Mayoral candidate Laurie Capitelli sues city alleging misleading voting information

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Update 8/30/16: This article has been updated to reflect an interview with Laurie Capitelli.

City Council member and 2016 mayoral candidate Laurie Capitelli sued the city of Berkeley on Monday over ballot pamphlet language that states he placed a City Council-backed minimum wage initiative on the ballot after being lobbied by business groups.

In its current form, the voter information pamphlet for the citizen-sponsored minimum wage initiative Measure CC which would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2017 — states that the City Council-sponsored Measure BB “was put on the ballot by Laurie Capitelli after intense lobbying by business groups,” according to the lawsuit.

“This is a cynical attempt to water down important protections and create loopholes that businesses can exploit,” alleges the argument in favor of Measure CC that would appear in the ballot pamphlet.

Sponsors of Measure CC, which was placed on the ballot through a petition, include labor unions, community organizations and Councilmembers Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington and Max Anderson.

In June, City Council approved Measure BB, an initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019 for the November ballot. The lawsuit filed by Capitelli states that the allegation that he personally placed Measure BB on the ballot constitutes “false and misleading information.”

“I was in support of (Measure BB) along with a supermajority of the city council” Capitelli said, noting that Mayor Tom Bates and councilmembers Linda Maio, Susan Wengraf, Lori Droste and Darryl Moore also voted in favor of the proposal.

Election regulations allow for voters to seek a writ of mandate requiring “false, misleading, or inconsistent” ballot information be amended, the lawsuit states.

This is not the first lawsuit against the city regarding possibly misleading voting information. A Berkeley landlord coalition filed a lawsuit Aug. 17 over ballot language that allegedly overstated the projected revenue of a business license tax increase proposed by a City Council-backed measure.

Capitelli’s lawsuit does not address allegations that he was lobbied by business interests. He is widely supported by the real estate community and his campaign has been financially backed in part by developers. He also serves as a partner at Red Oak Realty.

Capitelli, however, said that business groups lobbied him not to support Measure BB at all.

“In order to avoid voter confusion and strike the false and misleading information in the Argument in Favor of Measure CC, the petitioner requests that the court strike the (aforementioned) sentence in the argument,” the lawsuit states.

While both minimum wage measures have been approved for the November ballot, City Council has since passed a new minimum wage law, raising it to $15 by 2018. With its approval, council members are encouraging voters to vote no on both ballot measures.

Measures BB and CC both stipulate that annual increases be tied to the consumer price index. Measure BB, however, also would increase the minimum wage by 3 percent annually until it reaches Berkeley’s “living wage standard” for that year.

The city’s current “living wage standard,” as determined by the Living Wage Ordinance passed in 2000, is $14.42 per hour plus a medical benefit equivalent of at least $2.39.

A representative from the Measure CC campaign could be reached for comment as of press time.

The County Registrar is set to send the ballot pamphlets to the printer  Sept. 2. at 5 p.m.

Check back for updates.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Jessica Lynn at [email protected].