Thursday, October 16, 2008

VTA staff illegally collaborated with the Yes on B campaign

Earlier today, the No on B, C, and D campaign held a press conference at the VTA headquarter and released copies of written communications between VTA and SVLG staff, which the campaign has obtained from VTA through Public Records Act. These documents show that VTA has been withholding updated cost estimates for the BART project and that VTA employees have illegally collaborated with the Yes on B campaign.

The entire documents are available here.

From the press release...

"An August 25, 2008 email from VTA staff member Brandi Childress to SVLG/Yes on B staffer Bena Chang, stated, 'On your second request, staff is actually working on a 2008 Draft 65% Engineering cost…actual costs in 2008 dollars based on the design thus far.' The following day, she sent an email stating, 'The VTA Exec Team is working on numbers based on 65% design engineering costs but we need to really vet them with [VTA General Manager] Mr. Burns which won’t be ready by tomorrow.' The fact that the project cost has still not been released nearly two months later, and it is less than 3 weeks before the election, can only mean one thing: the project doesn’t work financially with a 1/8-cent sales tax."

In the documents provided also include clear evidence of VTA staff illegally collaborated with the Yes on B campaign. Messages were sent to VTA from SVLG staffers requesting customized maps and talking points to be used on campaign collaterals. VTA staff not only complied with the campaign's request but also actively sought their assistance to ensure consistent messages between Michael Burns and the campaign.

Even though state laws prohibit public funds to be spent on campaign advocacy, maps produced by VTA using public funds has appeared on many of the Yes on B campaign collaterals.

In a memo to the VTA board, VTA's general counsel has denied any illegal activity between VTA staff and the Yes on B campaign. The counsel claimed that the communications were legal because VTA staff only provided factual information. However, the documents indicate that a SVLG employee has told VTA that information from the agency would be used on campaign materials (page 391):

"Editing your original drawings are exactly why I would like a vector copy of your map. Naturally, this would be undertaken with an eye to preserving your good work. Moreover, since we use graphical material relating to BART/VTA in so many of our documents & presentations, it makes sense for me to have a copy (working in tandem with Oxo [a VTA employee]).

Projects of note that will require maps / VTA materials:
- Speaking engagements concerning the Bart To San Jose Campaign
-Collateral produced by the Bart to San Jose Campaign
-Outdoor / Indoor Advertising Relating to the Bart to San Jose Campaign
-SVLG's 'Projections' Report, touting the Bart to San Jose Campaign"

Instead of spending its limited tax dollars on improving transit, VTA used its resources to promote its new tax. From the press release...

"'I’m personally appalled that VTA staff would conduct themselves in a way that not only brings dishonor and discredit to the VTA, but also contradicts the ethics training that VTA staff received at Santa Clara University at the beginning of this year,' David Casas, VTA board member. 'Their actions call into the question the validity of the Yes on B campaign in its entirety.'"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is there any legal recourse in this matter? If VTA is illegally assisting the SLVG "Yes on B" campaign, can the opponents file to stop it?