By Steven Tavares.

The city of Alameda has received 51 affidavits alleging signature-gatherers paid by local landlords illegally misrepresented a proposed ballot measure intended to rollback recently-approved just cause tenant protections. The city is taking the charges seriously. According to a statement Tuesday from the city, it is consulting with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to discern whether any crimes have been committed.

The ballot initiative at the center of the complaints gained more than 7,300 signatures and was submitted last week to the clerk’s office for authentication. Just 4,808 valid signatures are needed to place the initiative on a future ballot.

If certified, the initiative could come before Alameda voters through an early special election the next municipal election in November 2018. The City Council could also rescind the just cause amendments it approved in early June, but it’s highly unlikely based on the current makeup of the council.

Numerous reports of signature-gatherers–many from out-of-town–badgering Alameda residents and, more specifically, offering prospective signers false information about the proposed initiative. One common falsehood, according to tenants’ advocates, is a depiction of the initiative as a repeal of rent control in Alameda.

In addition to the 51 affidavits, another 120 residents filed written complaints with the city clerk’s office to have their signatures withdrawn from the landlords’ petition, saying signature-gatherers misrepresented the proposed initiative to them.

The state election code makes it a misdemeanor for a signature-gatherer to intentionally misrepresent
or make false statements about the proposed initiative.

If any crimes are ultimately charged, it is unclear how it would affect the proposed initiative, but landlords who hired the accused signature-gatherers would be shielded from any legal jeopardy. That’s because the state election law only ascribes criminal liability to the signature-gatherer, not the company that employs them or the client.

Furthermore, the rancor between tenants’ advocates and signature-gatherers in Alameda may continue throughout the summer. A petition for a second initiative backed by landlords, this time one seeking to add the current rent stabilization ordinance to the city charter, was submitted to the city clerk two weeks ago.

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Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.