Loophole in Reporting Process For Expenditures and Contributions for the Signature Gathering Process

Vote-stock-slide

Whatever side one comes down on in the water battle that has been increasing in this community, as supporters of a possible referendum have two weeks left to get the necessary citizen signatures, the need arises for a fully transparent process.

The Vanguard has always believed that the hallmark of a free and democratic society, particularly at the local level, requires full transparency.

A reasonable question that has arisen involves the use of paid petitioners to help collect the signatures necessary to qualify the referendum on water rates for the ballot.

This is an issue where reasonable people might disagree.

Councilmember Stephen Souza took exception to the use of paid signature gatherers, arguing, “When it comes to the environment, health and safety of the residents of Davis being threatened by outside signature gatherers I will not be silenced. These paid people have said things that are not true. They do not know the issue nor do they have a stake in our town. They are here only to make a buck and leave.”

Others have been less concerned about this issue.  Many perhaps recognize that the large number of signatures required in a very compressed time period requires paid help.

Moreover, as Sue Greenwald would argue, it is not as though the paid signature gatherers are the only ones saying things that might be deemed as untrue.

In a comment on Sunday morning, Councilmember Greenwald wrote, “I have no problem with Stephen handing out flyers, but the discussion about water should remain fact-based.”

“We have a forty year permit. If we work with the WRCB [Water Resources Control Board] to postpone the project with clear plans to finish it, the permit will not be revoked. Even Mr. Landau, who was speaking a bit as an advocate rather than administrator (it is the board that makes the decision, not the administrator), acknowledged that permits are rarely (I think like never) pulled within the time frame for which they are issued,” she said.

Ms. Greenwald concluded, “Citizens deserve accurate information, and this statement is very misleading.”

Another poster would argue, “It is not illegal to pay people to gather signatures but it certainly raises interesting questions about the campaign.”

They added, “Right now I have doubts about the water rate hikes and would be inclined to support a ballot initiative. However, when I sign a petition I like to know whether the person gathering signatures are paid or not (most are paid, especially for State initiatives).”

The law does require a paid petitioner to disclose this if an individual asks.

“I cannot speak for anyone else, I’d be much less likely to sign a petition knowing the signature gatherer was paid and had little or no stake in the issue,” they added.  “I’d also like to know who is paying for this and what their interest is–that is a legal disclosure requirement.”

While this seems like a reasonable view, what is interesting is that under the current state of the law, Davis residents may not have answers to these questions until long after the signature-gathering process has ended.

Ann Waid, the City’s Deputy City Clerk, informed the Vanguard on Monday that the Committee to Confirm Davis Voter Rights has been circulating the petition on the “Referendum to Appeal Davis Water Rate Hikes.”

That group properly met their statutory obligation through the submission of the Form 410.  This form establishes a campaign committee and lists a treasurer – in this case, noted accountant Manny Carbahol.

However, any financial filings are not required until a Form 460 is due on January 31, 2012, which is the time of the semi-annual report from July through the end of the year.

Were this a campaign, the activities of such a committee would be reportable in specific increments.  During a campaign, the cycle speeds up to make the process more transparent and to allow the voters to make up their own minds about the amount of money raised and its source.

What is particularly troublesome here is that the public is kept completely in the dark about three crucial factors until well after the signature-gathering phase has been completed.

The public will have no idea how much money has been spent on this effort.  The public will have no idea who is financing this effort.  The public will have no idea as to whom is being paid and how much they are being paid to collect signatures.

Let us be clear, we are in no way criticizing the committee itself, as they have not set up these rules.  While we would prefer that signatures be collected by volunteer community members, we are also cognizant of time requirements.

An initiative has three months to qualify, while a referendum, which would simply allow the voters an up or down vote on the ordinance, has a much more compressed one-month timeline, and yet requires effectively 4000 to 4500 signatures.  That’s perhaps 150 every day for 30 days.  That is a high threshold for a small group of volunteers to meet.

However, at the same time, we believe there is a loophole in the reporting requirements that needs to be fixed so that when signature gathering is occurring there is a filing requirement two weeks before the close of the signature gathering time period and immediately after.

This would allow the public to have full information and make up their own minds.

Reasonable people can disagree on the need for the water rate hikes and the need for a vote of the people, but everyone should favor as open and transparent a process as possible.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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30 Comments

  1. rusty49

    So from your article it looks like the referendum campaign is doing everything legal. What’s the problem? It’s a high hurdle to get that many signatures in such a short amount of time and most initiatives use paid signature gatherers. I would say that most of the signers already know the issues and just have to locate where a petition is to be found in order to sign. I highly doubt any gatherer is talking them into it, they already wanted to sign.

  2. DT Businessman

    I don’t “got it” at all. The thrust of the article is that the identity of the members of the Committee to Confirm Davis Voter Rights and their financial backers might be relevant. rusty’s comments are entirely beside the point. We already know who hired the PR firm.

    The members and backers of the CCDVR are legally within their rights to remain anonymous at this point in time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask them to voluntarily step forward right now. CCDVR member and backers, please identify yourselves. Inquiring minds want to know.

    DT Businessman reporting (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties)

  3. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]In a comment on Sunday morning, Councilmember Greenwald wrote, “I have no problem with Stephen handing out flyers, but the discussion about water should remain fact-based.”

    “We have a forty year permit. If we work with the WRCB [Water Resources Control Board] to postpone the project with clear plans to finish it, the permit will not be revoked. Even Mr. Landau, who was speaking a bit as an advocate rather than administrator (it is the board that makes the decision, not the administrator), acknowledged that permits are rarely (I think like never) pulled within the time frame for which they are issued,” she said.

    Ms. Greenwald concluded, “Citizens deserve accurate information, and this statement is very misleading.”[/quote]

    Yes, the citizens of Davis deserve accurate information and this statement is NOT ACCURATE: “If we work with the WRCB to postpone the project with clear plans to finish it [in 25 to 30 years as has been advocated by some], the permit will not be revoked.” To be accurate, the sentence should read: “If we work with the WRCB to postpone the project with clear plans to finish it [in 25 to 30 years as has been advocated by some], IT IS POSSIBLE the permit will not be revoked. There is a huge difference. The first is DISINFORMATION. The second is SPECULATION. THE ENTIRE SENTENCE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PREFACED BY THE STATEMENT: IN MY OPINION…

  4. Voter2012

    @ David Greenwald:[quote]That group properly met their statutory obligation through the submission of the Form 410. This form establishes a campaign committee and lists a treasurer – in this case, noted accountant Manny Carbahol.[/quote]DT Businessman: I’m having trouble squaring David Greenwald’s statement with your statement that “The members … of the CCDVR are legally within their rights to remain anonymous at this point in time.” I assume the Form 410 is a public record. Is there something I’m missing?

    @ David Greenwald:[quote]The Vanguard has always believed that the hallmark of a free and democratic society, particularly at the local level, requires full transparency.[/quote]David Greenwald: Would you please post all the names on the Form 410? Thanks.

  5. Steve Hayes

    DMG “Whatever side one comes down on in the water battle that has been increasing in this community, as supporters of a possible referendum have two weeks left to get the necessary citizen signatures, the need arises for a fully transparent process”

    Gee, during Project approval, “a fully transparent process” included the Davis City Council approving the Project the week before Christmas 2010 (under the cover of darkness so to speak) when everyone was busy, unaware, or away! The process also did not provide any explanation why the critically needed Project water right offer was available from the developer ONLY in December of 2010. I guess that it was just a coincidence that December 2010 was the last month that Councilman Saylor was available to approve the Project. Transparency indeed!

  6. rusty49

    All of you pro water project people need to just relax and you will have your say at the ballot box come June 2012 just like everyone else. We’re going to do this the democratic way.

  7. Michael Harrington

    Rusty49: Yep, everyone will have their say, unless the CC repeals the rate hike ordinance.

    Ryan: if you care about the school parcel tax renewals in March, you really should be out collecting signatures right now. Or hire a tablerer to stand in for you since maybe you work all the time, and gather signatures so you can do your part? Or donate to the “Committee to Protect the Rights of Davis Voters.” They can be your stand-in so you know you are doing your best to take care of the kids in this town?

    Ryan, please drop that check off or mail it to my law firm at 430 D St, or email me at michael@mikeharringtonlaw.com, or call at 759-8440 and I will have someone pick up your check. I also can email you the petition pdf and you can download, print, and walk you street, like dozens of others are doing right now.

    Thanks everyone!

  8. Sue Greenwald

    [b]Elaine Musser[/b]: Despite all the capitalized letters, you are misleading people about the permit. What can I say. I guess I could repeat everything I have explained on previous posts in all caps.

    If we worked with the WRCB and they gave us a variance, we would, of course, also get assurances about the permit. But put that aside, the Board has simply not taken away permits, let alone when cities work with them and have made huge progress and huge investments.

    Could we lose the permit? Nothing is guaranteed except death (because I am not so sure about the taxes part anymore). The City of Davis could vaporize next week.

  9. Matt Williams

    I for one, have no problem at all with paid signature gatherers. I would have a problem with any signature gatherer, whether paid or not, providing erroneous information. However, I haven’t heard that is the case.

  10. DT Businessman

    So I guess all the noise above means the CCDVR backers aren’t going to step forth until after the signature gathering period has elapsed. Poor Manny dangling out there all by himself. What about you Mike? Are you one of the CCDVR backers or are you merely their legal counsel? That’s not clear to me.

    DT Businessman reporting (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties)

  11. Voter2012

    @ David Greenwald:[quote]The Vanguard has always believed that the hallmark of a free and democratic society, particularly at the local level, requires full transparency.[/quote]David Greenwald: Would you please post all the names on the Form 410? I assume you’ve seen it since you are reporting the name of the treasurer. Why not share this public information with the rest of us?

  12. SODA

    Sue I echo your sentiments about Elaine’s use of capital letters. It is disconcerting. We know you are passionate about this topic, Elaine, we don’t need the caps !

  13. Rifkin

    [img]http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/187761_40946714730_7775713_n.jpg[/img]

    [i]” The City of Davis could vaporize next week.”[/i]

    Sue, I never knew you liked Family Radio!

    As has been widely reported in the Harrington Post, Rev. Harold Camping and his close friend, Wild-Eyed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are now working together to vaporize all of California before the Rapture on October 21. Ahmadinejad, according to Harrington Post Reporter, P. Nieberg, wants to first vaporize Esparto on October 18 and Rumsey on October 19 to test out their vaporizer. Camping was quoted as saying, “We might as well take out gawdless Berkeley while your friends in the drug cartels are at it, Sheik!”

    [img]http://angrywhitedude.com/wp-content/uploads2/2010/09/mahmoud-ahmadinejad.jpg[/img]

  14. Michael Harrington

    Don: Like this? : GET A PETITION AND SIGN IT NOW!

    DT: Manny out there alone?? Hardly. I would say 4/5th’s of the registered voters in Davis support the committee to confirm our right to vote on this huge tax increase. When is the last time you saw the Editor of the Davis Enterprise, Bob Dunning, Michael Harrington, Pam Nieberg, Ernie Head, Ken Wagstaff (he tabled today to huge success), Sue Greenwald all on the same page supporting direct democracy: the right to vote on huge tax increases.

    People will gain a huge amount of information during the 7th month spirited campaign, and we shall see how our Davis voters decide. I think the water rate issue combined with the 3-seat CC election is going to cause a huge, huge turnout like we have not seen in years.
    Freddie will give us a prediction a few weeks out, but I can see it coming in very high.

  15. Michael Harrington

    Folks: we are nearly there. Expect full tabling and production through the bitter end at 5 pm on Monday, 10/24, but in actuality we are going to terminate and file the petitions fairly soon.

    Then we nail down the initiative and get it filed, then the general campaign begins.

  16. JustSaying

    I’m not sure there are any loopholes involved here, just a bunch of people supposedly following the law. I’m also not sure we should be taking seriously our two council members’ demands that everyone else involved in the public debate be held to high standards of accuracy and truth-telling about something as complicated as our water system.

    Why can’t we all just get along and acknowledge we’ve moved to a new and different stage for these projects. The time has past for reasonable discussion, compromise, carefully planning, public involvement, etc., We’ve moved on to a phase of the political process during which the only thing that matters is whether your side wins or loses.

    During this stage, strategy and timing are key to success. Openness and transparency, valued during government operations, now stand as threats to winning. Innuendo, parsing, misdirection and threats become the tools of the trade.

    Amateurs at the game waste time providing voters with ever-increasing volumes of facts and figures that further confuse an already overwhelmed populace. Likely winners in the campaign focus on slogans, on
    unsubstantiated charges of bad tactics and on other proven, political campaign (for that’s really all it is during these short fights) techniques.

  17. JustSaying

    I’m not sure there are any loopholes involved here, just a bunch of people supposedly following the law. I’m also not sure we should be taking seriously our two council members’ demands that everyone else involved in the public debate be held to high standards of accuracy and truth-telling about something as complicated as our water system.

    Why can’t we all just get along and acknowledge we’ve moved to a new and different stage for these projects. The time has past for reasonable discussion, compromise, carefully planning, public involvement, etc., We’ve moved on to a phase of the political process during which the only thing that matters is whether your side wins or loses.

    During this stage, strategy and timing are key to success. Openness and transparency, valued during government operations, now stand as threats to winning. Innuendo, parsing, misdirection and threats become the tools of the trade.

    Amateurs at the game waste time providing voters with ever-increasing volumes of facts and figures that further confuse an already overwhelmed populace. Likely winners in the campaign focus on slogans, on
    unsubstantiated charges of bad tactics and on other proven, political campaign (for that’s really all it is during these short fights) techniques.

  18. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]All caps is considered shouting. I suggest for emphasis you use italics.[/quote]

    Unfortunately, when I use Safari, it doesn’t allow me to use the underline function nor the italic or bold. Don’t know why. It only allows me to use the quote function. So I just resorted to all caps to emphasize particular passages. Frustrating…

  19. DT Businessman

    Mike, you are intentionally obfuscating. Why is that? Manny is the only individual that has been tied to the CCDVR. Who else is a member of or is backing the CCDVR? I’m not even clear on your affiliation. Are you legal counsel to the CCDVR or are you merely a concerned citizen? It’s been reported both ways. Why is it so difficult to answer a straightforward question?

    For the record, I have no horse in this race. I’d just like to move past this issue so we can get on with the next set of community challenges, jobs and revenue, for instance.

    DT Businessman reporting (aka Michael Bisch, Davis Commercial Properties)

  20. Voter2012

    DT Businessman: I believe the legal counsel that drew up the referendum is an attorney based in the Bay Area (a UCD alum if I remember correctly … but I’ve forgotten the name or where I read it).

    Since you’ve already “outed” yourself, why not stroll over to the City Manager’s office and ask the clerk for a copy of the Form 410? Then you can post the names yourself.

    Both David and Michael have been asked repeatedly for this type of information and they continue to stonewall.

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