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Rent Board Member Free on Bail

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday September 25, 2007

Kavanagh Will Plead Not Guilty 


Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board member Chris Kavanagh, charged with five felony counts related to voter fraud, perjury and collecting city funds under false pretenses, will plead not guilty and he will not step down from his office, Kavanagh’s attorney James Giller told the Daily Planet Monday. 

Kavanagh was arrested Friday near the 63rd Street cottage in Oakland, where he is alleged to live and has been free on $30,000 bail since Saturday night, according to his attorney, James Giller.  

He will be arraigned Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse, Dept. 112. 

Questions about whether Kavanagh, 49, an elected official, lives in Oakland or Berkeley surfaced earlier this year when new landlords Lynn and Pat Tidd attempted to evict Kavanagh from the 63rd Street cottage in Oakland, where his name is on the lease. 

Kavanagh has told fellow rent board members that he lives in Berkeley but has a girlfriend in Oakland. 

Similar questions concerning Kavanagh’s residence had been sent to the Alameda County district attorney’s office by the Berkeley city attorney in 2003, but the district attorney had declined to charge him at the time. Chief Assistant D.A. Nancy O’Malley told the Daily Planet on Monday that new evidence in the case had led to her office’s filing charges at this time.  

Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, who spoke to the Planet Friday afternoon, said Kavanagh is charged with five felonies: registering to vote where he is not eligible; voting where he is not eligible to vote; filing false nominating papers; and perjury and grand theft, relating to having accepted a stipend and health benefits as a rent board member. 

Giller said Kavanagh plans to plead not guilty. “I haven’t seen the evidence,” he said. 

A $100,000 bail was originally set improperly before the D.A. formally filed the complaint, Giller said, noting that Kavanagh was originally booked on more charges than were actually filed. 

Kavanagh was freed Saturday night on $30,000 bail, according to his attorney James Giller. He would have been out earlier had there not been a paperwork snafu. “They either lost [the paper work] or took a long time to find it,” Giller said.  

“[Thirty thousand dollars] is the regular bail for the charges filed,” Giller said, further noting that his client was, in error, directed to report to the Renee Davidson Courthouse for arraignment Monday morning, which he did.  

Once there, he was told he needed to go to the Wiley Manual Courthouse on Thursday, which he plans to do, according to Giller. 

Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin said he has been in discussions with Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian on what steps the rent board should take in the matter. 

“We’ve talked about putting his stipend [$500 per month] into an escrow account until the case is resolved,” Arreguin said. He added that as chair he has the power to remove Kavanagh from the board committees on which he sits. 

“I haven’t seen the evidence,” Arreguin said. 

The board does not have the power to remove Kavanagh, Arreguin added. 

The landlord at the 63rd Street cottage, Lynn Tidd, alerted the press by e-mail to Kavanagh’s arrest on Friday, saying: “We had the pleasure of watching Chris Kavanagh arrested this morning shortly after leaving his home of six years, 338 63rd St. His home will be searched within the hour.” 

In a phone interview Friday afternoon, Tidd told the Planet that she had helped alert police to when Kavanagh was at the house since, she said, he had been observed there infrequently over the last couple of weeks.  

At about 6 a.m. Friday, Kavanagh “was walking up 63rd Street getting coffee. Police walked up to him and put him in a police car,” said Tidd, who lives in a unit in front of the house and observed the arrest.