By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

As of this post, San Juan Capistrano City Council candidate Howard Hart was still waiting on a decision from the Libertarian Party of Orange County regarding its endorsement of his political rival, John Alpay, after Alpay alleged Hart had violated the Hatch Act.

The Hatch Act is a United States federal law that, in general terms, prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in some forms of political activity. Alpay’s complaint asserts the violation is because Hart is an employee of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and because Alpay was endorsed by the Libertarian Party of California and Orange County, thereby making the City Council race—traditionally nonpartisan—a partisan election.

John Alpay and Howard Hart are candidates in what has become a contentious City Council race. Graphic: Chelsie Rex

The Libertarian Party of Orange County (LPOC) had previously hoped to come to a decision early this week regarding its endorsement.

“We continue to wait, and we’ll forward their decision to the Office of Special Counsel,” Hart said.

David Naranjo, chair for LPOC, previously told The Capistrano Dispatch that voting members would likely decide on Alpay’s endorsement privately. Alpay had not responded to requests for comment as of this post.

Alpay’s endorsement from the state party was deemed null and void on Oct. 5 during an Executive Committee meeting of the party. Chair Mimi Robson was under the “misguided impression” that Alpay, initially not registered as a Libertarian, had changed his registration to Libertarian and was qualified for the endorsement. Robson says she later learned Alpay was not registered as a Libertarian and contacted him for proof of his change of registration. He then submitted proof of the change that was made on Sept. 18.

Hart has removed campaign signs and disabled campaign accounts on social media since the allegation, and said a recommendation of action from the Office of Special Counsel—with whom Alpay filed the complaint—likely depends on LPOC’s decision.

Hart and Alpay are the candidates for the seat in District 5 currently held by Brian Maryott, who is running in the 49th Congressional District race against incumbent Rep. Mike Levin. Hart is still on the ballot.

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