Four-Week Investigation Finds Overwhelming Evidence That Sup. Jew Violated Charter’s Residency Requirements By Failing to Reside in Supervisorial District
SAN FRANCISCO (June 18, 2007) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today initiated the legal process to remove Supervisor Ed Jew from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors following a four-week investigation that convincingly demonstrated the supervisor’s failure to comply with residency requirements to seek or hold the office under the City Charter. At a City Hall press conference this morning, Herrera announced that his office had already notified Jew’s attorneys of the action, taking steps to serve them with a copy of the verified complaint, memorandum of points and authorities, verified statement of facts, and several hundred pages of evidence and declarations collected as part of the City Attorney’s investigation. The filings begin a process known as “quo warranto” under the California Code of Civil Procedure, whereby Herrera is petitioning Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. to grant permission for the City Attorney to sue in state Superior Court to remove Jew as a supervisor from San Francisco’s District Four.
“In seeking Supervisor Jew’s removal from office, I am acting to remedy a crisis in governmental legitimacy that is unprecedented in San Francisco’s modern history,” said Herrera. “This is clearly not an action I undertake lightly. But neither can I shrink from the serious duty I owe to the citizens of San Francisco with the integrity of their representative democracy hanging in the balance. The evidence from my office’s investigation is overwhelming and clear: Mr. Jew violated the residency requirements of the City Charter and state law. He sought election to the Board of Supervisors — and continues to hold his position on the Board of Supervisors — unlawfully. With our filing today, I am petitioning Attorney General Brown to allow my office to sue for the supervisor’s removal in state court. It is critical that we move expeditiously to address a serious illegitimacy that risks undermining our citizens’ confidence in their local government. We owe the people of San Francisco, and especially the residents of District Four, nothing less.”
Significant questions about Supervisor Jew’s legal residency emerged shortly after a federal criminal investigation became public on May 18, 2007. At that time, City Attorney investigators began an inquiry into uncertainties surrounding whether the supervisor was a resident of the district he was elected to represent, and whether he had been legally domiciled there at least 30-days prior to filing his Declaration of Candidacy, as required by the City Charter. Within days of the investigation’s launch, the City Attorney’s Office requested that Jew provide factual information to demonstrate his residency by May 29 — a deadline later extended to June 8 to accommodate the supervisor’s overseas travel schedule. After attorneys for the supervisor provided an incomplete and largely inconclusive response, the City Attorney’s Office reiterated its original request, extending the courtesy of a third deadline to June 15. Jew offered no additional documents or information in response.
Despite the paucity of records provided by the supervisor, however, legal filings made available today make clear that Herrera’s investigators were independently amassing a significant factual record demonstrating that the 28th Avenue house at which Jew claims to have been domiciled was vacant between July 11, 2006 (30 days before he filed his declaration of candidacy) and May 2007 (when news reports first raised questions about the veracity of the supervisor’s residency claims). Records and declarations from the City Attorney’s case document either a complete absence or scant degree of water, garbage, telephone, postal, or gas and electric usage at the address, while interviews with nearly three-dozen neighbors uniformly attest that the house was entirely vacant during the relevant time period. Nearby residents noted that almost no one entered or exited the house during the time Jew was a declared candidate or elected supervisor: that the house received no newspapers or garbage service; that no regular lights illuminated the house at night; that no vehicles were parked in the driveway; that no furniture was observed within the household; and that neither Supervisor Jew nor his family spent time at the address.
Meanwhile, virtually all records that would typically be relied upon to demonstrate a legal domicile during the relevant time period — including tax returns, checking accounts, vehicle registrations, telephone directory listings, credit reports and other public documents — list either a Waverly Place address, outside of the district where Jew’s Chinatown business is located, or in Burlingame, California, outside the City where Jew and his wife purchased a home some years ago.
The San Francisco Charter requires candidates for the Board of Supervisors to have resided in the district they seek to represent for no fewer than 30 days immediately preceding the date they file their declarations of candidacy, and to continue to reside in the district during their incumbency on the Board of Supervisors. San Francisco voters established the residency requirements in 1996, when they amended the Charter to provide for district elections. Proponents of district elections argued that the Charter amendment would enable members of the Board of Supervisors to better understand neighborhood issues; to have greater, more direct accountability to the local community; and to be significantly less reliant on the moneyed special interests necessary to mount a citywide campaign.
Herrera’s filing to the State Attorney General today makes a forceful case for the over-riding public interest in seeking the removal of an illegitimate office-holder: “The uncertainty erodes San Francisco voters’ confidence in their elected representatives and undermines their faith in City and County government. It breeds cynicism about the integrity of San Francisco’s electoral process. Most importantly, it presents the danger that the voters of District Four have been and continue to be deprived of a representative on the legislative body of this City who resides in their own District and has the same understanding of and stake in their neighborhood that they do. Allowing this cloud to hang over San Francisco’s government any longer than necessary would undermine the residency requirements of the City’s Charter and the important public policies that led San Franciscans to adopt a district-based representative form of government. The public interest requires a prompt resolution of the questions raised about whether Mr. Jew met the residency requirements of the City’s Charter.”
Apart from a court order to remove Supervisor Jew from office, Herrera’s civil action seeks to recover legal costs and fees involved in pursuing the case. Chief Deputy City Attorney Therese M. Stewart and Deputy City Attorneys Wayne Snodgrass, Chad A. Jacobs and Jonathan Givner are handling the case, which is entitled People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis J. Herrera v. Edmund Jew, verified complaint before the Attorney General of the State of California.