A Newport Beach resident is asking a judge to order that City Council candidate Fred Ameri’s birth name – Farrokh – be used on election materials.
The suit filed Monday by William Stewart in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that City Clerk Leilani Brown and Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley are misleading voters by allowing Ameri to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot using his widely known nickname, Fred, instead of Farrokh, his legal first name.
Ameri, a 19-year resident of the city, is running to replace termed-out Councilman Keith Curry, who represents District 7. He said he does not know Stewart and believes the issue of his name is meant to stroke fear and racism against him at the polls.
The former planning commissioner came to the U.S. from Iran when he was 19 to attend school, he said.
“Associating me to be an Iranian and associating me with the terrorist government of Iran is a dirty trick,” Ameri said.
Attorney Bruce Peotter, who represents Stewart and is the brother of Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter, disputed Ameri’s assertion that race is a factor in raising the issue of his name.
“It appears he wants to make race the issue,” Peotter said. “He simply needs to follow the law and use his real name.”
Also running for the seat are attorney Phil Greer and Finance Commissioner Will O’ Neill.
The lawsuit lists the Irvine Police Department, a notary public and a U.S. District Court clerk who processed Ameri’s naturalization papers as those who know Ameri as Farrokh, according to court documents.
The suit also references Ameri’s legal name for misdemeanor charges in 2004 for driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit, DUI and reckless driving that were dismissed the next year, according to court records.
Stewart is also requesting portions of Ameri’s candidate statement be removed for what he says are references to other candidates.
“I am personally providing the majority of my campaign’s funding, making me the only independent candidate,” the statement said.
Peotter said Ameri’s candidate statement should have only referred to his experience.
“The clerk should have prevented that because it’s against the law to refer to other candidates,” he said.
The California election code says the candidate statement should be limited to only the candidate’s own background and qualifications.
Ameri said everyone knows him by his nickname and that whoever is behind the lawsuit has intentions to mislead voters.
“I’ve lived in the country for more than 55 years and I’ve been using Fred since I was a teenager,” he said.
A court date is not yet scheduled on the matter.
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