An Alameda County Superior Court Judge has taken the first vote in the 2008 local general election, ruling that certain portions of AC Transit At Large Board challenger Joyce Roy’s submitted ballot statement were either false or misleading, and ordering them removed.
Judge Frank Roesch’s ruling last week was in response to a lawsuit filed by Alameda County resident William Rowen. Rowen was represented by Oakland attorney David Stein, while Roy represented herself.
Roy, a retired Oakland architect and public transportation advocate, is challenging AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples for Peeples’ At-Large board seat.
Among the statements Roesch ordered omitted from Roy’s ballot statement were that AC Transit’s controversial Van Hool bus purchases are “sending jobs overseas,” that they are being conducted with “no bids,” that the Van Hool buses are “untested,” “cost more than American buses,” and “are hated by most drivers.”
“We’re obviously pleased that the judge agreed with us and made the proper adjustment under the code,” Stein said by telephone following the verdict. Stein said that one of the reasons for the judge’s decision was that the statements at issue in Roy’s ballot statement “were allegations of a factual nature” rather than “political hyperbole,” and that Stein presented documents that refuted the factual allegations.
But Roy called the lawsuit “a dirty trick that is probably going to backfire. I think this is going to call more attention to the issues than if they had been included in my ballot statement.”
Roy has been the most persistent public critic of AC Transit’s growing relationship with Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool, while Peeples has been Van Hool’s most ardent supporter on the board. In recent years, AC Transit has been turning to Van Hool for purchase of much of its bus fleet, and the transit agency’s relationship with the bus manufacturer will be at the center of the Peeples-Roy election battle.
While Peeples identified Rowen as “a friend,” he said that the Rowen lawsuit “was not an official activity” of the Peeples campaign. Peeples said he did help provide Rowen with several AC Transit documents submitted with the lawsuit and brought Rowen in contact with a number of AC Transit officials who submitted declarations.
AC Transit Manager of Media Affairs Clarence Johnson said that AC Transit had “no official involvement” in the Rowen-Roy lawsuit, and that any documents provided to Rowen were given because “an individual from the public asked us to provide him with factual information.” Johnson also said that “any involvement in the lawsuit by AC Transit officials was done on an individual basis, rather than by the district itself.”
“As a public agency, we’re not allowed to have any involvement in political activity,” Johnson said by telephone shortly before the judge’s verdict was announced. “Whatever happens, we’ll live with the result.”