In the race for Alameda County Supervisor, Liz Figueroa faces a rough road. Her main opponent in the November runoff, Nadia Lockyer, likely will have a huge fund-raising advantage thanks to the help of her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. And Figueroa, a longtime former state legislator, will have to deal with troubling questions surrounding her history of not telling the truth.
Public records reveal that Figueroa has been lying about her official place of residence in Alameda County for most of the past four years. She has claimed that she has been living in an uninhabitable, broken-down shack in the backwoods of Sunol since 2006, when, in fact, she has never lived there. She even claimed the shack was her official place of residence on her candidacy forms when she launched her bid for Alameda County Board of Supervisors in March of this year. Records also indicate that Figueroa voted illegally in Alameda County between 2006 and 2009, using the Sunol address as her official residence, when, in reality, her home was on a private beach in a gated community in Half Moon Bay, in San Mateo County.
Since June 2006, Figueroa has claimed on numerous legal documents that her home is 2373 Kilkare Road in Sunol. But on a visit last week, it appeared that no one has lived in the hillside shack for many years. The rotted wooden structure is missing several windows and was mostly open to the elements. A blue-tarp was draped over it because much of the roof was gone. The wooden deck surrounding the house and the steps leading up to it felt as if they were ready to collapse. In fact, several feet of the deck already had. Next to the front wooden staircase was a broken down dishwasher that gave the property an Appalachian feel — as did the waist-high-and-taller weeds that choked much of the property. The front-door was ajar, revealing a tiny bedroom with a single platform bed and a small bathroom. It appeared to be more suitable for a squatter than a former two-term state senator.
The only indication of Figueroa was a lawn sign in front that read: "Liz Figueroa for Alameda County Supervisor — Rooted in Alameda County." Near it was a For Sale sign and a Plexiglas container of fliers warning buyers that the home is "uninhabitable." A neighbor said the home "hasn't been occupied for at least five years."
In an interview, Figueroa admitted that she has never lived there. "I couldn't — they said I can't," she said, referring to county inspectors whom she said told her the home was unsafe. So why did Figueroa claim on legal records, including property tax- and voter-registration forms and her official candidacy papers, that she lives in a home she's never actually occupied?
At first, Figueroa contended that she did it because she always intended to live on the property once she tore down the cabin and erected a new home. She bought the property for $350,000 in June 2006 after selling her nicely remodeled house next door for $617,500, property records show. But once the housing market crashed, she said, she realized she couldn't afford to rebuild, particularly after a tree fell on the roof a few years ago. She put the property up for sale in March, at first asking for $299,000, and later dropping the price to $279,000. It went on the market just after she declared the property to be her "place of residence" on her official candidacy papers that she filed with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
Figueroa, who was a California lawmaker from 1994 to 2006, said she was not aware that her official "place of residence" on her candidacy papers was supposed to be the home she lived in. She also maintained that when she registered to vote she didn't know she was legally required to list the place she lived in, even though the affidavit she signed under penalty of perjury stated, "Address: Where You Live."
Finally, when questioned further, she said she was acting on the advice of Gloria Ritchie, her campaign manager. Ritchie, however, declined to comment for this story.
So where does Figueroa live? From 2006 to at least December of last year, her primary residence was Cabin 35, Martin's Beach, Half Moon Bay. Public records show that Figueroa, who sometimes also goes by her married name, Martha Elizabeth Bloom, obtained a lease for the property in 2005. On a recent visit, it was impossible to get to her home because it's on a private, secluded beach and the only road leading in was gated.
At first, Figueroa maintained that Martin's Beach wasn't really her primary residence, saying that she divided her time for much of the past four years between Cabin 35, taking care of her mother, and staying with friends in Sunol. But then she admitted that her mother lives in San Mateo and that she had only stayed with friends sporadically in Alameda County. In other words, Figueroa has lived for most of the past four years in San Mateo County, while declaring publicly that she lives in Alameda County.
Nonetheless, Figueroa said she is eligible to run for Alameda County supervisor to replace the retiring Gail Steele because she has been living in a rental home, also in Sunol, since December. Full Disclosure uncovered no evidence to contradict that assertion. It's illegal for a candidate who doesn't live in Alameda County to run for county supervisor.
Figueroa's problems with truth-telling, however, aren't limited to her home. Earlier this year, she was sued because she wanted her title on the June ballot to state that she was a "Job Developer" or "Employment Specialist," even though she is neither. After being termed out of the state senate in 2006, Figueroa landed a plum spot with the California Unemployment Appeals Board. Her primary job responsibility involves deciding whether unemployed workers are eligible for jobless benefits — not finding or developing jobs for people. In April, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill ruled that both of Figueroa's preferred job titles were misleading and forbid her from using them.
The one bright spot for Figueroa is that her opponent, Nadia Lockyer, also has problems with the truth. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Lockyer claimed on her web site and campaign materials that she's an Alameda County deputy district attorney when she is not. She's a lawyer and her job falls under the jurisdiction of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, but she is not a prosecutor.
The biggest challenge for Figueroa, however, will be Lockyer's fund-raising prowess. According to the latest campaign finance statements, Lockyer raked in a total of $898,594 in 2009 and 2010, including $589,198 from her husband. Figueroa, by contrast, raised just $43,342, including a $10,000 loan from herself. In the June 8 primary, Lockyer received 38.3 percent of the vote compared to Figueroa's 24.1 percent. Union City Mayor Mark Green came in third with 23.8 percent, just 106 votes behind Figueroa.
Perata Gets More from Prison Guards
Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata continues to collect lucrative fees as a "campaign consultant" from the state's powerful prison guard's union, even though the union has mounted no political campaigns. The ex-state senator pocketed $48,893 in the past few months, according to the latest campaign finance filings, raising the total he has banked from the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association's Issues Committee to nearly $90,000 in the first five months of this year.
Perata went on the prison guard's union payroll immediately after being termed out of the state senate in late 2008. In 2009, the union paid him $260,000 as a "campaign consultant." But it's unclear exactly what Perata's company, Perata Consulting, which includes his son, Nick Perata, has done to earn nearly $350,000 in the past seventeen months.
During his tenure as state senate president pro tem, Perata helped insulate the union from budget cuts. Records on file with the California Secretary of State's Office show the guard's union has been Perata Consulting's only political campaign client since its inception in early 2009.