A couple weeks ago, I started a new series about rules for running for Mayor of Oakland. Today I’ll share the third rule and will continue with this series in the coming weeks and months.
Rule #3: Do not do anything that is or appears to be illegal or unethical
Sounds pretty obvious, right? I thought so too, until both candidates and/or their supporters broke this rule.
Jean Quan made a huge mistake by using her City email list to announce her candidacy and ask for support and funding. Why is this problematic? The accumulation of email addresses and the maintenance of that list is done by her council staffers, who are paid by the City. Though I doubt that City staff time was used to write her mayoral announcement, hours of staff time were spent on the email list, and the law makes it clear that this is illegal.
What’s worse is that in her attempt to explain that her Council office and campaign are separate, she violated the law again. In her weekly newsletter following the campaign announcement, she wrote this:
Reminder: In our office we need to keep our City Council work separate from campaign activities for Mayor. Please do not contact our City Hall office or city email for those communications, please use our temporary website or Facebook for those communications.
By linking to her websites, she again used a list cultivated through staff time to promote her campaign.
Don Perata and his supporters have also undertaken questionable actions in the past several weeks. As I mentioned last week, Perata is trying to stop instant runoff voting (IRV) from being implemented in 2010. I don’t know what his real reasoning is behind this – maybe he thinks IRV is a terrible idea or has valid concerns about the 2010 implementation plan. But the appearance of his actions is that he’s trying to make it more difficult for Jean Quan or anyone else to run against him, since he has an advantage in a June election, both in name recognition and funding. Perata and other candidates should think twice next time before taking an action that appears to be so self-serving.
Then, last week, Perata’s supporters made a similar mistake to the one Jean Quan made, by using an event that was promoted through City staff time to publicly endorse Perata. At the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) meeting with Chief Anthony Batts, the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) announced its endorsement of Perata. Flyers for the meeting were produced by City staff and many staff members were there. Several of the event organizers and attendees were understandably disturbed that a community meeting had been turned into a campaign event. Perata said he did not know that the OPOA had planned to endorse him that evening, but the OPOA should have known better.
Via the Oakland Tribune, the City is looking into whether violations were made:
“It is a violation of city policy and state law to use city resources or city work time for political purposes,” City Administrator Dan Lindheim said in a statement. “While any group has the right to endorse whomever they choose for political office, the Oakland Police Officers Association decision to co-opt a city-sponsored community event and use it for political purposes raises serious concerns.”
Lindheim said he would conduct an investigation to determine “whether disciplinary or other action is appropriate.” He did not have figures on how much money was spent by the city on the event and said he did not know how long the investigation would take.
I’m glad Lindheim is following up on this, but he should also launch a similar investigation into Jean Quan’s campaign email and her follow-up “clarification” in her newsletter. And Quan and Perata should make sure that incidents like this do not happen again.