City’s Turn: ‘Tit for Tat’ Battle with County DA Over Unhoused Continues – Homeless Union Calls DA Machinations ‘Lies,’ Politically Driven

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By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO, CA – The city of Sacramento attorney Monday—in the ongoing tit for tat with Sacramento County District Attorney over the unhoused community—called DA Thien Ho’s comment political motivated, “self-serving” and a waste of everyone’s time.

City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood, according to a story in the Sacramento Bee, said Ho’s threat to file criminal charges against the city was “baseless” in a five-page letter to Ho obtained by The bee.

Alcala Wood “accused the D.A. of abusing his authority by threatening charges over the city’s decision to allow homeless residents to remain at a former vehicle maintenance yard in North Sacramento dubbed ‘Camp Resolution,’” wrote the Bee.

“Enough is enough. Every single time we receive one of your letters or demands or are made aware of your self-serving media comments, city staff, including my office and I, are forced to take time away from the numerous daily needs of the city to respond,” Alcala Wood wrote in a pre-Thanksgiving letter to Ho. 

“I thus ask — one last time — that you bring to a stop these pointless, politically-motivated endeavors so that we can all get back to focusing on problem-solving the homelessness crisis and doing our jobs for the community,” The Bee quoted Alcala Wood.

The Bee said the city attorney’s letter was in response to Ho’s Nov. 14 threat to file misdemeanor charges because the city has created a public nuisance by not closing down a homeless population Camp Resolution.

Ho said the area is toxic area, but Attorney Mark Merin, whose nonprofit operates the area, denies that.

“It’s a diatribe from somebody who has no solutions,” Merin said earlier this month. “He just wants to point to a problem of which everyone is aware. We have people living and dying on the streets. We’d appreciate it if he’d offer some solutions.”

“Alcala Wood wrote that the letter would be her ‘first and only response’ to Ho’s threat, which she denounced as a political stunt,” reported The Bee, adding that she said, “Your letter threatens criminal charges, and I can only assume that you intend to charge me personally, since you addressed the letter to me and used the terms ‘you’ and ‘your’ throughout.”

While the Homeless Union continues to have its battles with the city, the city hasn’t sided with Ho at all, calling him, “unprincipled, dishonest and politically-driven,” and his concern for the homeless “a fraud.”

In a statement in mid-November, the Homeless Union said, “Ho’s Lies About Camp Resolution and Threats of ‘Criminal Liability,’” are all about the DA “peddling with his sensationalist, distorted and insincere ‘concerns’ about hazards…only to advance his political career.”

“Apparently not happy that he remains under investigation by the California State Bar for violations of professional conduct, (Ho) is now targeting Union leaders as well as homeless advocates “Safe Ground Sacramento” and the City of Sacramento for allegedly maintaining a public nuisance at Camp Resolution,” wrote Anthony Prince, attorney for the union.

“Once again, Sacramento District Attorney Thien Ho is playing a deadly game of politics and deception with his threat to criminally prosecute the City of Sacramento, homeless advocate Safe Ground Sacramento and, possibly, officers of the Sacramento Homeless Union,” added Prince.

The homeless union charged, “Thien Ho’s 9-page letter of November 14, 2023 is replete with distortions and false statements, including, for example, that Camp residents are being exposed to trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachlorethene (PCE), “ which the union said is false.

Prince points to a January letter to the city where the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s “laboratory ‘did not detect TCE and PCE in outdoor air samples,’” and the “the false assertion that there are Camp residents in tents on soil that is contaminated with benzene, a byproduct of gasoline exhaust emissions,’” noting the same letter “reported that ‘the presence of benzene in ambient air is consistent with statewide conditions unrelated to subsurface soil vapor.’”

Prince added, “Ho’s letter completely ignores the fact that the majority of Camp Resolution residents are in trailers that they either own or were supplied by the City that sit four feet off the ground and which fully comply with the requirements set forth by the Water Board as they do not “enclose the area under the vehicles in a manner that prevents or limits air flow between the ground and the bottom of the vehicle or trailer.” 

The union’s lawyer said “there is no doubt that…Ho’s letter is a tissue of distortions, false statements, out-of-context quotes and inflammatory language,” calling the missive the “height of hypocrisy for this District Attorney to feign false concern for the well-being of the unhoused when… in the middle of triple-digit temperatures, he was insisting—at the threat of criminally prosecuting the City—that 16 homeless encampments located in the shade be immediately removed. “

The union, at that time, called Ho’s conduct into extreme question, noting Ho’s “less than truthful public pronouncements in service of your public campaign against the unhoused by way of your demands on the City, raise substantial questions as to your honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” 

Prince has written, “Camp Resolution was formed by homeless women fed up with being pushed from one street corner to the next, facing brutal winters, deadly summers, sexual assault, vigilante violence and sweeps that robbed them of the few possessions they needed to survive. These are the dangers that the homeless face every day, dangers that took the lives of some 200 unhoused Sacramentans last year. 

“Where has Thien Ho been all this time? Where was this official who one day rails against ‘homeless criminals’ the next day becoming the ‘champion’ of the unhoused, playing all sides and every side so long as it advances his political career.”

Merin has called Ho’s letter “a political stunt.”

Like Prince, Merin also disputed Ho’s characterization of the site as a toxic dump, stating, in The Bee, “There have been different studies, and one of the studies found the level of benzene is no different than what’s found throughout the state.”

In what may be new information, the city attorney appeared, in her letter to Ho, to strongly suggest Ho is challenging the city because current Mayor Darrell Steinberg may be a threat to Ho if Ho runs for California Attorney General. 

“Perhaps your plan is to also pursue a criminal action against other city officials as well, such as Mayor Darrell Steinberg, against whom it is no secret that you view as your political rival in a run for California Attorney General — because it is only in the theater of politics that your repeated attempts to penalize Mayor Steinberg and the City of Sacramento for its efforts to address the homeless crisis, including the exercise of some compassion, that any of these antics make sense,” wrote Wood to Ho, according to The Bee.

“What we don’t need is the unprincipled, dishonest and politically-driven interference of this district attorney. His phony concern for the homeless is a fraud and he is a disgrace to the office that he holds,” charged Anthony D. Prince, Lead Organizer/General Counsel of the California Homeless Union and Attorney for Sacramento Homeless Union.

“I caution you to rethink your strategy,” Alcala Wood wrote, said The Bee. “Whatever the motivation, on a professional and humane level, these latest actions border on being reprehensible. We are not moved by your threats.”

“You claim, ‘Camp Resolution is located within 1,000 feet of both a licensed daycare and playground,’” Alcala Wood wrote. “However, no day cares or parks could be located within those parameters, and you identify none by name.”

Ho’s lawsuit is set for a court hearing Jan. 5 to hear a city motion to have the complaint dismissed because Ho exceeded his authority and has no evidence to support his claims, The Bee added Monday.

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