UNIVERSITY AVENUE – The manager of a University Avenue auto shop is complaining that Laura Lothian piled up trash Monday in a vacant lot so she could take photographs for her campaign. In an e-mail complaint to Mayor Art Madrid’s campaign, the manager at Jason’s Auto Garage at 7643 University Avenue, said employees of the shop watched as Lothian and two men gathered up litter and put it in piles for the photo. They said the trio also took trash from an embankment above and hung it from the wall to make conditions look worse. A photo of the scene showed up on Lothians website, www.lamesalaura.com
, hours later and they said undermined efforts the auto shop was making to improve the neighborhood.
“They decided to kick around the already present trash into piles in front of her feet, pull trash down from the embankment to hang over the brick wall to make the matter appear even worse than they are,’’ the manager, Michele Tackett, said in the-mail. “She had them film her for several minutes and then jumped into her BMW and drove away. Now I am sitting here at my desk overlooking the piles of trash, as well as my customers in our waiting area that (has) 4 large windows that face the lot. If this was her way of showing how she CARES for this community, she failed miserably. Her and those two men could have spent maybe an extra 3 minutes and truly made a difference by disposing the trash instead of kicking it around into heaps for filming.’’
Tackett did not return phone calls Tuesday night, but her boss, Jason Sohal, confirmed she had sent the e-mail chronicling the events at his shop.
Lothian, reached at her birthday party with friends, said in a text message: "I promise you from the bottom of my soul that trash is absolutely legitimate. It's been there for months if not years.''
Lothian has continually criticized Madrid and his administration for not aggressively attacking litter and graffiti in the city. She has argued that attacking, litter, graffitti and crime more effectively will improve the image of La Mesa and improve the quality of life here. Her campaign theme, “It’s time to clean house,’’ has irritated Madrid, a 20-year-veteran of the mayor’s post who says Lothian is exaggerating the litter and crime situation in the city for political gains.
Madrid’s campaign said gathering up trash was a distortion; leaving it there was bad politics.
“I and my kitchen cabinet will talk about this and then we’ll go over there tomorrow and pick up those piles she made,’’ Madrid said.
Madrid and his campaign supporters say they believe Lothian should remove the set-up photo from her website.