Ballot designation challenge must be filed by Monday, August 22
By Allen Payton
After he was elected Mayor of Antioch in 2012, Wade Harper stated that he had retired as a lieutenant with the Tracy Police Department to serve as mayor full time. However, he was only age 48 at the time and his retirement payments wouldn’t begin until after he turned 50. With 24 years as a police officer in El Cerrito and then Tracy, his retirement at 3% times the number of years he worked is equal to 72% of his final year’s salary.
The pay for his part-time position as mayor, is only $942 per month in the form of a stipend, plus $450 transportation allowance, a $100 per month communication allowance, plus medical benefits, which is far less than his monthly pension.
So the question arose of why would a police officer retire almost two years before being eligible to collect on his retirement?
It was confirmed this week, that Harper did not actually retire in 2013 from the City of Tracy Police Department, as he has claimed. Instead, he resigned, according to City of Tracy staff.
“Mr. Harper did in fact resign in 2013,” said Kim Dunaway with the City of Tracy Human Resources Department.
When asked again, “so, he didn’t retire?” she replied, “No. He resigned.”
Allegations about the reasons for Harper’s resignation have not yet been verified.
But, Harper has continued the misrepresentation about the end of his law enforcement career. In his ballot statement during his campaign for County Supervisor in this year’s June primary election, he wrote “24-year law enforcement veteran police manager (retired).” His ballot designation was “Mayor/Retired Policeman.” His ballot designation for his re-election campaign is also “Mayor/Retired Policeman.” 2016 Harper Supervisor Ballot Statement Harper 2016 Mayor Ballot Designation Worksheet
The only way to force a candidate to change their ballot designation once it has been accepted by either the County Clerk or City Clerk is in court. A challenge must occur within 10 calendar days after filing closed and anyone can challenge it. Filing closed on Friday, August 12, so a challenge in court must occur by Monday, August 22.
When reached for comment about the issue and why Harper was allowed to use the term “Retired Policeman” in his ballot designation for the County Supervisor’s race in June, County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla responded by email.
“For city council races the city clerks are the elections officials and would be the ones to decide on ballot designations,” he said. “For us we rely on what the candidates provide on their ballot worksheets. We have no authority to investigate.”
“The code allows for ten days for someone to challenge a statement or designation from the date filing closes,” Canciamilla added. “They have to go to court for a writ of mandate.”
City Clerk Arne Simonsen confirmed the 10 day challenge period and what he did to verify Harper’s information.
While Harper is receiving his retirement pay through the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) and used that on his “Justification for use of proposed ballot designation,” according to Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen.
“I had based my approval on his use of Retired Policeman in the Supervisor’s race,” he said. “I called PERS to verify he is receiving his retirement pay.”
Asked if he called the City of Tracy to verify, Simonsen responded, “I did not call the City of Tracy.”
He then showed a copy of Harper’s Ballot Designation Worksheet, which is a public document and can be seen, here:
Harper wrote “I am currently a PERS retiree after serving in law enforcement 24 years.” However, he did not provide any contact names, phone numbers or email addresses for Simonsen’s office to verify the information.
When asked if another candidate could not use the term “retired” in his ballot designation because he was laid off, why could Harper use the term if he resigned from police work before he had reached retirement age, and is now employed as a teacher at Antioch High School, Simonsen replied, “Obviously both the County Elections Office and I believed that he was a retired police officer.”
Two of Harper’s three challengers responded to the news. All three were asked if they planned to challenge his ballot designation in court, but none were willing to commit to doing so, yet.
“It’s unfortunate that Wade has lied to the community, once again,” said Gil Murrillo.
When asked when else he believed Harper had lied to the community Murrillo replied, “Not fulfilling his zero tolerance for crime commitment and his promise of 22 more police officers.”
Mayor Pro Tem Lori Ogorchock also responded.
“I’m in awe, actually,” she said. “I don’t know that I personally want to challenge it. He has to live with himself. I’m totally shocked. I’m befuddled to be honest. I don’t know what the reasoning is. I’m just sad. I don’t know why anyone would not tell the truth.”
Wright had no comment, at this time.
Harper responded by email with the following statement:
“Thanks for making me aware of the rumblings. This is the answer to your question. During a speed dating type meet and greet sponsored by the chamber of commerce in 2012 I was asked if I were to get an emergency call from the City of Antioch and the Tracy Police Department, which would I respond to. I was a full-time lieutenant at the time. While running for mayor at that time I could not say the City of Antioch would be the priority. Once elected to the mayor’s position I decided to take an early retirement and focus on being mayor. I was able to utilize my retirement savings from ICMA and my CALPERS retirement the following year. I left the city of Tracy, in good standing, to serve the citizens of Antioch. I was celebrated with a luncheon and was honored. I am an ICMA & CALPERS retiree. I welcome any challenge to my retirement status and designation by any of my opponents. I served am happy to serve. I have attached my service retirement 10-99R form. Feel free to use it. I redacted my social security number and payment amount, which is above $90,000 for my combined service at the Emeryville Police Department. The Tracy Police Department as a state employee.
Campaign season is in full effect.” Harper PERS 1099R form redacted
When asked additional questions regarding the allegations surrounding his resignation, Harper responded “You have my statement. I was not forced to resign.”
Please check back later for further details.