Six weeks ago, we wrote that calls for Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer to resign were premature (see "Lockyer Needs Help," Seven Days, 3/7/2012). But over the past few weeks, a series of eye-popping reports by Bay Area News Group reporters Josh Richman and Julia Prodis Sulek have made it clear that Lockyer's substance-abuse problems are extremely serious and that she needs to resign from office and focus all her energy on taking care of herself. It could take a long time.
The most recent revelation uncovered by Sulek and Richman showed pretty conclusively that Lockyer is a serial liar who cannot be trusted — which is common for people ensnared by addiction. Last week, Lockyer sent an email to Sulek that claimed that her husband, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, had supplied her with drugs, and then signed off, by writing: "I simply can't bear this any longer. Goodbye to everyone."
Sulek was rightly concerned that Lockyer might have been contemplating suicide, so the San Jose Mercury News reporter called police. Lockyer turned out to be okay, and later said that her "goodbye" was meant to mean that she was going to leave town to get away from her ex-boyfriend Steve Chikhani. She claimed that Chikhani's friends were stalking her.
Lockyer also claimed she didn't write portions of the email, specifically the part about her husband supplying drugs to her, and that Chikhani must have hacked her email account. But as Sulek and Richman's story shows, Lockyer's hacking claim is not credible.
A security expert who analyzed the email noted that it came from a Verizon Wireless cellphone, and Lockyer admitted that she has that brand of phone. Chikhani's lawyer, meanwhile, said he's not allowed to have cellphones in the drug rehab facility he's staying in. In other words, Lockyer is asking people to believe that a phoneless Chikhani somehow got hold of a Verizon phone like hers, hacked into her email account, and then added the bit about Bill Lockyer and drugs to an email that she had already composed before sending it to Sulek. As we said, that's not credible.
As such, Nadia Lockyer can't be trusted right now. And that's a big problem for a public official. Did Bill Lockyer give her drugs? Highly unlikely. But no one can be sure when Nadia Lockyer is telling the truth and when she isn't. And her constituents deserve better than that.
Did Chikhani beat her up as she claims? Or is she lying about that, too? A previous story by Richman noted that Lockyer went to visit Chikhani in jail repeatedly last year, and signed in as his attorney of record when she wasn't. Her deception allowed her to enjoy private meetings with him, and on one occasion she blew off a board of supervisors meeting to be with him. She claimed she was giving him legal advice on the request of his family — an assertion the family denies. Again, her word can't be trusted.
And that's the crux of why she should resign. The public needs to know that their elected officials are telling the truth. But Lockyer, probably because of her addiction, can't seem to come clean. And she may not be able to until she steps down and fully concentrates on overcoming her problems.
Snuffing Out Medical Pot
The attack by the IRS and US Attorney Melinda Haag on California medical cannabis dispensaries, particularly in Oakland, feels like it's right out of a Kafka novel. On the one hand, the feds (which include the IRS) adamantly maintain that the possession and sale of medical marijuana is illegal because pot is an unlawful controlled substance under federal law. But at the same time, the IRS maintains that all proceeds from the sale of this illegal drug are taxable. On its face, this double standard is silly. But the Internal Revenue Service's mind-bending arguments don't stop there.
The IRS also maintains that even though medical pot dispensaries must pay federal taxes like other legitimate business, the dispensaries are not allowed to make routine business-expense deductions. The agency is using this argument to drive Richard Lee's legitimate Oaksterdam businesses out of business. And it's using the same hypocritical assertion to try to shut down Oakland's Harborside Health Center, the largest medical cannabis dispensary on the West Coast.
The sheer ridiculousness of the IRS's claims makes the agency's motives obvious: It wants to eradicate medical marijuana in California. But the feds know that if they started shutting down pot clubs, under the rubric that medical pot is illegal, the public outrage in California would be immense. Polls have repeatedly shown that Californians overwhelmingly approve of medical cannabis. Knowing this fact, the feds are twisting themselves — and the tax code — in knots.
Haag has used the same type of absurd reasoning to justify her crackdown. Again, she knows that simply closing dispensaries is out of bounds. So, instead, the federal prosecutor has targeted clubs that she says are too close to schools. But, like the IRS, her motives are transparent.
For example, in Berkeley she is trying to shut down the BPG dispensary even though the mayor of Berkeley, Tom Bates, strongly opposes the idea because BPG is one of the most respected businesses in the city. Haag claims that BPG is too close to a nearby private French school, Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley. Yet Haag ignores the fact that the school has repeatedly said that it's totally fine with BPG's longtime location.
In Oakland, Haag has forced Lee's Coffeeshop Blue Sky dispensary to move repeatedly using the same argument — that it's too close to schools. But what she doesn't mention is that one of the schools in question is the Oakland School of the Arts, a charter school founded and still controlled by Governor Jerry Brown. Like the French school in Berkeley, Brown has expressed no qualms about his school being near a dispensary. In fact, Brown used his considerable influence when he was mayor of Oakland to put the school in its current location inside the Fox Theater, knowing full well that Lee's dispensary was nearby.
In a letter to the landlord of at least one Bay Area dispensary, Haag, like the IRS, contorts federal law to achieve her goals. She noted that possessing and selling pot is illegal under federal law. But she effectively blew past that statute, and said that she's targeting certain dispensaries because of a federal penalty "enhancement" for selling pot near schools or playgrounds.
As such, Haag ignores the fact that most Bay Area dispensaries run clean and safe operations, and expressly prohibit the sale or use of cannabis outside their operations where schoolchildren might be watching.