Office of the Executive Director
For Immediate Release
Rent Board Commissioner Kavanagh Status Update
Berkeley, California (Tuesday, October 2, 2007) -- On September 21, 2007, after a two-month investigation, the Alameda County District Attorney's office filed five felony charges against Rent Board Commissioner Christopher Kavanagh. The District Attorney's indictment charges that Mr. Kavanagh filed false nomination papers and was not eligible to serve as an elector in Berkeley based upon his residency.
Mr. Kavanagh publicly denies the accuracy of the charges and maintains that at all times he was a resident of Berkeley, that he remains a resident of Berkeley, and therefore is eligible to serve on the Board. He has indicated that he intends to challenge the charges and continue representing Berkeley as an elected official.
Over the past weeks, this office has repeatedly been asked what we are going to do about Mr. Kavanagh remaining on the Board. It has been suggested that the Board remove Mr. Kavanagh or withhold his stipend for serving on the Board. Others have asked why have we not come to Mr. Kavanagh's defense.
Due process and hearing all the facts before passing judgment are core values of the Rent Stabilization Board and Program. Each year we counsel thousands of owners and tenants and hold several hundred administrative hearings and appeals with these values as our guide.
Because there are criminal charges involved, the case is best considered in a venue in which all the evidence can be presented, evaluated, and the credibility of that evidence judged and balanced against the appropriate laws. The Board is not in a position to make a determination on the charges against nor to decide the ultimate fate of Mr. Kavanagh in this matter.
Because his election to the Board has been duly certified by the County and the City Council, the Rent Board does not have the authority to unilaterally withhold Mr. Kavanagh's salary and benefits or otherwise restrict the performance of his duties as long as he holds office. The Board cannot remove or suspend Mr. Kavanagh. Unlike the situation in San Francisco, where the city charter allows for the suspension of an elected officer by the Mayor upon charges of misconduct and the removal of the officer by the Board of Supervisors, neither the Berkeley City Charter nor the Rent Ordinance provide authority for suspending, removing or disciplining a Rent Board Commissioner who otherwise performs the duties of his office. Consequently, Mr. Kavanagh is allowed to continue sitting on the Rent Board unless he is convicted of the charges against him, resigns or fails to discharge the duties of Commissioner.
The Rent Board members and Program staff respect and support the rules related to residency and representation that exist in both local and state law. The citizens of Berkeley are entitled to be represented by individuals that live in their city. If it is ultimately determined that Mr. Kavanagh was not a qualified elector, neither the members of the Board nor the staff would dispute that he should be removed from service on the Board.
Events over the past several months have absorbed a tremendous amount of time and energy of Rent Board staff and Board members. A resolution of the case and Mr. Kavanagh's status appears to be several months away, and concerns have been raised about the continued distraction the case brings to the agency. At the request of the Chair, these concerns were recently brought to Mr. Kavanagh's attention.
On October 2, 2007, the Rent Stabilization Program received a letter, dated October 1, 2007 from Chris Kavanagh to the Rent Stabilization Board's Chairperson, Jesse Arreguin. In the letter, Mr. Kavanagh indicated he continues to "…believe that when all the facts are presented that I will be cleared of the charges and allowed to continue representing the citizens of Berkeley whom have twice elected me to serve them."Mr. Kavanagh's letter also states, "…despite my most fervent desire for it to not be the case that the recent developments and allegations filed against me have become a distraction to the Board and Program and risk impacting the critical work and mission of the Rent Stabilization Board. For this reason, I request that you allow me to take a temporary leave from the Board for the period October 2, 2007 through December 31, 2007. I will return to the Board sooner if the charges against me have been resolved before the end of the year. I request that the Executive Director, pending a determination of my eligibility, hold my $500 stipend in escrow. If it is determined that I was not eligible, I intend to forfeit the stipend for the period I was on leave."After reading Mr. Kavanagh's letter, Rent Board Chair Jesse Arreguin issued the following statement - "It is with regret that I accept Mr. Kavanagh's request for leave. On behalf of the full Board, I wish to express our appreciation for Mr. Kavanagh's willingness to place the needs of the Program ahead of his own and offer to temporarily step aside until his status is clarified. It is our hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and fairly so that we can all continue serving the citizens of Berkeley."
A copy of Mr. Kavanagh's entire letter [PDF file, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] is attached.