Board candidate accuses Capitelli aide of trespassing

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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  • The Sharkey

    Disqus formatting fail.

  • The Sharkey

    Not really. The Berkeley Daily Planet’s “article” is a hit piece on Capitelli that barely mention’s Capitelli’s side of the story, doesn’t include any of the images, and didn’t uncover Soto-Vigil’s lie about how he got the signs.

  • Frances Dinkelspiel

    Julie, Alejandro Soto-Vigil sent out a press release to dozens of media outlets on Monday Nov 5. The Daily Planet put up a story later that night, but it did not include any comment from Laurie Capitelli. Berkeleyside did post a story after the Daily Planet’s because we wanted to report it out fully. When news is generated by a release it is not “stealing” from another news publication. 

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Also, the BDP isn’t a news publication….

  • bgal4

    This story evolved during the election party at the Community Campaign Center exposing the truth. Alejandro’s smear campaign backfired big time, but boy did we get to see what kind of guy Alejandro is.

    My friend, I will call her Jill, believes (based on evidence) the Dmitri for District 3 sign in the photograph of Alejandro recycling bin is the sign she taped up in the front windows of the Community Campaign Center. At Tuesday’s night party Jill introduced herself to Alejandro and Kriss explaining the sign disappeared from the CCC a few days ago.  Kriss immediately took off.  Alejandro challenged Jill saying he did not appreciate her “charging” at him, he was rather agitated, soon two large male friends joined Alejandro leaning into Jill ordering her to leave the election party. Jill replied that she understood McCormick rented the CCC.   Alejandro left to check with McCoprmick about who Jill was. On his way across the room he stopped to speak with a man they mistook as  Jill’s husband. Alejandro asked “what’s up with your wife” suggesting she was tripping and needed to be reeled in. When he left, Alejandro’s wife approached the “husband”. She claimed the campaign signs must have been planted because she heard someone outside one night messing with the recycling bin.  Alejandro was not there to correct her story; he was still adhering to the original story about the signs being removed from the median. Alejandro returned and told  Jill she could stay saying they appreciate McCormick campaign about fiscal responsibly.

    Alejandro engaged in intimidation tactics when he could have easily apologized personally to Jill, ending this absurd drama.  I think it particularly troubling that  Alejandro created a press release in
    a desperate attempt and never considered his own  childish antics would be exposed.  

    I am not a supporter of either of the rival campaigns, nor do I support how Berkeley city council governs.
    I never stole a single sign during several campaigns I worked on,  it never crossed my mind.

  • Margaret_Maze

     Please do your homework.  I received the same press release you did late Monday night–I called Alejandro Soto-VIgil, whose number was listed on the press release, as soon as I got it, and wrote a story based on what he told me. At the same time, I called Laurie Capitelli’s cell phone, but he didn’t answer, not unreasonable considering the hour.  He called me back at about 7 or 8 on Tuesday morning and I updated the story based on what he told me.  He essentially confirmed Soto-Vigil’s story, though he understandably didn’t think that there was anything wrong with going through the Soto-Vigil family’s recycling.  He offered to send me pictures he’d taken of the signs. All of this is clearly visible on the Planet website.  Later that day he did send me one picture of some signs in a trash can.  The Daily Cal posted the same picture as proof that Capitelli and his staffer had actually searched the can, but I didn’t bother with it.

  • Becky O’Malley

    Something’s wrong with Disqus here–I’m using a friend’s computer and it posted on  her account instead of mine, but the above is actually from me..  –Becky O’Malley

  • The Sharkey

    Nothing you said conflicts with what Frances said so telling her to “do her homework” seems kind of dumb.

  • The Sharkey

    Nothing wrong with Disqus in this case. Not logging out of your friend’s account before posting a comment is what’s called “user error.”

  • southberkeleyres

    Tthe Berkeleyside photo of the clean, pristine Dmitri sign was worth a thousand words.  I’m beginning to feel that the Berkeley Daily Planet version didn’t want to tell the full story.  I lost some respect for the Planet after reading Jane Stillwater’s manufactured excuse to write a story about why she was voting for Max Anderson.  After all, it didn’t make any sense!

    What the Planet left outof the sign saga was more telling than what they published.  I used to respect and admire the Planet, but it seems it’s become a vehicle for slanted propaganda. I don’t know if the wool is being pulled over Becky’s eyes or if whe is a willing participant and cheerleader for a motley crew.

  • Guest

    bgal4, while you may not be supportive of many of these politicians, it seems one of them (in this case, Soto-Vigil) has been caught red-handed and is digging an even deeper hole by lying about it.  This is the kind of lie that any elected official should be called out on.  Will you please make an effort to contact Capitelli about this?  Since he’s been so beat up over photographing that evidence (and it is one hell of a piece of evidence) it would be much needed and deserved help.

    (I’m not crazy about most of these people either)

  • bgal4

     I already did.

  • Berkeleyan