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Kavanagh Takes Leave From City Rent Board

By Judith Scherr
Friday October 05, 2007

Accused by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office of lying about where he lives to maintain his seat on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Rent Board Member Chris Kavanagh stepped down temporarily from his post while he battles the charges in court. 

Kavanagh, 49, pleaded not guilty at his Sept. 27 arraignment in Oakland Superior Court. He faces five felonies relating to election fraud. 

“He’s voluntarily stepping down,” Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian told the Daily Planet Tuesday. Kelekian said he had encouraged Kavanagh to do so. 

Kavanagh made his decision public in an Oct. 2 letter addressed to Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin, in which he said that continuing to sit on the board had become “a distraction … and risk[s] impacting the critical work and mission of the Rent Stabilization Board.”  

Kavanagh requested the leave between Oct. 2 and the end of the year. “I will return to the board if the charges are resolved before the end of the year,” Kavanagh wrote in the letter, further asking for his $500 board stipend to be held in escrow. 

That stipend was the target of a grand theft charge against Kavanagh, accusing him of illegally accepting the stipend and benefits accorded by the city.  

Other charges include registering to vote where he is not eligible; voting where he is not eligible to vote; filing false nominating papers and perjury. Kavanagh was arrested by Oakland police Sept. 21 and freed on $30,000 bail two days later. 

“I continue to believe that when all the facts are presented that I will be cleared of the charges and allowed to continue representing the citizens of Berkeley,” Kavanagh wrote. 

Kavanagh is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court Oct. 26 to have a preliminary hearing date set.  

At issue is a cottage on 63rd Street where Kavanagh’s name is on the lease. The question of Kavanagh’s residency was sent to the district attorney in 2003, but the office did not charge him at the time. Kavanagh’s possible residency in Oakland came to light again this year when a new owner of the 63rd Street property attempted to evict Kavanagh from the property. 

Kavanagh has told rent board members that he lives in Berkeley and that his girlfriend lives in Oakland. 

Local Green Party members put out a statement last month calling on Green Party member Kavanagh to step down immediately if he was not a Berkeley resident.  

Reached Thursday, School Board member John Selawsky, one of the signatories of the September statement, said the party steering committee had not met to formulate a collective response.  

Speaking for himself, he said he was disappointed that the issue is still unresolved. “He has a right to his day in court,” Selawsky said, adding, however, that he believes public officials should be held to higher standards than private citizens.