Smith Charged With Election Law Violation: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday October 15, 2004

A veteran candidate for city council made a rookie mistake last month that has been brought to the attention of the city’s election monitors. 

Norine Smith, the challenger to Councilmember Betty Olds in District 6, must appear before the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission next Thursday to answer charges that she violated Berkeley election law. 

The complaint filed by Mark Berger, the husband of Olds’ legislative aide Susan Wengraf, alleges that Smith illegally used her personal credit card to pay for over $1,600 in photocopying services.  

City election rules prohibit candidates from mixing personal funds with campaign funds. For the purchase to have been legal, Smith would have had to make a check out to her campaign fund and waited for it to clear, or opened a separate credit card account. 

If she is found to have violated the law, Smith could face “a legal remedy” according to the notice sent to her from the city attorney’s office. 

Deputy City Attorney Prasanna Rasiah refused to comment on the charges or possible sanctions. 

Smith, who reported the error in her campaign filing, admitted making a mistake, but questioned why the Olds campaign would bother filing charges against her. 

“It’s harassment,” Smith said. “They know I walk the district and if I’m distracted by this I won’t be ringing doorbells.” 

Smith, who lost to Olds by nearly a 3-1 margin in District 6 four years ago, is also considered the underdog this year. 

Olds insisted she was unaware that Berger had filed a complaint, but didn’t understand why Smith would be surprised by the challenge. 

“It was a pretty dumb thing to do,” she said. “The first thing the instructions say is don’t use your own credit cards.” 

Smith, who has raised $1,115 compared to Olds’ $14,000, said she would consider lending her campaign additional funds if contributions didn’t pick up.