Oakland Cops’ Union Breaks Law, Again



The Oakland Police Officer’s Association has violated local and state election laws in its effort to unseat Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan and City Attorney Barbara Parker, public records and interviews show. The police union has failed over the past several weeks to file campaign disclosure reports with the city, detailing exactly how much it has spent trying to defeat Kaplan and Parker and replace them with Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Jane Brunner, respectively. The Oakland City Clerk’s Office said Wednesday that it has sent letters and made phone calls to OPOA informing the union that the law mandates that it must disclose it campaign activities, but that the union has nonetheless failed to do so.

The police union has funded at least two hit-piece mailers, targeting Kaplan and Parker. As the Express previously reported, the glossy mailers included numerous false and misleading claims about Kaplan and Parker and grossly distorted their records in office. According to declarations on the two mailers, they cost at least $34,800 to produce.

The police union also sent out at least one attack mailer against Mario Juarez, a candidate for city council District 5, Fruitvale-Glenview. Under California and Oakland law, groups must immediately disclose how much they are spending in support of or in opposition to candidates prior to an election.

Barry Donelan
  • Barry Donelan
Police union President Barry Donelan did not return a phone call seeking comment for this report. According to the city clerk's office, this is not the first time that the police union has failed to disclose its political activity as required by state and local law.

Over the years, the police union has been one of the most influential players in Oakland elections, often spending tens of thousands of dollars in support of candidates that it believes will be most friendly to its cause and against those that the union thinks will not. During the past decade, De La Fuente and Brunner have been able to count on the police union's support. The two also were the city’s primary negotiators for union contracts with public-employee unions — including for police. Oakland cops, partly as a result of those deals, are now among the highest paid, on average, in the nation. In fact, the high pay for police officers is the main reason why Oakland can’t afford to hire more cops.

The hit-piece mailers against Parker and Juarez were co-funded by the Oakland firefighters’ union. That union, however, has complied with the law, and has filed timely campaign statements with the city. According to the firefighters’ union statements, it spent $8,797 on an anti-Parker/pro-Brunner mailer and $7,182 on an anti-Juarez mailer.

The anti-Kaplan and anti-Parker mailers, along with the failure by the police union to disclose how much it has spent, also raise questions as to whether OPOA has been illegally coordinating with the Brunner and De La Fuente campaigns.

The police union’s anti-Kaplan and anti-Parker mailers resembled the hit pieces produced by Brunner and De La Fuente in recent weeks. The mailers make some of the same claims and were stylistically similar, and thus appear to have been produced by the same campaign consultants. The De La Fuente and Brunner campaigns are managed by the same political operative — Larry Tramutola. The firefighters’ union also hired Tramutola. As such, if Tramutola coordinated the attacks on Kaplan and Parker and got help in that effort from Brunner and De La Fuente, then such actions would also violate both state and local election laws.

Tramutola also did not return a phone call seeking comment for this report.

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