The city of Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission postponed its discussion of Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s 18 alleged violations of election law at its Thursday meeting.
According to the FCPC, during his 2016 mayoral campaign, Arreguín allegedly failed to reimburse his campaign treasurer, Jacquelyn McCormick, within 45 days after she paid for various campaign items with a credit card — a violation of the Berkeley Election Reform Act, or BERA.
At the meeting, McCormick admitted she was reimbursed more than 45 days after the purchases were made, though she added that she “had no idea” about the legal time frame for reimbursement.
“Bottom line: There was absolutely no ill intent,” McCormick said. “There was absolutely no hiding of expenses. … It was truly an honest oversight.”
Arreguín did not attend Thursday’s commission meeting. Stefan Elgstrand, Arreguín’s chief of staff, said in an email that the FCPC was looking into “minor, technical issues.” He added, however, that the mayor’s office “will of course cooperate fully with the inquiry.”
“The mayor is extremely conscientious about following campaign laws and appreciative of the commission’s ongoing work to protect the integrity of Berkeley’s elections,” Elgstrand said in his email. “So we appreciate the commission bringing to our attention the question of whether or not reimbursements were made quickly enough – and we will, of course, cooperate fully with the inquiry. We look forward to resolving this issue and continuing to serve the people of Berkeley.”
Dean Metzger, vice chair of the commission, said the commission will assess various consequences if it finds Arreguín did break the law. He added that in the past, the commission has levied a fine as punishment.
The commissioners alleged at the meeting that Arreguín likely violated election law, though they were less certain about the punishment for his violation. Commissioner Emmanuelle Soichet said “nobody’s disputing the fact that this happened” but also stressed the importance of assessing the impact of the violations before coming to a consensus about the potential punishment.
UC Berkeley senior Thomas Hodgman, who was the campaign manager for Zachary RunningWolf in Berkeley’s 2016 mayoral election, said he is contesting Arreguín’s victory on the bases of 19 other alleged violations, ranging from conflict of interest with the mayor of Oakland to campaign finance violations. He added that he attended Thursday’s meeting to look into the 18 BERA-related violations.
“There’s an issue of ethics surrounding money that is bigger than these violations and speaks to … Mayor Arreguín’s tenure in general and its legitimacies,” Hodgman said.