Archive for the ‘Politics & Elections’ Category

Ruehlig challenges Belle’s election to County School Board due to alleged lies on ballot statement

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Files complaint with District Attorney, possible punishment of up to three years in prison

By John Crowder

The highly contentious race for Area 5 Trustee of the Contra Costa County Board of Education has taken another dramatic turn, as incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig sent a letter to Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson on Saturday, November 8, asking for an investigation into alleged election code violations by her opponent, Jeff Belle, who beat her by 336 votes, in last Tuesday’s election.

The letter (Jeffery Belle Complaint) sent by Ruehlig charges that Belle violated California Election Code Section 18203, which reads,

Any person who files or submits for filing a nomination paper or declaration of candidacy knowing that it or any part of it has been made falsely is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1000) or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of section 1170 of the penal code for 16 months or two or three years or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

In her letter, Ruehlig says that Belle made false claims on his candidate statement, his ballot designation worksheet, and prior to these submissions, on applications to serve on various county commissions.

One such claim is Belle’s representation of himself on his candidate statement as a “Registered Respiratory Therapist.” Ruehlig references a letter dated June 20, 2014, in which the Respiratory Care Board of California cites Belle for “misrepresenting himself as a respiratory care practitioner and engaging in the practice of respiratory care without a current and valid license in California.” In this letter, he was ordered to “immediately cease and desist any and all unlicensed activities pursuant to the Respiratory Care Practice Act” and ordered to pay a fine of $8200 for violating provisions of the Act.

Also on his candidate statement, Belle claims to have a “Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.” He makes the same claim on his application, received by the city of Antioch on July 30, 2013, to represent the city on the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) Citizens Advisory Committee (CCTA CAC Jeff Belle application001), referencing Oklahoma City University and American University as the schools from which he studied for his degree. The claim to have a “B.S. degree” is also made by Belle on his application to sit on the Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Care Committee (CCCEMCC) – (Belle, Jeffery 10-26-12). Belle’s bio, attached to the application for the CCCEMCC, lists part of his education as follows:

1984-1988 Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Political Science with emphasis on Public Administration.

With respect to Belle’s claim of a Bachelor’s degree, Ruehlig cites an article updated on the Contra Costa Times website on October 17, 2014, which states, in part, “…it appears Belle has no college degree.” This was corroborated by Herald staff who contacted the Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University and was told that Belle did not receive a degree from them. Further, at a media event held by Belle on October 22 of this year, he repeatedly refused to answer questions posed by CBS Channel 5 television reporter Da Lin asking whether or not he had a Bachelor’s degree at all.

Ruehlig also takes issue with Belle’s claim on his candidate statement that he is “completing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Health Policy.” She points out that, at the institutions at which Belle claims to be studying, a Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for entering any such program.

Ruehlig concludes her letter to the District Attorney by stating, “Mr. Belle knew, or should have known, at the time he signed his declaration of candidacy, the consequence of providing fake educational credentials in election documents. His criminal action is made even more egregious as Mr. Belle aspires to a position of Trustee in an educational agency. Mr. Belle has made a mockery of the election process and should be charged with a felony punishable with the maximum penalty allowed by law of $1000 and 3 years imprisonment.” She includes almost 30 pages of documents supporting her complaint.

In a statement provided by Ruehlig this morning, she said, “Mr. Belle’s behavior is both an affront to the office he seeks and potentially dangerous, as it appears that he does not have the sound mental state and solid character of someone who should be entrusted to visit your child at school and make decisions about their education.”

In an article published by the Herald on October 28 (which can be viewed by clicking here http://antiochherald.com/2014/10/p13741/), Belle offered an explanation about the questions raised concerning discrepancies in his education claims.

I still owe American University for room and board for that semester of almost $3000,” Belle claimed. “However, in 1989 I walked in the graduation, and they acknowledge it, but they won’t confer the degree, until then.” He added, “I don’t have to take any more courses.”

Belle states the B.S. degree is from Oklahoma City University, not American University. The Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University did confirm that Belle studied there, and that he did not receive a degree, but they were unable to provide any further information. American University could not be reached for comment as of this writing.

However, in that same article it states, “Belle explained that Oklahoma City University works with American University in a program called the Washington Semester, the hours from which applied to his degree in Political Science.”

Ruehlig had challenged Belle’s ballot designation of “Educator” after his candidate statement was made public, and within the 10 days required, according to both Ruehlig and County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla.

We looked into it and decided that it was acceptable,” Canciamilla stated. “However, she didn’t challenge his ballot statement. No one did within the 10 days.”

When contacted regarding Supervisor Mary Piepho’s appointment of Belle to the county’s Emergency Medical Care Commission, her staff simply said that Belle’s term expired on September 30, 2014, and he was not re-appointed.

When contacted about Belle’s appointment to the CCTA committee by the Antioch City Council, which occurred at the their meeting on August 13, 2013, Mayor Wade Harper explained the appointment process. It includes reviewing information submitted by applicants and conducting interviews, usually by the mayor and one or more members of city staff. He said that, in light of these revelations, he was having discussions with the staff regarding the vetting process for such appointments.

On the District Attorney’s website information is available regarding government corruption, including a complaint form that can be filled out regarding allegations of election and/or campaign law violations. On the form it states that not all complaints are investigated. Herald staff were unable to obtain a statement from their office with respect to this case at the time of publication.

Belle was also contacted by email regarding the action now being taken by Ruehlig. He replied that, although he was out of town and unable to speak to us, “My campaign is checking into the ‘acts of desperation’ and will be back in touch as soon as we have more information.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Harper recall reboot: proponents fail to publish notice in time, blame misinformation, city delays

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

City offices closed Fridays; Simonsen was out of the country; No one knew or said in what format the notice should be published, until Wednesday, October 29; Mayor reaches out to recall leader; Proponents to try again

By Allen Payton

If those who are attempting to recall Antioch Mayor Wade Harper still want to, they have to start the process over, because they missed a publication deadline.

According to Antioch City Clerk Arne Simonsen in an email to recall leader Rich Buongiorno, on Wednesday, November 5, which can be viewed here. Letter to Mr_ Buongiorno dated 11-4-14, he stated “You failed to meet the statutory deadlines of the Elections Code for the submission of the proof of publication of the Notice of Intention and two blank copies of the Petition.”

According to Simonsen the recall proponents have to start over with new papers and new signatures.

“They can’t use any papers they already used. But, it can be the same wording,” he said.

The notice of intent had to be published in a newspaper of general circulation, within 10 days of the date the recall proponents received Mayor Harper’s response. That occurred on Thursday, October 23, although he submitted it to the City Clerk, the day before.

The only newspapers of general circulation, by legal definition, in Antioch are the East County Times and the Antioch News. The Herald has not yet gone through the adjudication process to be defined as such.

The last day for publication of the notice was Monday, November 3. However, it wasn’t published in the East County Times until Tuesday, November 4, one day too late, although recall leader Rich Buongiorno submitted it for publication on Thursday, October 30, due to the Times’ deadline schedule.

The recall papers were in fact ready to submit to the newspaper on Wednesday, October 22,” he said.

At that point Buongiorno did not know the proper publishing format of the recall papers, to comply with the requirements of the Elections Code, which merely says “publication of the notice of intention.”

Simonsen was out of the country during that time, and didn’t return until Sunday, November 2 and was unavailable by cell phone, but maintained contact by email.

Buongiorno had first planned to publish the notice in the Herald. So this writer contacted the City Clerk’s office and spoke with Assistant City Clerk Christina Garcia to find out what the format should be for publishing the notice. She said she didn’t know and suggested contacting the California Secretary of State’s office or the County Clerk.

Neither the Secretary of State’s office, whose staff consulted their attorney who handles recall elections, nor the County Clerk could answer the question to Herald staff, of what format or size had to be to “print the notice of intent to recall.”

In a second phone call with Garcia, she came to the conclusion that the forms needed to be printed full-size.

But, after the Herald received an email on Wednesday, October 22, from City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland that the Herald is not a “paper of general circulation” and Buongiorno was informed of that fact, he went that day to the East County Times’ office and submitted the intention form for publishing.

But, publication of the form had to wait until the recall proponents received Harper’s response. That occurred by certified mail in the late afternoon of Thursday, October 23, even though the city had received it from him on Wednesday, October 22.

There was insufficient time for me to go down to the city clerk’s office to find out the formatting information, that afternoon,” Buongiorno stated. “Since City Hall is closed on Fridays I had to wait until Monday, October 27, to get my answer.”

Buongornio went to the City Clerk’s office on Monday. Garcia also told him to check with the Secretary of State’s office or County Clerk’s office, who both told him the same thing, that it was a local issue and up to the City Clerk to decide.

On Tuesday, Buongiorno sent recall supporter Marie Crandell to City Hall to speak with Garcia. When she was told the same thing by Garcia that Buongiorno was, the day before, Crandell asked to speak with the city attorney.

Crandell was then told by City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland that she didn’t know the format the notice should be published, but would get back to her by Thursday,

But, then, Simonsen responded by email on Wednesday morning, October 29 at 8:33 a.m., telling Buongiorno which format was acceptable to be published.

The example you provided (East County Times recall publication Legal Notice.pdf) meets the requirements of Election Code 11022,” Simonsen wrote Buongiorno.

However, Buongiorno didn’t see Simonsen’s email until that afternoon. Once he had, he then called the Times office and told them which format to use. But, they had to make a change to include the fact that Harper had responded. That change wasn’t made until after the Times’ deadline for publishing by November 3.

So, he was too late.

Nevertheless, Buongiorno says the Times staff scheduled the publication, the next day, on Thursday, October 30, which met their deadline for publication in their Tuesday, November 4 edition of the paper.

Once he had a copy of Tuesday’s newspaper, Buongiorno says he then submitted the proof of publication to the City Clerk’s office in front of both Simonsen and Garcia, who told him he was a day late and that there was nothing Simonsen could do, and referred him to the Secretary of State or Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), providing him with phone numbers for both.

But, the Secretary of State told Buongiorno that they only handle state-related recalls and the FPPC said they have nothing to do with elections, including recalls.

When asked why the recall proponents didn’t hire an attorney, from the beginning, Buongiorno said he is funding the effort on his own and paid the $226 for the cost of publishing the notice in the Times, and didn’t have the money for an attorney.

We’ve wasted two months, and I’ve spent money for nothing,” a frustrated Buongiorno said. “The City had the latitude to accept or reject. There is no official format. It’s up to the City Clerk. Only instructions of what information the forms must contain was provided to us.”

The City Clerk has the full responsibility and latitude of accepting or rejecting a form. They also have the ability to grant leniency for additional days, which they already proved. That’s not part of the rules, they made that up. What both the Secretary of State and County Clerk are saying, it’s up to the City Clerk, because it’s a local issue.”

So not only with the forms but also with the timing, the city has leniency,” Buongiorno stated.

Simonsen responds

However, Simonsen took a different view.

We told him at the beginning the East County Times was the only paper of general circulation,” Simonsen said. “We explained to him what he had to do. The Elections Code clearly states you publish the notice of intention, after the person being recalled responds.”

Buongiorno asked for an example of it [what the printed version should look like]. But, Simonsen said he doesn’t have an example of it and couldn’t provide it.

Simonsen said he did everything possible to accommodate Buongiorno.

I chose to use the date that Buongiorno received it [Harper's reponse], which was on October 23,” he said. “So I gave him an extra day. All he had to do was follow the Elections Code. It states he had to print the notice of intention to recall, which is word for word.”

We don’t provide attorney services to the general public,” he added. “Buongiorno didn’t have to publish the forms full size in the paper. The signatures don’t have to show up. Just the words and the names.”

But, the Clerk’s office is not a legal office,” Simonsen stated. “That’s why I told him to consult a political consultant who has done recalls or an attorney, back at the beginning.”

Regardless of the size Buongiorno published the notice, or whether or not it included the signatures, if he had simply published it in time, I would have been very graceful,” he shared. “I bent over backwards with the him. Even with the one day late notice, the City Attorney and I tried to give him a grace period. But the City Attorney said it’s statutory and it’s hard and fast and pretty clear what had to be done.”

Simonsen explained the process.

Once he turns in the proof of publication, I have to make sure the wording is correct,” he stated. “There is a rolling 10-day period. If there’s a change, the 10-days start over.”

Simonsen was adamant about the City Attorney’s decision that Buongiorno was a day late.

The word ‘shall’ is in the Elections Code, not ‘would’ not ‘can,’” Simonsen pointed out. “He was explained the statutory rules regarding the dates, and he wanted me to do a lot of this for him, but it’s not the clerk’s job.”

Following is Buongiorno’s email to city staff, on Wednesday, November 5, detailing the timeline of what transpired, in response to Simonsen’s emailed letter on Tuesday, November 4:

Recall Debacle

Rich [email address deleted]

This message was sent with High importance.

Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2014 2:19 PM

To: Simonsen, Arne

Cc: Nerland, Lynn Tracy

Dear Mr. Simonsen,

Under your advice, I have been in contact with the FPPC who advised me that they do not handle “recall” elections and consequently referred me to the Secretary of State, as you had also recommended. The Secretary of State representative, after conferring with their attorney, advised me that this is a local issue and the latitude lies entirely on a local level or if necessary with the courts.

The two primary reasons for the 5-day delay in publication is as follows:

  • On October 23, 2014, I received by certified USPS mail, Harpers “answer” to the recall. Had it been received earlier, that would have allowed me to proceed and consult with the Deputy City Clerk. Instead, I was forced in to waiting until the next business day to consult with the Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia. However, due to City Hall staff being furloughed on Friday’s, and not open at all on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, I had to wait until 10/27/2014 to attempt to get the needed consultation. This created the beginning of a 3 day delay in publication.

  • On October 27, 2014, after presenting a simple question regarding the format needed for the publication of the “Notice Of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition” in a local newspaper, I was advised by Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia, that I should contact the Secretary of State or an attorney for that information. Please note; Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia was presented with the question due your absence. This created the 4th day delay in publication due to the misinformation provided by Ms. Garcia.

  • Later that day, and on my behalf, Marie Crandell, my authorized representative, did contact the Secretary of State’s office who referred her to the Elections Office in Martinez, who in turn referred her back to the City Clerk for determination and final decision. All parties making the referrals did so because the decision on the format of the publication is determined on a local level. As a matter of fact, they stated that everything, other than signature verification, is performed on a local level.

  • The following day, October 28, 2014, upon speaking with Ms Garcia, Marie Crandell did advise her that she had contacted the Secretary of State’s Office, as well as the Elections Office in Martinez. She advised Ms Garcia that both the Secretary of State’s Office and the Elections Office referred her back to the City Clerk’s office, as this was a local decision. They had also stated that the City Attorney could provide assistance to the City Clerk in making that decision. Marie Crandell was once again advised by Ms Garcia, that she should contact the Secretary of State or an attorney for that information, and that she was given the wrong information from both the Secretary of State and Elections Office in Martinez. Please note; Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia was presented with the question due your absence.

  • As such, Ms. Crandell, requested to have a meeting with the City Attorney Lynn Nerland. She apprised Ms. Nerland of the situation and Ms. Nerland did admit that she did not have an answer to that formatting question, however, that she would do some research and get back to us no later than Thursday. If we did not hear from her by Thursday, we should call her. Ms. Nerland also requested that I send an authorization to all concerned parties to authorize the discussion of all business related to the recall with Ms. Crandell.

  • Therefore, the same day I sent forthwith, via email the authorization to the City Attorney, Deputy City Clerk and yourself. I also attached the two proposed publication formats, provided by the East County Times, for authorization. This has now created a five-day delay in publication due to the unavailable city staff, weekend, and misinformation supplied by Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia on TWO consecutive days.

  • On October 29, 2014, I received an email from you. In it, you were kind enough to respond to the formatting issue and advised which of the two formats supplied by the East County Times was acceptable. I should add that the East County Times, had they been provided the information in a timely manner, could have published this notice on 10/24/2014, well within the allowed timeframe.

East County Times had the correctly formatted notice and was requesting authorization to proceed on 10/22/2014. The notice was published on 11/04/2014, far later than the the original 10/24/2014 date. However, one day later than the 10 day date due to the unavailability of city staff and misinformation supplied by Deputy City Clerk Christina Garcia on TWO consecutive days

I was advised by the Secretary of State representative that remedies of this type are handled on a local level for recalls. They would not send an email to all parties concerned because they could be brought in as one of the parties if this ends up for judicial review.

I am requesting that you consult with the City Attorney regarding this unfortunate situation because legal recall remedies are locally determined, just as the formatting of the notice publication was a local determination.

I personally feel that I should not be penalized for being 1 day late when I made an obvious concerted effort to ensure publication within the specified time frame, only to be delayed through no fault of my own, but a series of frustrating circumstances predicated by the lack of qualified personnel and availability of said personnel.

I am readily available to attend this meeting if your feel it necessary.

Respectfully submitted,

Richard Buongiorno

Recall to restart

In spite of Buongiorno’s belief that the City Clerk and City Attorney could have accepted the publication of the notice in the newspaper one day late, neither he nor the other recall proponents and supporters are going to fight it. Instead, they are resigned to starting the process again.

In an email of a Facebook posting by Buongiorno on both is personal page and the “Recall Wade Harper” page, on Thursday afternoon, November 6, he wrote:

This little bit of news you are not going to be happy with. Myself, I am quite unhappy. Heavy Sigh

The Antioch story of David & Goliath

I have just received an email from Arne Simonson, City Clerk, City of Antioch stating that the publication of the Intention to Circulate Recall Petition was one day late.

I found this information out yesterday after a brief meeting with the City Clerk and Deputy City Clerk. I sent an email to the City Clerk and the City Attorney explaining that the delay in publication was solely due to the misinformation provided by that department, TWO days in a row. Due to this delay, the publication was delayed. I requested a meeting between the City Clerk and City Attorney and made myself available. To no avail, I was not invited to the meeting and a determination was made.

One can only suspect that the two consecutive day delays was intentional knowing the outcome would mean starting over. I state that because there is latitude on a local level. That information was confirmed with the Secretary of State. Instead, they have been determined that the original process has ended and IF we want to continue, we will have to start over from the beginning.

The only way to reverse this is to file suit, which I am currently unaware of an attorney that would be willing file suit on our behalf. If there is an attorney willing to assist us, I would welcome a meeting.

Personally, this is just more dirty politics and shows that they will stoop to any level and go to any extreme to stop this recall. Well, they may want to play dirty politics, I refuse to allow our movement to follow suit. We will take the high road, we will start over and we will seek the recall of Mayor Wade Harper.

I am sorry to give you this news on top of yet another shooting, but it is obviously even more important to RECALL WADE HARPER the sooner the better.

I will be contacting the original proponents for signatures and seeking additional if necessary.

Sincerely,
Rich Buongiorno”

 

Harper reaches out to Buongiorno

On Thursday, November 6, Harper emailed Buongiorno asking him if he wanted to meet so the Mayor could tell Buongiorno about what he’s doing to address crime and homelessness, although the latter was not an issue in the recall effort. Buongiorno responded and agreed to meet with the mayor.

However, after Buongiorno was quoted in another news article posted online on Friday morning, November 7 that he would start the recall process again, Harper emailed him again and questioned if he was going to still move forward with the recall. When Buongiorno said yes, Harper changed the meeting to a phone call.

Buongiorno said that up until that point, Harper had never reached out to him, before.

Following is the email exchange between Harper and Buongiorno:

—–Original Message—–
From: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper [personal email address deleted for privacy]
Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2014 5:08 PM
To: [Buongiorno's email address deleted]
Subject: Meeting Request

Hi Rich,

Are you open to meeting with me to discuss how we can come together
to resolve some of the issues in Antioch? I can also feel you in on
the things we are doing to address crime and homelessness in our city.

Wade
[Phone number deleted]

Sent from my iPhone

 

On Nov 6, 2014, at 9:31 PM, Rich [email address deleted] wrote:

Certainly, name it and I will try to accommodate

Rich
[Phone number deleted]

 

On Nov 7, 2014, at 7:47 AM, Antioch Mayor Wade Harper [email address deleted] wrote:

I would like to meeting g with you next Friday morning at Starbucks
after the chief makes his presentation about what we are doing about
crime

Sent from my iPhone

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper [email address deleted]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2014 7:51 AM
To: [Buongiorno's email address deleted]
Subject: Re: Meeting Request

Rich I saw your article in East County Today. I have some concerns. It appears you still plan to
continue the intent to recall whether you hear the facts from me or not?

Sent from my iPhone

—–Original Message—–
From: Rich [email address deleted for privacy]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2014 11:55 AM
To: ‘Antioch Mayor Wade Harper’
Subject: RE: Meeting Request
Importance: High

Wade,

That article isn’t “my” article, it’s ECT. However, I see no reason to not meet on Friday.

Rich

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper [email address deleted for privacy]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2014 12:30 PM
To: [Rich Buongiorno's email address deleted for privacy]
Subject: Re: Meeting Request

Have you already made your mind up that you are continuing the recall
process? Are you stating that Burkholder’s article is not accurate?

Sent from my iPhone


On Nov 7, 2014, at 1:09 PM, Rich [email address deleted] wrote:

Wade,

This action is not “me”. You might think of it as a multi-headed
snake and I happen to be the spokesperson for the rest of the body.
This is a democracy and is being performed under the direction of the majority in the group.

 

The majority of the group have made it quite clear they want to

proceed. However, there is a LOT of time consuming work to be done if in actuality it does
come to fruition.

So, punch line is who knows what will happen and what the consensus
will be come Thursday after the meeting.


From: Antioch Mayor Wade Harper [email address deleted]
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2014 1:13 PM
To: [Buongiorno's email address deleted]
Subject: Re: Meeting Request

Ok, let’s schedule a phone call after the city council meeting and go from there.

Sent from my iPhone

———-

Harper responds

When reached for comment, Harper shared his thoughts.

I didn’t like his comment about the multi-headed snake. That’s kind of mean,” he said. “If he had any questions or comments and wanted to work out solutions…I sit down with people all the time.”

Asked if he’d reached out to Buongiorno before, when the recall started, Harper responded, “He’s said a lot of mean things, so no, I have not reached out to him, before. He made it clear…posted on Facebook that he thinks he gets under my skin. That’s not nice. My wife, kids and family members see those comments, so I think I blocked him from commenting on my Facebook page.”

Let the recall process take it’s course,” Harper stated. “I will respond in a professional manner and a timely manner, and I think I did, talking about the successes of the city under my leadership.”

Let’s spend some energy on making our city better,” he added.

Did he [Buongiorno] know how much it was going to cost the taxpayers, as much as $198,000 if the recall goes to the ballot, before he served me?” Harper asked. “Is there any gross negligence on my part as the Mayor? There is not. Don’t ignore the successes. Don’t ignore the facts.”

I’ll say this one last thing. I’m going to use my time, whether it’s working with problem youth or reducing crime in such a way, or getting groups together to make a difference.”

In response to Harper’s question about if he knew the cost of the recall, Buongiorno said, “No. But I did do an internet search of recalls in other cities similar to our size and estimated the cost to be about $80,000 to $109,000.”

The actual costs, according to the County Clerk’s office could range from $88,442 to $198,994.50 which is $2.00 to $4.50 per registered voter in Antioch, at the time the initial recall papers were served.

New recall papers are expected to be served on Harper in the near future, according to Buongiorno, so the costs could change.

However, it doesn’t have to happen at a council meeting.

The advantage to doing it that way is that it’s on tape and there’s no question of if he was served, when he was served, no talking back and forth, just ‘here you go,’” Buongiorno stated. “But the statement will be changed.”

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Election results remain the same: Ogorchock, Tiscareno win Antioch Council race, Measure O passes, Belle wins County School Board seat

Friday, November 7th, 2014

23,000 ballots still left to be counted, final count to be done before Thanksgiving

By Allen Payton

As of the update of the vote count at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, November 7, 2014, the County Elections website showed the results of Tuesday night’s election were confirmed in the Antioch City Council, Measure O and County School Board races.

Lori Ogorchock expanded her lead over appointed Councilman Tony Tiscareno for a total of 5,946 votes or 23.48% to 5,619 or 22.19%, who expanded his lead over third-place finisher, Antioch School Board Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray who had 5,1522 votes or 20.34% of the vote.

I’m excited. I’m thrilled. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work,” Ogorchock said after hearing the news of the results. “I want to thank everyone who voted for me. I have listened to what you’ve said. And I want those on my committee, Mary and Bill Chapman, Gary and Brenda Gorbal, Bob Lyles and last but not least, Kristen Vistali. Special thanks to my family for their support, and especially my husband and stood by me.”

Tiscareno, who was in the middle of celebrating at a restaurant when reached for comment, said his election was a confirmation of his appointment by the city council in 2012.

It validates their belief in me and the people spoke,” he said. “I feel good about it. I’m honored to be elected, instead of appointed. It was a hard fought battle, but a clean campaign as far as candidates were concerned. I want to thank all of the candidates and congratulate Lori and thank Diane especially for running a nice race, as well, because we were neck and neck.

I look forward to serving our community,” he added.

At a ribbon cutting for the new 420 Bar & Grill in downtown Antioch, on Thursday evening, Gibson-Gray said she was resolved to remaining on the school board and thought it was probably a good thing, with the recent loss of two other incumbents, Joy Motts and Gary Hack in Tuesday’s election.

Measure O passed and the yes votes increased over the no votes, by 7,867 to 7,436 votes, more than the 180 votes difference at the end of the counting on Tuesday night.

Reached for comment, Yes on Measure O committee Chairman Don Freitas said about winning by 431 votes, with a laugh, “In this case that is a huge, huge victory.”

It feels great that the good guys finally won. I’m just happy for Antioch,” Freitas added. “By conventional political wisdom we should have lost miserably when a $200,000 campaign of lies, half-truths and distortions, was spent against you.”

The people saw through all the out-of-town special interest money and voted for Antioch,” he stated. “This started as a citizens initiative and ended as one. It was a David vs. Goliath fight. It wasn’t right that most businesses in Antioch paid a business license fee and residential rental property owners didn’t. It feels great to be on the right side and have the community support us.”

After two years of meetings between the Friday Morning Breakfast Club and representatives of the California Apartment Association and the Delta Association of Realtors, they never, ever offered an alternative,” Freitas said. “All they said was ‘no’.”

It was a long, long tortuous journey,” he said with a sigh of relief.

In the contentious Area 5 County School Board race, Jeff Belle’s lead over Cynthia Ruehlig decreased, but he held on to win by 336 votes, with 12,991 votes or 50.27% versus 12,655 votes or 48.97% of the vote.

Also, in the Area 4 County School Board race, in which Antioch resident Richard Asadoorian was seeking reelection, Mike Maxwell increased his lead to 2,253 votes to win the seat.

There were a total of 236,727 ballots cast that have been counted, out of 527,521 registered voters in the county, for a 44.88% voter turnout, Tuesday night.

However, there are still votes left to be counted, according to County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla.

There are 13,000 provisional ballots and 10,000 exceptions, which are ballots that are damaged and the machine can’t count them, or they’re somehow spoiled otherwise, that all have to be hand-processed,” he said. “But, I don’t expect anything to change in those races. They’ll be divided up pretty much the same.”

Not every ballot that we have will apply to every race. Because a lot of the ballots, we pulled both pages, even though only one page had a question,” Canciamilla added. “Not every provisional ballot will be counted, because people voted where they aren’t registered or they voted by mail and forgot and voted at the polls.”

We will issue a report a week from the day, and another one the following Friday,” he said. “We have until December 2nd  to certify the results, but we’ll certify before Thanksgiving.”

For complete results visit www.cocovote.us.

LATEST RESULTS

Antioch City Council Election

LORI OGORCHOCK 5,946 23.48%

TONY G TISCARENO ( I ) 5,619 22.19%

DIANE GIBSON-GRAY 5,152 20.34%

LAMAR THORPE 4,398 17.37%

ANTHONY SEGOVIA 1,866 7.37%

KARL DIETZEL 825 3.26%

JEFFREY HALL-COTTRELL 752 2.97%

STEVEN BADO 625 2.47%

WRITE-IN 142 0.56%

 

Measure O

Yes 7,867 51.41%

No 7,436 48.59%

Total 15,303

County School Board – Area 5

CYNTHIA TEVES RUEHLIG 12,655 48.97%

JEFF BELLE 12,991 50.27%

WRITE-IN 194 0.75%

Total 25,840

County School Board – Area 4

RICHARD ASADOORIAN ( I ) 19,494 47.04%

MIKE MAXWELL 21,747 52.47%

WRITE-IN 203 0.49%

Total 41,444

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Meuser is first to jump into special State Senate election, Bonilla will also run

Friday, November 7th, 2014
Mark Meuser 2012 Meuser is first to jump into special State Senate election, Bonilla will also run

Mark Meuser from his 2012 campaign.

DeSaulnier’s election to Congress begins possible game of political dominoes

By Allen Payton

With State Senator Mark DeSaulnier’s victory Tuesday night in the Congressional election for District 11, he will now have to vacate his seat in the California Senate. In light of this, Governor Jerry Brown will soon be calling for a special election for California State Senate District 7, which will occur early next year.

Mark Meuser, a local attorney, has announced that he will be running for the open seat in the upcoming special election. He was the Republican nominee who ran and lost to DeSaulnier in the 2012 election. Senate District 7 (SD7) covers most of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, east of the Berkeley hills, and includes all of Antioch.

In addition to the special election in SD7, there will also be special elections held in SD21 and SD37, which are both in southern California, due to those Senators also being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Meuser, whose law firm focuses on civil litigation for both individuals and small businesses, said in a news release on Friday, November 7, “that his priority is to insure that your future, your children’s future, and California’s future is bright. The spirit of entrepreneurs in California is as strong today as it was during the gold rush. It needs an advocate in Sacramento, and Meuser wants to be that advocate. Ensuring that our communities stay strong—and grow stronger—requires a long-term vision for future generations, and Meuser has that vision. It is time to elect a representative to Sacramento who will fight for the citizens of Contra Costa and Alameda counties.”

In addition to Meuser, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, a Democrat, who was just re-elected to her third and final term, said she’s in.

Yes, I will be running for the Senate seat,” she stated in an interview, today. “I had planned to run in 2016 and everything was accelerated due to George Miller’s retirement. We’re just in the beginning stages of developing the campaign.”

Miller decided to not run for reelection to Congress, this year, triggering DeSaulnier’s run for the seat.

When asked why she wanted to be in the State Senate, Bonilla replied “I really love my job and have seen the difference that can be made in Sacramento. I feel I’ve developed a level of experience to serve my constituency affectively and would be honored to continue that service as a State Senator.”

A former teacher, Bonilla served on the Concord City Council and as a member of the County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the State Assembly in 2012.

The process will be triggered by DeSaulnier’s resignation, which is expected before January 5, that day he is scheduled to take the oath of office as a new Congressman.

The governor will then have two weeks to announce the date of the election, which is expected to be in mid- to late-March for the Primary. In a special election a candidate wins if they receive a majority of votes. If not the top two candidates with the most votes in the Primary will face off in the General Election in June.

A state senate district includes roughly 800,000 people, which is larger than a Congressional seat and Senators are elected for four-year terms. With the new term limits, state legislators in California can serve a maximum of 12 years, regardless of whether they serve in the Assembly or State Senate. However, because Bonilla was elected before June 5, 2012 she is restricted by the previous term limits, approved in 1990, which limited legislators to three terms in the State Assembly and two terms in the State Senate. Since the election will be past the half-way point in DeSaulnier’s term, if elected, she will serve less than two years, allowing her two more full terms for a total of close to 10 years. The same would apply to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who is termed out this year, and is also rumored to be considering a run for the Senate seat. She did not respond to phone calls for this story.

It’s not just about hanging around for more years, but using the knowledge and influence you gain to really serve the residents of Contra Costa more effectively,” Bonilla said. “If you don’t have experience, you don’t get assigned to be chair of a committee.”

She said she would stay in the Senate the entire time, if elected and re-elected and doesn’t want to be a career politician.

I won’t be using this as a stepping stone to higher office,” she added.

Others whose names have been floated included Republicans District Attorney Mark Peterson, County Supervisors Mary Piepho and Candace Anderson, and Catharine Baker, who was just elected to replace Buchanan in the Assembly in the 16th District on Tuesday night, was also floated as a possible candidate. But, Peterson stated recently he’s not interested in running for the seat.

Anderson’s whose star just rose with her vote against the 33% pay raise the Board of Supervisors gave themselves, two weeks ago, is also out.

No I’m not running for Senate,” she said, today. “There’s a lot of work to be done in the county. I enjoy the breadth of issues I’m working on and am committed to this position.”

Another name put forward was Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer, a Democrat, who ran for State Assembly, this year, also in the 16th District, but wasn’t one of the top two winners to make it to the General Election.

Piepho, Baker and Glazer also did not respond to attempts to reach them for this story.

If Bonilla is elected to the seat, then a special election would have to be held for the remainder of her two-year term in the Assembly. If Piepho were to be elected, the Governor would be able to appoint her replacement for the time remaining of her term on the Board of Supervisors, which is in 2016, as well.

Voters will soon see if the game of political dominoes continues.

Check back for updates to this story.

 

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It’s not over! County still has 95,000 ballots left to be counted

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

By Allen Payton

According to the Contra Costa County Elections Office, as of 1:30 p.m., today, there were still 95,000 ballots left to be counted in the county. Those could affect the outcomes of close races, like Measure O, which is leading by just 180 votes and the County Board of Education race in Area 5, where Jeff Belle leads Cynthia Ruehlig by just 464 votes, or 2.59%.

In response to learning the news, Belle said by email “As far as I’m concerned, it’s done. No more comments.”

The uncounted ballots might also affect the outcome of the Antioch City Council race, where Lori Ogorchock, who is in first place, is leading appointed Councilmember Tony Tiscareno by just 267 votes or 1.59%, and he is leading current third-place finisher, Antioch School Board Member Diane Gibson-Gray by just 229 votes or 1.37%.

A total of 158,443 ballots have been counted and those are the ones reflected in the unofficial results posted on the County Elections website. That figure does not include the additional uncounted ballots. So only 62.5% of the total 253,443 ballots cast in the election have been counted, so far. With 37.5% of the ballots left to be counted, it could change the results of the close elections.

Of the uncounted ballots, 82,000 are vote-by-mail ballots that were turned in at drop boxes throughout the county since Saturday, November 1st or delivered to the polling places.

The other 13,000 are what are known as provisional ballots, which include those by voters who voted in a different polling place than where they are registered to vote, and by vote-by-mail voters who misplaced their ballots.

The next update from the Elections Office will not be until this Friday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m. So those in the close races will have to sit on pins and needles until then. But, all the remaining ballots may not be counted by then. The County Elections Office has 28 days to certify the election.

For all the election results in the county, visit www.cocovote.us.

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In spite of being outspent 13 to 1, Antioch’s Yes on Measure O leads by 180 votes

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

By Allen Payton

UPDATE 3:30 PM, 11/5/14 – Antioch’s Measure O, which, if passed will implement a business license tax on residential rental property owners, is leading by a slim margin of just 180 votes out of a total 10,236 cast in Tuesday night’s election. Due to 95,000 ballots left to be counted in the county, as of Wednesday, November 5 at 1:30 P.M.

In spite of being outspent $173,000 by the No on Measure O committee to about $13,000, the Yes on O committee succeeded in passing what many of its members had worked on for almost two years.

Committee Chairman Don Freitas was excited about the lead, in early returns, Tuesday night. But wasn’t ready to make any victory comments.

The current numbers are 5,208 votes or 50.88% in favor to 5,028 votes or 49.12% opposed to the measure, which only required a simple majority to pass. The next update from the County Elections Office will be at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 7.

The tax is expected to generate $2.27 million a year for the city.

Check back for more updates to this story. For complete election results in Contra Costa County, visit www.cocovote.us.

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One, possibly two Antioch incumbents ousted from County School Board by challengers, Belle leads in upset

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

By Allen Payton

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m., 11/5/14 – Both incumbents on the County School Board in Areas 4 and 5, which include parts of Antioch, appeared to be going to down to defeat in Tuesday night’s election.

Antioch resident Richard Asadoorian trails Mike Maxwell of Danville in Area 4 by 1,712 votes. Maxwell had 14,846 votes or 52.81% of the vote to Asadoorian’s 13,134 votes or 46.72%. There were also 134 write-in votes in the election.

In the Area 5 race, which featured two more Antioch residents, challenger Jeff Belle is leadingf incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig, beating her 9,129 votes or 50.95% to 8,665 votes or 48.36%. There were 122 write-in votes cast in the election.

However, 95,000 ballots are left to be counted in the county, which could affect the outcome of both races, especially the one in Area 5, since it’s so close. The next update from the County Elections Office will be provided on Friday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m.

Belle had faced questions about his past and education claims during the race, yet was able to overcome the negative news articles about him, to win the race. But, he ran a stronger, more aggressive campaign and was able to garner the endorsement of the California Teacher’s Association, a point Ruehlig made earlier in the evening.

It was a contentious election, starting with a lively candidates forum in September, and continuing with accusations, a confrontation, and an emailed threat of retaliatory campaigning by both Belle and his wife, Carmen, toward both Ruehlig and her husband Walter, who was running for and elected to the Antioch School Board, Tuesday night. The Belles allege Cynthia emailed to others information from Belle’s ex-wife about his past. Walter Ruehlig denied any involvement by Cynthia. But Carmen Belle claims she has proof, but has yet to provide it to Herald staff.

In comments on his Facebook page, following the final election results, Belle posted the following:

Congratulations to my wife, my anchor in the victory!”

Many thanks to my supporters and critics. To God be the Glory!”

To God be the Glory who alone defines me and keeps me in His plan.”

Then, today, Belle said in an email “As far as I’m concerned it’s done. No more comments.”

Check back later for updates to this story. For more information on election results in Contra Costa County visit www.cocovote.us.

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Walter Ruehlig returns to the Antioch School Board, Vinson joins him to unseat incumbents

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Ruehligs Walter Ruehlig returns to the Antioch School Board, Vinson joins him to unseat incumbents

Walter Ruehlig talks with Bob Brooks, while Cynthia Ruehlig ponders the early election returns, at their home, Tuesday night.

By Allen Payton

Both incumbents in the Antioch School Board race, Joy Motts and Gary Hack, were defeated by challengers Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, Tuesday night.  Ruehlig and Vinson led the other two from the first returns.

“I’m feeling a little nervous,” Vinson said after learning of the early returns. “It’s exciting. But I’m waiting.”

Earlier in the day, Vinson posted the following on her campaign’s Facebook page:

Today I am filled with gratitude. I appreciate all of the volunteers and those who contributed to my campaign to make it successful! It has been an unforgettable experience of sharing, listening, and an incredible opportunity to connect with parents, students and the community. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin and I accept the challenge. Education is the liberator for ALL students. As adults we must never give up on our students because they are the future. The zeitgeist is now!

Ruehlig, who ran for the Antioch City Council in 2012 instead of reelection, took first place in the race with 5,028 votes or 30.27%, with Debra Vinson taking the second of two seats up for election, this year, with 4,668 votes or 28.11%. Motts had 3,426 votes or 20.63% and Hack was close with 3,400 votes or 20.47%. There were 87 write-in votes, although there no officially qualified write-in candidates in the race.

Check back for updates to this story. For complete election results in Antioch and Contra Costa County, visit www.cocovote.us.

 

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