Alameda signature-gatherers hired by landlords could face criminal charges

The city of Alameda has received 51 affidavits alleging signature-gatherers paid by local landlords illegally misrepresented a proposed ballot measure intended to rollback recently-approved just cause tenant protections. The city is taking the charges seriously. According to a statement Tuesday from the city, it is consulting with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to discern whether any crimes have been committed.

The ballot initiative at the center of the complaints gained more than 7,300 signatures and was submitted last week to the clerk’s office for authentication. Just 4,808 valid signatures are needed to place the initiative on a future ballot.

If certified, the initiative could come before Alameda voters through an early special election the next municipal election in November 2018. The City Council could also rescind the just cause amendments it approved in early June, but it’s highly unlikely based on the current makeup of the council.

Numerous reports of signature-gatherers–many from out-of-town–badgering Alameda residents and, more specifically, offering prospective signers false information about the proposed initiative. One common falsehood, according to tenants’ advocates, is a depiction of the initiative as a repeal of rent control in Alameda.

In addition to the 51 affidavits, another 120 residents filed written complaints with the city clerk’s office to have their signatures withdrawn from the landlords’ petition, saying signature-gatherers misrepresented the proposed initiative to them.

The state election code makes it a misdemeanor for a signature-gatherer to intentionally misrepresent
or make false statements about the proposed initiative.

If any crimes are ultimately charged, it is unclear how it would affect the proposed initiative, but landlords who hired the accused signature-gatherers would be shielded from any legal jeopardy. That’s because the state election law only ascribes criminal liability to the signature-gatherer, not the company that employs them or the client.

Furthermore, the rancor between tenants’ advocates and signature-gatherers in Alameda may continue throughout the summer. A petition for a second initiative backed by landlords, this time one seeking to add the current rent stabilization ordinance to the city charter, was submitted to the city clerk two weeks ago.

6 thoughts on “Alameda signature-gatherers hired by landlords could face criminal charges

  1. My wife and I were both told l — separately I might add and by different signature-gatherers — that if we wanted to keep the recently passed just cause eviction protections in place we should sign the petition. That was a blatant misrepresentation of the truth.


  2. A Pryor, I was pointing out something the piece was missing. You are referring to something that was in the piece. In fact, it was in the first sentence.

    I haven't read the 51 affidavits or any one of them. Maybe you or Steve have read the actual affidavits themselves, because it is not clear from the City's press release that they all purport to evidence signature gatherer wrongdoing, as opposed to also covering anti-signature gatherer wrongdoing, complaints of which are also referenced in the City press release.


  3. The petition gatherer told me that the city had over-reached and made it so landlords had to pay moving costs for any eviction regardless of cause. Failure to pay. Damaging the premises, etc. And the petition was to reverse them.

    I honestly don't know if they had a clue what the petition was for. Just kept making up stories.


  4. Anonymous fails to mention the signed affidavits to remove people's names from the petition because the signed were lied too.


  5. Stephen –

    Let’s a few facts straight.

    First, let’s clarify what the purported complaints were about. They were not about signatures being collected on an “initiative” petition. No “initiative” was circulated. It was a referendum petition. They are different. An initiative typically seeks to enact a new law through a vote of the people (although it could seek to repeal a law that is already in effect). A referendum petition seeks to suspend a new City Council enactment before it goes into effect and require that it be repealed or put on the ballot so that voters can decide whether it is a good idea or not.

    Next, if the point of this piece was simply to paraphrase a City press release, you should take another run at that also. Here is the main selection from that City press release that your piece fails to capture the flavor of: “During the signature gathering period, the City received numerous complaints from individuals on BOTH sides of the issue…The City takes these allegations very seriously”. I highlighted the word BOTH because, if you haven’t figured it out yet, that was the part that seemed to be missing or omitted from your piece. I don’t need to highlight or explain the word “allegations” because I think you and your readers understand what that word means.
    Since you didn’t, I will supply a link to the actual City press release.


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