Postal worker who threw out 100 Berkeley voter guides identified, found guilty

Scott Wheeler/Courtesy

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A postal worker who discarded about 100 election guides in a Berkeley recycling bin ahead of the 2016 elections pleaded guilty in January to obstruction of mail.

On Oct. 11, 2016, Donoven Zaragoza, a carrier then employed by the United States Postal Service, failed to deliver voter information guides to as many as 100 registered voters in Berkeley. After North Berkeley resident Scott Wheeler reported finding a stack of unused guides in a recycling bin on the corner of Virginia and Walnut streets, USPS opened an investigation into the delivery failure. Once Zaragoza was identified, USPS transferred the case to the U.S. attorney’s office, which initiated and completed prosecution.

Updates on the case outcome reached the Berkeley community Friday after City Clerk Mark Numainville responded to an email inquiry from Thomas Hodgman, campaign manager for Zachary RunningWolf.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California concluded that Zaragoza “knowingly and willfully” discarded the mail, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Californian. Zaragoza pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of obstruction of mail and entered into a plea deal requiring community service. On July 27, the court dismissed all charges after finding the conditions for his plea deal met.

Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the registrar of voters for Alameda County, Tim Dupuis, was “very responsive” and immediately sent out replacement material to the affected registered voters.

This type of incident is a “rarity” for the postal service, according to USPS Office of the Inspector General Deputy Special Agent in Charge Glenn San Jose. When these incidents do happen, San Jose said, USPS “aggressively” pursues the matter. San Jose confirmed that Zaragoza no longer works for USPS.

“The majority of our employees are honest, hardworking civil servants,” San Jose said.

According to San Jose, the federal investigation concluded that Zaragoza was not motivated by “political biases,” though he does not know the exact reasoning behind the carrier’s actions.

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.