hire him for “political or legal advice” while he was party chairman. Baugh said he turned down Nick’s offer because it would have constituted a conflict of interest.

“How Mr. Voigts could take that conversation and suggest that Nick offered me cash for anything is astounding to me,” Baugh wrote in an email, referring to Voigts’ comments in a Voice of OC article.“Then, to wrap the false fact about cash into a suggestion that Nick was trying to bribe me is compounded irresponsibility that maybe defamatory.”

Baugh did not return a reporter’s call for comment on Voigts’ claims before the article was published. And Baugh has not contacted Voice of OC to seek a correction or a clarification regarding the allegations since the article was published. Voice of OC obtained Baugh’s email, which was addressed to Voigts, Nick and current GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker, through a Public Records Act request.

Also included in the email is conservative blogger Jon Fleischman, who according to Baugh was present at the meeting in which Nick offered to hire Baugh.

When contacted by Voice of OC regarding the email, Voigts said that he had a “miscommunication” with Baugh about the incident. But Voigts stood by other claims he made regarding Nick’s activities, including an allegation that he turned down an offer of cash from Nick.

The Voice of OC article, published Aug. 12, chronicled a series of allegations by Nick’s council colleagues and others that he has repeatedly attempted to buy influence through offers of payments, mostly in cash, that in some instances have been characterized as bribes.

In addition to his claims regarding Baugh, Voigts also said that Nick offered cash or bribes to councilmen Andrew Hamilton and Dwight Robinson and former Councilwoman Kathryn McCullough.

Hamilton and Robinson confirmed Voigts’ allegations that Nick had tried to give them cash for their council campaigns, and that they rejected the offers. Robinson confirmed Nick’s offer in an interview with Voice of OC, and Hamilton confirmed the same during a public council meeting.

McCullough also confirmed two instances in which she claims that Nick attempted to bribe her. Nick offered to match her council stipends in exchange for her resignation from the council, McCullough said.

Nick says Voigts and others have mischaracterized his offers and claimed ignorance of the law when it comes to giving cash or bribes to public officials. He said the offer to McCullough wasn’t a bribe because he made it after the city attorney falsely advised him that the offer would be legal. He also claims he didn’t know that candidates couldn’t accept cash for their campaigns, or that it is inappropriate to offer money to a reporter working on a story about Lake Forest politics.

Nick also claims that he indeed offered Voigts cash, and that Voigts took the offer. He gave Voigts almost $3,000 in unreported campaign contributions, all in cash, Nick said.

It is illegal under the state’s Political Reform Act for candidates to accept campaign contributions in cash.

Beyond refuting Voigts comments regarding Nick’s offer, Baugh’s email also scolds Voigts and Nick and says Whitaker “may want to put the two of you in a room to teach you about taking fights too far and too public and creating collateral damage to innocent people.”

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek