City Hall Confidential
In an election cycle that had more than its fair share of ugliness, one bit of campaign chicanery stands out: An e-mail from a “J Hayes” of the Taxpayer Network attacking Councilwoman-elect Beverly Johnson that urged recipients to contact her at her home address.
The e-mail was upsetting to Johnson for one reason in particular: Her husband is a police officer whose address is for safety reasons legally exempt from disclosure (elected officials like Johnson are legally entitled to the same protection). So she’s asked Alameda police to look into who sent the original e-mail and also to investigate a recipient who forwarded it on to local reporters and bloggers.
Sgt. Jill Ottaviano, who called the e-mail piece “nasty,” said the department would be looking into the intent of whoever sent the original e-mail (Ottaviano also contacted Jon Spangler, who forwarded the e-mail and others like it to The Island and other media outlets in what he said was an attempt to alert them to electoral misdeeds). She said she’d also consulted with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, and they told Ottaviano that including Johnson’s address in an e-mail would be illegal if it was done with intent to threaten or intimidate.
City Attorney Teresa Highsmith sent the recipients of Spangler’s forwarded e-mail an e-mail of her own last Friday saying Johnson’s address couldn’t be published without her written consent and that she hadn’t consented to the publication of her address and demanding that any publication or republication of the address cease.
The code section Highsmith cited, California Government Code 6254.21, states that no one may post public officials’ addresses on the Internet “intending to cause imminent great bodily harm that is likely to occur or threatening to cause imminent great bodily harm to that individual” or if the person has made a written demand not to disclose it. Violators could face fines, and more if an official or family member is harmed by the disclosure of their address.
Johnson expressed anger over Spangler’s forwarding of the e-mail, though she conceded that follow-up e-mails Spangler sent her convinced her he was only seeking to highlight what he thought was inappropriate campaign behavior.
“If you’re going to play with the big boys, you better be careful and know the rules,” Johnson said of Spangler.
Spangler, who confirmed to City Hall Confidential that he’d been contacted by police earlier this week, expressed disappointment in Johnson’s reaction to what he said were innocent efforts.
“This reaction on the part of Mayor Johnson and the City Attorney represents a complete and total misunderstanding of why I forwarded the anti-Johnson e-mail to you earlier today, just as I forwarded previous e-mails to you that attacked Doug deHaan and Frank Matarrese,” Spangler told reporters and bloggers. “I believe that you all properly understood my purposes, none of which were malevolent.”
The election that just ended had to be one of the most researched events in Alameda history. No fewer than seven tracking polls were conducted (not including push polls). City Hall Confidential has obtained e-mails showing that at least three of the polls were paid for by developer Ron Cowan (the last of which appears to have been done to aid Johnson and mayoral hopeful Frank Matarrese).
The most recent poll, conducted by EMC Research from October 22-25, showed eventual winner Marie Gilmore as a clear favorite in the mayoral raise and Johnson, Rob Bonta and Lena Tam as the clear favorites for the council.
Taken together, the three polls appeared to provide an accurate portrait of how the race progressed, with Gilmore’s support climbing from September and through both October polls. The October polls, taken both before and after most of the Taxpayer Network’s mailers targeting Matarrese, Johnson and Vice Mayor Doug deHaan were sent out, show no erosion of support for the targets of those pieces. But it’s unclear what effect they had on the undecided voters.
Interestingly, an earlier poll conducted from October 11-13 showed voters were “unsure who will keep SunCal out.” DeHaan was seen as the most virulently anti-SunCal, with 18 percent of respondents identifying him as strongest anti-SunCal voice, while Matarrese and Gilmore came in at 10 percent and 8 percent respectively. More than half the poll’s respondents – 53 percent – had no opinion on the matter.
More on those DHS letters
A number of commenters questioned the motives behind letters I wrote about in my last column which were sent by former Desert Hot Springs council members Hank Hohenstein and Mary Stephens to the City Council. The letters detailed their experiences with Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant. Some commenters questioned whether SunCal had a hand in the letters being sent, while others pointed to a Fair Political Practices Commission judgment against Hohenstein in 2009 as evidence that he might have an ax to grind with Gallant, who briefly ran the city. (The FPPC fined Hohenstein $18,000 for making decisions while on the Desert Hot Springs council that may have increased the value of property he owned.)
I was finally able to reach Hohenstein by e-mail after the column ran, and I asked whether his troubles with the FPPC involved or were connected to Gallant in any way; he said they weren’t. He said the actions that got him in trouble had taken place before Gallant was in Desert Hot Springs, and the FPPC complaint was filed after she had left.
After the piece ran, Gallant – who didn’t respond to our request for comment before the item ran – sent an e-mail to City Council members and staff that said, “Am sure you have now seen the blog research on at least one of the two former DHS Councilmembers who wrote the letters. I anticipate more information on their past actions and affiliations will follow. Think you will all find it quite interesting. “