Pamela Gray, an aide to Laurie Capitelli, took this photo of campaign signs she said she found in Alejandro Soto-Vigil’s recycling bin on Monday
Pamela Gray, an aide to Laurie Capitelli, took this photo of campaign signs she said she found in Alejandro Soto-Vigil’s recycling bin on Monday

A candidate for the Berkeley Rent Board, who is also an aide to City Councilman Kriss Worthington, filed a police complaint Monday charging that the aide to City Councilman Laurie Capitelli trespassed on his property.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil said that his wife saw Capitelli’s aide and campaign manager, Pamela Gray, walk onto his property on Berkeley Way around 3:20 p.m. to look at a recycling bin that was stuffed with campaign signs.

“Pam apparently had gone onto our doorstep and porch looking at things and then she went to the recycling area and pulled out some signs and started taking photos,” said Soto-Vigil.

Capitelli told Berkeleyside that he and Gray were delivering campaign material to Soto-Vigil’s neighbor when they saw that the recycling bin contained campaign signs. Since so many of Capitelli’s signs have been torn up or taken during the election, he wanted to see if any of them were in there. They were not.

“We were delivering campaign material to a neighbor immediately next door to Mr. Soto-Vigil’s house and saw campaign lawn signs sticking out of his recycling bin and garbage can and walked over to lift up the lid,” Capitelli said in an email. “Sure enough, they were full of campaign signs. We did not report this likely stolen property to the police.”

Soto-Vigil said he picked up the signs off medians, near Berkeley Bowl, and other places, in part to reuse the metal wire holders on his own campaign signs. The signs were already ripped up or out; Soto-Vigil said he did not remove them.

The campaign signs in Soto-Vigil’s recycling bins included ones for his allies, such as Rebecca Saltzman, who is running for BART. But they also included one for Dimitri Belser, who is running against City Councilman Max Anderson, whom Soto-Vigil supports.

Soto-Vigil filed a trespassing complaint with the Berkeley Police Department but said he is willing to drop the matter if Capitelli publicly apologizes.

“I want an apology to me and my wife,” said Soto-Vigil. “As colleagues we (Soto-Vigil and Gray) work next door to one another in City Hall. To do something this despicable – I think it deserves a formal apology.”

Capitelli and Soto-Vigil are on opposite sides of the two factions that dominate Berkeley politics. Capitelli is a Tom Bates supporter and he supports the TUFF slate, which is competing with Soto-Vigil for seats on the Rent Board.

Soto-Vigil works closely with Worthington, who often clashes with Capitelli. Soto-Vigil supports Capitelli’s opponent, Sophie Hahn, as well as Worthington.

The race for the city council seat for District 5 has been the most bitterly fought — and dirtiest — in this year’s election.

Capitelli supporters complained in October that Hahn was deliberately mischaracterizing the incumbent’s voting record to make him look anti-choice and pro-death penalty. Hahn said she was merely letting Capitelli “speak through his record,” when she pointed out times he did not vote for a woman’s right to choose when the issue came before the City Council or did not vote to call for the end to the death penalty in Alameda County. Capitelli is pro-choice and anti-death penalty.

A photo of a flyer sent out by City Councilman Laurie Capitelli showing him standing next to his son, a police officer in Sonoma County

Last week, Hahn backer and campaign contributor Shirley Dean filed a complaint with the Fair Campaign Practices Commission charging that a Capitelli flyer violated state campaign laws. The flyer, which Dean called “misleading” shows Capitelli standing with his son, Matt Capitelli, who is dressed in his police officer uniform. The pair appear to be standing on the steps of the Berkeley Police Department.

Dean charged that state law prohibits any peace officer from participating in political activities while in uniform.

Capitelli said his son is a police officer in Sonoma County, not Berkeley, and his son’s boss approved of the photo. Julie Holcomb, a Capitelli supporter, said in a Berkeleyside comment that “It would be up to the jurisdiction in which Matt serves to discipline him if they feel his corroboration of his father’s paternity constitutes political activity.”

Dean also said Capitelli included an endorsement from SEIU Local 1021 on the flyer when the union did not take a position on the District 5 race.

The FCPC will take up the matter after the election.

Capitelli supported Tom Bates when he ran and defeated Shirley Dean in the 2002 mayor’s race.

Supporters of Capitelli have said that Hahn’s distribution of pea plants to everyone in District 5 is a violation of state and federal campaign laws, which prohibits giving out anything of value to induce them to vote.

Hahn said the plants cost about 30 cents and were grown and distributed by volunteers and were less expensive than a mailer or hats that many campaigns give out.

Two slates fight for seats on the Rent Stabilization board [10.22.12]
Capitelli, Hahn go head-to-head in race for Berkeley’s District 5
Allegations fly in District 5 race [09.28.12]

See the latest campaign finance information at Berkeley Voter’s Edge, our collaboration with MapLight. Find your polling place, or a spot to drop off your absentee ballot, via our handy map. And see all Berkeleyside’s election-related coverage here.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...