Lies about me and Play Outside Del Mar

I can accept personal abuse in a public forum and usually just let it slide. I believe what Teddy Roosevelt famously said: better to be “the man who is actually in the arena . . . whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood . . who spends himself in a worthy cause … who at the worst fails.” If I can be remembered that way, I’d be damn proud of it.

I’ve also felt compelled to set aside Heights’ issues in light of the global crisis unfolding.

But every principle has a limit – and today I reached it.

When Del Mar Heights’ PTA Executive Board Member Mike Milligan posted on Next Door Del Mar this afternoon that I was a member of the Save the Field organization and had hired the Procopio lawyers, I’d had enough. He even put me first on the list. (I’m not on Next Door but I was shown the post).

I won’t mince words: That’s a lie, Mike. A bald-faced lie. You should either stop lying about people in the community who are doing their best to improve it, or at least do your homework before you start libeling your neighbors and broadcasting it as far and wide as you possibly can.

I’m told Next Door took it down. But as Mark Twain said, a lie well-told is immortal, and this one is likely to achieve that status, even if it was temporary. Perhaps that was the intent all along, just to light the fuse.

Of course Mike re-grouped and reposted a different but equal lie that’s still there, saying John Gartman and Play Outside are opposed to the rebuilding of the school. That’s never been any less true than it is today – and we’ve all been public enough about it, over and over and over, at board meetings, in letters, and in the papers, that I don’t think anyone paying attention can plausibly claim it’s an innocent mistake.

And guess what? Mike wasn’t going to concede saying I was part of Save the Field, so he pasted that sentence about me and Play Outside opposing the rebuild in the middle of a paragraph in his new post that was about Save the Field. Here’s how it went. Sentence 1, the Save the Field founders were identified. Sentence 2, John Gartman and Play Outside were falsely said to oppose the rebuild. Sentence 3, Procopio lawyers are identified by name as having filed MND papers in the CEQA process. Me plopped in the middle to make it sound like John Gartman and Play Outside hired the Procopio lawyers rather than them being hired by the Save the Field organization. Either way, we’re all blended together, per Mike.

DMUSD leadership has been at the head of the pack, starting the whole lawsuit witch-hunt at their February board meeting, where board member Doug Rafner also falsely accused me of the same thing Mike did today – being the Procopio client and hiring the law firm. I called out this falsehood immediately in the Del Mar Times and noted the board was using the witch-hunt as a cover to avoid serious consideration of an excellent alternative school site design that would save the fields and blacktop. (Lost Opportunity at DMUSD Board Meeting)

But this week DMUSD leadership one upped their witch-hunt by falsely claiming Play Outside threatened them with a lawsuit, just by filing CEQA comments that are commonplace in large public projects. Click here to read our CEQA comments if you have not – the claim of an anticipated lawsuit by us is simply make believe, and I’m certain DMUSD leadership purposely made the claim just to throw fuel on the fire that the witches are dancing around. Let the hunt begin, we’ve now confirmed where you should steer your brooms.

And that’s how it went. Though I didn’t attend the short public portion of the board meeting, I did read the Del Mar Times article reporting on the meeting – which of course parroted the threat of litigation from the board agenda and latched onto the comments by various “Friends of Del Mar Heights” that spoke at the meeting. Though the bulk of their ire was directed at the Save the Field organization, Play Outside got swept up by affiliation, and is now even more deeply entrenched by Mike Milligan’s successive lies.

As reported by the Del Mar Times through the words of the Friends, Save the Field (and Play Outside by implication) were said to be:

  • acting for “personal benefit under the guise of multiple shell corporations”
  • trying to “financially capitalize on disruption”
  • “solely trying to trip up the district in a ‘gotcha’ kind of way”
  • making a “frivolous challenge” to CEQA
  • causing the children to “suffer”
  • “affronting every decent resident”

Seriously? Is it just too difficult to believe? – that the people of Play Outside Del Mar and others like us care about the fields and outdoor play spaces in our community, not just for ourselves in this sliver of a moment, but for everyone in our community for every moment, forever? Maybe those values we share with our neighbors are why we planted our roots here. Consider it.

What’s telling to me is that the Sierra Club and many others filed CEQA comments that raised the very same issues we raised, claiming the very same legal failures in the district’s MND – not identical, but much overlap – and neither the Sierra Club nor the other individuals were identified as threatening litigation at all. They weren’t highlighted on the agenda, their written comments weren’t attached, you wouldn’t even have known that they commented. (Click here for Sierra Club’s comments.)

Gee, wonder why? Could it be DMUSD leadership wanted only a couple targets for the witches to hunt, and if the public knew the whole truth – that the Sierra Club and others were saying the very same things in their written comments – that maybe, just maybe, they might not be “frivolous” arguments for “personal benefit” from people trying to “financially capitalize on disruption?” Yeah, I can see how that might have thrown some water on the witches’ fire.

It’s even more concerning that this witch-hunt is overshadowing the merits of the actual CEQA process that is designed to protect all of us in this community. This is particularly true for the Procopio law firm comments made on behalf of Save the Field that the board published with its agenda (click here). I fear those will just get swept under the rug in all the who-done-it rhetoric. I’ve studied their comments as I did those of the Sierra Club and they should be required reading if you care about the kids, the school, and community resources in Del Mar. They are anything but a ‘gotcha’, and address a whole lot more than just saving the fields.

Over the last few days, my character and motivations have been impugned without factual basis in emails broadcast throughout Del Mar and Carmel Valley, in flyers mailed to homes – even in emails broadcast using Del Mar Heights school email lists. Some of these were at the directive of another PTA Board member with instructions to room parents at the school to distribute them to every school parent, perhaps even district wide. And I’m not alone – it’s been my family, my friends, and implicitly all of you who have stood behind this effort at Play Outside.

For my wife and me, it started a month ago, with anonymous targeted emails from the Friends of Del Mar Heights, telling us that unless we signed a pledge, that in my opinion no responsible citizen who cared about government oversight would ever sign, they would “out” us among our community of friends.

I guess now, we know what they meant.

John Gartman
Play Outside Del Mar
(Founder, Chair, President, Secretary, and Treasurer)
A “shell free” California nonprofit public benefit corporation located in Del Mar, CA

One thought on “Lies about me and Play Outside Del Mar

  1. John, I am so sorry our community is behaving this way. I am deeply disturbed by the madness. While I’m sure this is no comfort, I appreciate your desire and efforts to hold our public school district accountable. I am grateful to the tremendous time, intellect and emotion invested by you to preserve this precious play space for future generations.


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