Belle ballot statement lie case continued to December, may change plea or face trial

By Allen Payton

The latest court hearing in the Contra Costa District Attorney’s case against Contra Costa County School Board Member Jeff Belle, over a lie on his ballot his statement in 2014, was held on Monday, October 17th.  However, according to Deputy D.A. Steve Moawad, “it was put over” and “the next court date is December 15th.”

At that hearing, Belle will have to either change his plea from not guilty or the judge will set a date for trial, Moawad explained.

Belle was charged with lying on his candidate’s statement in his campaign for school board in 2014, for writing that he had a college degree, when he had not yet obtained one. That fact was revealed in an interview with this reporter for an article posted on the Herald website.

If convicted, the maximum penalty for lying on a ballot statement is a fine of $1,000. Belle represents Area 5 on the county school board, which includes most of Antioch.

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5 Comments to “Belle ballot statement lie case continued to December, may change plea or face trial”

  1. Michelle white says:

    Allen has gone after Jeff Belle and Wade Harper. But has left Chrystal Sawyer-White alone who lists herself as a teacher when she is not one. Biased paper continues to trash candidates he does not support.chrystal does not have her credentials

    • Publisher says:

      Ms. White,

      First, thank you for reading the Herald.

      Second, I must inform you that what you wrote is simply untrue.

      First of all, we don’t “go after” anyone. We aren’t usually the ones who initiate investigative news articles. Rather they’re a result of what others provide to us or questions they ask to which we don’t have the answers on important matters. Frankly, we don’t have the time or staff to pursue all the things we are either told or learn about.

      When it comes to candidates for and those in public office saying and/or doing something that is questionable we will challenge them on it.

      As for Jeff Belle, he and I were friends and he actually had written articles which I published on this website, prior to him becoming a candidate. I was also supportive of his campaign, initially. In fact, as part of his advertising in our print edition, I was the one who helped the graphic artist design Belle’s campaign logo and it was my idea to include the school bell in it. I also gave him the idea for his website address of “jeffschoolbelle.com”.
      But, later in the campaign, as more and more of the allegations against him were proven true, while giving him the opportunity to give his side of the story, I was the one to whom he revealed that he had lied on his ballot statement, during an interview with him. I didn’t know it at the time I added the information from the interview to the investigative article that our reporter at that time, John Crowder, had written. It was only later that week when I read Belle’s ballot statement that I saw he’d included that he had a college degree. In his interview with me he admitted he didn’t. Even in his explanation for not having one, he lied again, stating he had done all the course work but just hadn’t paid the remaining fees to the college. The fact is he was 20 units short of obtaining a degree. Plus, according to his wife, the fees were paid, last year (out of her tax refund) and as far as I know he still doesn’t have his college degree to this day. He also had to stop pursuing his Master’s degree as a result, once that college learned that he didn’t have an undergraduate degree.

      I am continuing to cover the District Attorney’s prosecution of Belle for lying on his ballot statement, not because I dislike or don’t support the man. It’s because it’s a crime and I believe it’s important to our readers and the voters. They have a right to know.

      I’ve actually advised Jeff to just admit he lied – because it’s so blatantly obvious – pay the fine and get this behind him and focus on serving in his position on the county school board for which the voters elected him to do, and quit wasting taxpayer money. He’s chosen to ignore that advice and continue to waste taxpayer money on this needless court process – which, yes, he does have a right to. I feel a personal responsibility to cover this, whether anyone else in the media does or not, because of my direct connection to the matter. Frankly, I’d rather not have to and would love to spend my time on other issues. But Belle is the one who keeps dragging this matter out. I will continue to cover the matter until it reaches a conclusion.

      We’ve written about Mayor Harper more than his challengers because he’s the incumbent and has to defend his record. Plus, he has made statements that aren’t backed up with fact and worse, he’s made commitments he hasn’t kept, multiple times since the time he applied for the appointment to the Antioch School Board in 2008. We have been quite fair to him by reporting the facts about his record in public office. The Fact Check article I wrote about his term as mayor actually confirmed and supported in part, one of the things he said in his campaign announcement, which is that crime has come down during his term. That’s actually true in some of the more serious crime categories, which are known as Part I crimes, and are what are reported on the Police Department’s webpage and to the FBI.

      I pursued the matter of Harper using the term “Retired Policeman” based on information shared with me, first by a resident, and then others, that he hadn’t retired from police work, but that he had resigned from his career before being eligible for retirement. That proved true. The timing of the article had to do with a 10-day period for challenging a candidate’s ballot designation which can only be done by another candidate, according to county elections officials. We published it on the Friday before the challenge period the following Monday.

      The problem isn’t with our coverage of the Mayor, it’s the fact he doesn’t like being questioned or challenged, and as a result falsely called the Herald biased. Then in response started his own, clearly biased, self-promoting website for what he calls “Fair and Positive News.” As I told him, that’s not a news site. It’s an information and PR site. It’s also a spin site, so he can spin things the way he wants people to read about them. I believe people see through that. Frankly, I find it embarrassing. Also, as I’ve told him, if he would stop making statements that aren’t backed up by the facts, and quit making commitments that he doesn’t fulfill, we would have less to write about him.

      It’s not a matter of hating the man or not supporting him. I disagree with what he’s done in office and the lack of results, the overpromising and underdelivering, and false self-promotion and spin he attempts to put on issues. He promised us 22 more police if we passed Measure C. We did. Yet, during the two years since the collections of $5.5 million more in sales tax revenue to the city we have only 4 additional police officers. That’s a fact the public has a right to know. What did he say in campaign announcement? That the City had hired 41 new officers since the passage of Measure C. What he didn’t say was that the City has lost 37 during that same time. Do you think that’s being honest and fulfilling his commitment on this matter? Do you think by challenging him on it and reporting what actually has occurred is “going after” him? I don’t.

      Now, as for Crystal Sawyer-White’s ballot designation of “Teacher,” I did pursue that and questioned it with the County Elections office – on my own, once I read her campaign announcement, which we published on this website. I wanted to know whether she can use that title since she doesn’t yet have her credential. I checked into her position with the Mt. Diablo School District about her title of Parent Education Teacher. I also called the leader of the Antioch Education Association, which is the local teachers’ union, asking him if it’s acceptable for someone without a credential to use the title of “teacher.” He said he wasn’t sure. Yet, non-credentialed faculty in Antioch schools are referred to as teachers. So, there’s nothing to challenge there and therefore no article to write or publish. If one of her opponents wanted to make an issue out of it, they could have at any of the candidate forums – had they shown up.

      I also pursued a matter on another candidate for local office, this year, based on information provided by one of their opponents. It turned out to be not that big of a deal. So, no article was necessary. That candidate who shared the information with me was free to bring up the matter against his opponent. But chose not to.

      It’s our job in the media to hold those in and candidates for public office accountable to what they say and do. It appears you agree with that role we have. But, it also appears you want us to be selective and only go after those you think we should investigate those you want us to and not others. We try not to play favorites. In fact, I’ve lost friendships with some current and former officeholders and candidates, as well as their supporters, because of reporting the facts to the public about those officeholders or candidates, and what they’ve done in office. While unfortunate, it’s part of what comes with the job of being in the media. As long as it’s factual and accurate, the problem is theirs, not ours if they get their feeling hurt, are offended, are upset and don’t like being held accountable. What they should do is just admit what they’ve said or done and work to correct it in the future.

      Back to your comment, in the future, I encourage you to get your facts straight before making a false allegation against me or anyone else. You could have simply asked the question why haven’t we written about Crystal Sawyer-White using the ballot designation of “teacher” when she doesn’t have a credential and I could have answered that for you. Instead, you chose to level a false accusation.

      You might want to rethink how you want to engage others in the political process.

      Allen Payton

      • RJB says:

        “It’s our job in the media to hold those in and candidates for public office accountable to what they say and do.”

        That sums it up perfectly. I urge others out there to do the same and stop being butt-hurt when someone calls out your so called “hero” or “heroine” of Antioch. Geez…

  2. R-J-B says:

    Glad to know the wheels of justice are turning, be it slowly. I still can’t understand why would people vote for such a pathological liar. But then again, this is Antioch!

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