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The owner of the Santa Monica Observer, a weekly newspaper, is the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by the City Attorney's Office, which claims the owner engaged in false advertising and was operating a business without the proper license. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — Newspapers might hold themselves out as disseminators of the truth but one local publication is in hot water for allegedly engaging in false advertising.

The City Attorney’s Office on Tuesday announced it filed an unlawful business practices lawsuit against David Ganezer, the publisher of the Santa Monica Observer, accusing him of making deceitful statements through the newspaper and Web site, including that it is authorized to post legal notices and that his other businesses can offer legal services.

The Observer is not an adjudicated publication and Ganezer was disbarred from practicing law in California in 2001.

Ganezer did not respond to a call seeking comment. His corporations include the Santa Monica Media Company LLC, Ivory Towers LDA LLC and the SM Outlook, LLC.

In a complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 8, Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades stated the Observer claims in its print edition that it is a newspaper of general circulation in Santa Monica and Los Angeles County, which is required to receive authority to publish legal notices, citing a court case.

But Rhoades alleges that the adjudication in the referenced court case was not granted to Ganezer but instead for a corporation of a newspaper that no longer exists.

The June 15-21 edition of the Observer has pages and pages of DBAs and other legal notices, including for trustee sales.

Rhoades said the lawsuit will not cover the issue of the DBAs and whether those that have been published are legally binding since the newspaper is allegedly not adjudicated.

The City Attorney’s Office has received numerous complaints about the business and even attempted to contact Ganezer about taking corrective action.

“We’ve given him a chance to prove these things to us,” Rhoades said.

The lawsuit also accuses Ganezer of operating without a business license, committing perjury on his application for a business license, and providing legal documentation assistance services without registration.

He faces a penalty of $2,500 per unlawful act, which could end up being costly.

Rhoades said that the Observer’s claim that it is authorized to publish legal notices is printed on each issue. He plans to ask the judge to impose that penalty per issue, possibly going back several years.

The newspaper publishes weekly.

Penalties could also come in the other allegations listed in the suit.

The lawsuit also claims that through his Web site, Ganezer suggests a lawyer be consulted for matters related to intellectual property, linking another Web site under the heading “consult with an attorney,” which leads to www.fictitious-business.com, a site owned by Ganezer’s other business, mydba.com.

Rhoades said that two days after the lawsuit was served, the Web site for another business — Easy Legal Services — was taken down.

According to the California Bar Association, Ganezer landed in trouble for mishandling his firm’s trust accounts.

The Observer has been accused of deceptive practices by users of the Ripoff Report and has received an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Nancy Tiep, who with her husband Darin owns Party Land in Santa Monica, said that she paid Ganezer $400 to file incorporation papers at the end of 2006. The couple contacted the Observer several times when they noticed that the papers had not been filed.

“The phone calls were never returned,” she said. “When he returned calls, he always had a lie handy that it will take a week, take this and that.”

The Tieps ended up filing the documents themselves just a few months later.

“I would be absolutely thrilled if they go after this person,” Nancy Tiep said.

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