Guest Submission: Is Nate Miley too Ethically Challenged to Earn Another Four Years?

Nate Miley – courtesy photo

Special to the Vanguard 

The March 5 election primary will narrow down many races for the Presidential election in November. But in Alameda County, one important race will be decided without a runoff—County Supervisor for District 4.

District 4 has been represented by incumbent Supervisor Nate Miley for 23 years. And in the last year Miley has served as the President of the Board. The district covers portions of the City of Oakland, portions of the City of Pleasanton, as well as Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, El Portal Ridge, Fairmont Terrace, Fairview and Hillcrest Knolls.

With a political shift in Alameda County moving in response to community pressure for progressive policies like tenant protections, criminal justice reform and police oversight, this District 4 is a race to watch.

Miley is being challenged by psychiatric registered nurse and labor leader Jennifer Esteen. Esteen made a splash in the last election cycle during the race for State Assembly District  20 where she was narrowly defeated in the primary by 1.74%. Miley has not had a competitive race in 8 years. Esteen’s previous campaign experience, fundraising and history of securing housing for vulnerable community members and finding solutions for the growing mental health crisis make her a formidable opponent. Esteen, having served for 4 years on the Eden MAC and 3 years on the Alameda Health Systems Board showed her leadership in District 4. Not to mention that a resident of unincorporated Alameda County has never served on the Board of Supervisors so her lived experience adds weight to a board position that oversees the majority of the county’s unincorporated areas.

It also seems that major Democratic players have shied away from endorsing the incumbent. There was no endorsement made by the Alameda County Democratic Party, leaving Clubs and charters to step in instead. And when they have weighed in, all of the endorsing clubs in the district have chosen Esteen—making it a huge snub to Miley.

Part of this public recoiling from Miley may lie in the fact that he has a questionable record that the party may be afraid to side with. When it comes to voters, they typically side with a candidate who can be trusted, and Miley’s record has some shady dealings and major trust issues. Let’s break them down.

Has Miley used his position on the Board of Supervisors to enrich his non-profit United Seniors?

Nate Miley, it seems, has a long history of using his position as an elected official to funnel money to his non-profit, United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County (USOAC). According to public records, the non-profit has benefited greatly from Miley’s tenure on the Board of Supervisors, with USOAC’s annual revenue growing by at least 883%—from $22,138 in 2001 to $217,696 in 2021. Between 2012 and 2022, Miley reported soliciting $1,384,324 in contributions for USOAC, as behested payments, which included over $200,000 from the county and Alameda County Transportation Authority. Miley has used the non-profit to employ both of his children, with his daughter Sarah Miley stating on her LinkedIn profile that she worked as a Program Lead and Operations at USOAC for 17 years, between May 2004 and May 2021. Miley’s son Christopher worked as a Project Coordinator at USOAC between July 2001 and March 2008. Moreover, Miley has funneled over $200K from his campaign account to USOAC.

This kind of non-profit investment wouldn’t draw much attention if the plight of seniors in the county wasn’t worrisome. The average age of unhoused seniors is 62 with most being African American. Most newly unhoused people in the county are African American and the population of African American elders in Alameda County has steadily declined since Miley took office. With these troubling facts, it begs the question, how has his non-profit been used to protect seniors? Which seniors are being served? What measurable outcomes can we point to as direct benefits of USOAC’s work in the county?

Is Miley too out of touch with the plight of renters to govern fairly?

While Miley abstained from a vote to provide renter protections, he was receiving “FREE RENT” not only for his campaign office but also his USOAC non-profit, both of which are located at the Eastmont Mall, which is home to numerous county contracted offices.

This came to our attention through a recent campaign finance report. The report reflects a failure of Miley’s campaign to pay rent for at least the most recent 18 months. This was a shocking finding considering his stance on landlords having a strong ability to evict renters for non-payment and smacks of a two-tiered system in which an elected official gets special treatment and can be late on rent for more than a year. All while working families living paycheck to paycheck can be tossed onto the street with regularity to the tune of more than a hundred families losing housing daily at the end of 2023.

Further examination of Miley’s records reveal a failure to file behested payment reports in a timely fashion, as required, by state law. Additionally, his campaign and USAOC have filed federal tax returns that have conflicting information when compared side by side with the behest payment reports filed for campaign finance records. Miley has claimed free rent for his non-profit from the owners of Eastmont Town Center since 2019, but failed to report contributions of rent prior to that time despite no indication of rent payments on his non-profit tax returns.

Moreover, the office size of Miley’s campaign location and the USAOC office are very nearly the same size; however, the value of rent that Miley has claimed on these documents for USOAC has been more than five times the amount claimed by his campaign committee as in-kind contributions of free rent at Eastmont. This naturally raises questions about whether Miley has inflated the value of free rent for USOAC to give the owners of Eastmont Town Center a larger tax break? Or is he paying for his campaign office by paying double the rent for his non-profit using taxpayer resources.

All of this, coupled with the fact that Miley has stated publicly that he is against rent control in unincorporated areas of the County but he lives in a gated community in a city that has rent-control protections.

Does Miley have unethical relationships with developers and real estate companies that benefit him personally?

Considering all that was easily found in public records relating to Miley’s office spaces, it was only natural to take a look at the other properties he has occupied, owned and sold. What was found could be considered A Tale of Two Houses and it’s rather shocking to draw conclusions based on these findings because it also reveals a potential Tale of Two Mileys: one who publicly declares he will “take money from anyone then vote against them,” doesn’t engage in “pay to play politics” and another who does exactly the opposite of what he states publicly and instead will take money from anyone then bestow generous favors and favorable county contracts upon them. A clear violation of public trust and a demonstration of poor judgment and ethics.

In November 2012, Miley sold a property at 5137 Fairfax Avenue to Jack and Marilyn Sumski for $397,500. He owned this home for several years with an ex-girlfriend but had been unable to sell it in advance of the housing market crash. None of this is alarming because many speculators bought homes in the Bay Area after the crash. But when we did a simple time scan going forward and backward, discrepancies became fairly glaring. Namely, Jack Sumski is a developer with lengthy and valuable ties to Alameda County. His company, Davis Realty Company, is one of the main developers that was awarded key contracts to redevelop Eastmont mall from a then defunct shopping center to a now multimillion dollar asset that is home to numerous city and county agencies including a police substation, health system and social services offices. The redevelopment took place under the watchful eye of our elected official, Nate Miley, who supported sending Davis Realty Company millions of dollars in county contracts and federal grant monies.

The timeline we discovered shows that Miley tried to sell the home by having it listed for sale beginning in January 2008 through January 2009, at the height of the housing crash. It was listed for $518k and $508k respectively but could not sell. Finally in November 2012 it sold as stated above. It appears this sale was at a somewhat inflated price well over the market value. If you look at comparable houses, it’s easy to see that this was a sweet deal for Miley.

Miley’s relationship with Jack Sumski, Davis Realty Company, and the Eastmont Mall has many facets. Miley rents or is donated space from Eastmont Office Owner, LLC for both his campaign and for USAOC. Davis Properties Company donated over $40,000 to Miley’s campaigns between 2007 and 2020, after Miley voted to approve millions of dollars in government contracts per year for leases on space for Behavioral Health Care Services, Police Services, and County Departments.

This includes a 1995, $475,000 HUD loan while Miley was serving on the Oakland city council.  Eastmont Office Owner, LLC. is owned by venture capitalist Hamid Rezapour from Walnut Creek. In the last few years, Rezapour’s other company Vertical Ventures has been buying up property along Hegenberger Road near Oakland International Airport. This area has been in the new recently because of the closure of the In and Out Burger.

But here is a major red flag that brings Miley’s ethics into question. Rezapour’s Eastmont Office Owner, LLC has not only “gifted” office space to Miley, but has received more than 20 million dollars in rent from the county for Eastmont Towne Center.

Have donations from the County Police Union been the reason Miley has stalled the state mandated Sheriff Oversight Board?

Police and justice reform is a topic that Alameda County is having a complicated relationship with. The County voted in progressive DA Pamela Price with a super majority of the vote, yet wealthy residents are backing a recall that started even before DA Price was in office. The voters also installed the new Sheriff, who ousted veteran republican Sheriff Ahren.

State law mandates that county boards of supervisors oversee sheriffs’ offices. AB 1185, which took effect in 2021, gave counties the authority to establish civilian oversight boards to assist supervisors in that role.

The ACLU of Northern California stated that the “unchecked power of local sheriffs leads to a lack of accountability. It has led to in-custody deaths, a failure to discipline officers for misconduct, erosion of community trust, as well as a lack of transparency in sheriff budgets and operations. This in turn has resulted in costly litigation and lawsuits.”

And Alameda County has seen just that. In the last 10 years, Santa Rita jail has seen almost 70 deaths, with 4 of those occurring in the first few weeks of 2023 alone – during Miley’s leadership as Board President and public safety chair. And the County has paid out more than $34 million in lawsuits related to those deaths. Money that could be invested in community based care, supportive house and job training programs.

The oversight board still has not been created and Miley is on the record stating it won’t be created anytime soon. Esteen has pointed out that Miley isn’t supporting the “independent” part of the oversight board because he wants the County counsel to be the legal arbiter.

“Our Board of Supervisors are dragging their feet on creating an independent police oversight commission. The state passed AB 1185 in 2021 but implementation still has not taken place three years later” stated Esteen in a recent press release. “My opponent has been leading the delay as chair of the public safety committee and wants to obscure true independent oversight by assigning the county’s counsel to the body. People are dying in jail while these delays in implementation are taking place in boardrooms.

It needs to be pointed out that while Esteen has pledged to not take “Cop Money,” Miley has taken more than 11,000 dollars from the County Deputy Police Union. The very body that the oversight board would hold to account.

Not helping the matter is Miley’s close relationship and support of former republican Sheriff Ahern. Miley endorsed Ahern—which was a snub to the wish of the Democratic party too. Miley was a huge supporter of Ahern’s Urban Shield program. Urban Shield  was a regional, national and global weapons expo and SWAT training that took place in the Bay Area. It brought together law enforcement agencies and first responders from across the country and world—including Israel—in order for them to learn how to better repress, criminalize, and militarize our communities.

The County Board of Supervisors ended the program in 2019 – but Miley voted to keep the controversial program..

The group Stop Urban Shield stated, “Urban Shield represents everything our movements are fighting against — from collaborating and training with ICE, hosting the white supremacist militia the Oath Keepers, training with and sending officers to apartheid Israel, glorifying policing and militarization, exploiting tragedies and natural disasters and public health needs, and continuing to align with Alameda County Sheriff Ahern’s support of the Trump Administration — Urban Shield has no place in the Bay Area or anywhere.”

What is the benefit of supporting a career politician who seems out-of-touch?

Last week, Miley’s campaign released a 32-page book about Miley’s 36+ years as an elected official in Alameda County. It is definitely an odd piece of political literature—costly, wordy and visually boring. But it does give insight to what Miley’s focus will be if elected to another term after a quarter-century already as Supervisor.

From his campaign book, Miley states that his future priorities as Supervisor are illegal dumping, job creation and strengthening senior services—like through his non-profit. He does add that he wants to push for “law and order” in the County.

Is illegal dumping the most important issue for voters? And why hasn’t he addressed this matter more in his 25 years on the board? Where are the free dumping sites or major code enforcements? It feels very out of touch with what voters are asking of leadership. This could be why so many community organizations are endorsing his opponent.

What do voters in Alameda County District 4 really want from leadership?

The choice is in the voters hands! Will they pick, Nate Miley—the professional politician who we have clearly shown has shady dealing and who a Mercury News editorial referred to as “ethically challenged”? Or will they pick registered nurse and community organizer Jennifer Esteen—the fresh face, with fresh ideas and an eagerness that has been resonating with community organizations and democratic clubs. It is clear that residents need a leader they can trust and who will be accountable to the people—not a Supervisor who profits from the county as the people deal with the despair.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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