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New: Former Berkeley Mayor Dean Charges Candidate Capitelli with Violating State Campaign Law

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday October 30, 2012 - 06:25:00 PM

At today’s meeting of Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission, more charges of illegal practices by campaigns for Berkeley’s November 6 election were filed.

Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean sent a letter to the Commission alleging that the Re-Elect Laurie Capitelli for City Council 2012 Committee violated state law by featuring a photo of a police officer in uniform on a District 5 campaign mailer. Dean said that this is “a clear and misleading violation of State Law California Government Code Title 1, Division 4, Chapter 9.5, Section 3206” which states that “No officer or employee of a local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform.”

She said that the photo of the officer pictured on the mailer in uniform and with badge and weapon was “taken on the steps of the City of Berkeley Ronald T. Tsukamoto Public Safety Building” and thus “misleads the reader into believing the officer is a City of Berkeley employee.” A copy of the mailer was attached to her complaint.

The caption under the photo says that “My son has been a police officer …for over 15 years.” Presumably the person in the photo is Capitelli’s son; the mailer does not say where he works. 

Attached to Dean’s letter is a copy of a news article about similar charges filed last February against L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca, who admitted that he broke state law by “making a political endorsement while in uniform.” 

Dean’s letter also charged that Capitelli’s mailer claimed that Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had endorsed Capitelli. She said that “this candidate does not have the endorsement of the SEIU and including that organization as an endorser is fraudulent.” She attached a copy of the SEIU website endorsement list which said that neither candidate in Berkeley’s District 5 race was endorsed. 

This is the same complaint that former Planning Commission Chair Zelda Bronstein filed against the committee supporting Yes on Measure T, which Capitelli endorses. 

The commission decided to postpone until after the election consideration of this complaint, and of another by Planning Commissioner Patricia Dacey charging that a slate mailer organization (SMO), Berkeley Tenants United For Fairness (TUFF), has used a major portion of the $25,000 in large contributions ostensibly given in opposition to Measure U (the Sunshine Ordinance), to finance two mailers supporting four rent board candidates on the TUFF in violation of the Berkeley law which limits individual contributions to candidates to $250. 

The Berkeley Firefighters Union has released a statement re-affirming their endorsement of incumbent Capitelli's opponent, Sophie Hahn, and denying rumors that she's agreed to give them any special consideration in return for being endorsed.