Town Business: Rent Board Nominee Has History of Mishandling Brokerage Funds and Ran an Unauthorized “Eviction Service”


Benjamin Scott. - ADVENT PROPERTIES.
  • Advent Properties.
  • Benjamin Scott.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is recommending that the city council approve thirteen different appointments to the city's various boards and commissions at the council’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday night. The council will also finalize a $450,000 settlement with the family of a man who died in police custody.

Alternate landlord seat: Schaaf is recommending that Benjamin Scott be reappointed to the Rent Board, which is responsible for mediating disputes between landlords and tenants. Scott is an Oakland landlord and real estate broker with Advent Properties, and if approved by the council, Scott would take an alternate landlord seat on the rent board. But according to state records, Scott has a history of mishandling real estate trust funds, and his company broke state law when it advertised for, and obtained advanced fees from, landlords to run an “eviction service” without getting prior approval from the state Bureau of Real Estate. The violations occurred between 2011 and 2013, while Scott was a member of Oakland's Rent Board, and were discovered when the state conducted an audit of Advent Properties in January 2014. The Bureau of Real Estate found that Scott “failed to take reasonable steps, including but not limited to, the handling of trust funds, supervision of employees, and the implementation of policies, rules, and systems to ensure the compliance of [his] business with the Real Estate Law and the Regulations.” Scott settled the violations with the Bureau of Real Estate in October of 2014 by agreeing to pay fines adding up to $6,000, plus fees of $12,672. His real estate license was also suspended for thirty days. Scott was originally appointed to the Rent Board in 2009 by then-Mayor Jean Quan.

Neutral rent board seat: Schaaf is also recommending that Edward Lai, an attorney with the Bishop Barry law firm, be reappointed to a neutral seat on the rent board for a term ending in February 2017. According to the Bishop Barry law firm's website, Lai specializes in representing and defending small businesses, and he is an experienced “landlord rights” attorney. Lai was also originally appointed to the Rent Board by Quan in 2011.

Port Commission: Schaaf has nominated labor union leader Andreas Ferreira Cluver and the Spanish Speaking Unity Council's former CEO Arabella Martinez to fill two seats on the Oakland Port Commission. Cluver is the secretary treasurer of the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, the umbrella organization for 28 different craft and trade unions. Martinez led the Unity Council, an influential East Oakland nonprofit, between 1969 and 1974, and again from 1989 to 2005. She is currently the interim CEO of the Latino Community Foundation of San Francisco.

Police Review Board: Schaaf's nominees to the Citizens Police Review Board are Sharon Ball, a certified fraud examiner who until October of last year worked in the city auditor's office, and Mauricio Wilson, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Oakland.

Settling police lawsuits: In 2015, the City of Oakland paid out $175,154 to settle nine lawsuits against the police, most of them for collisions involving police vehicles. This week the city will pay out more than double this amount to settle one lawsuit against OPD. Oakland will pay $450,000 to the family of Hernan Jarmillos, who was killed by several Oakland police officers in 2013. Last week, video captured by a police officer’s body camera surfaced, which showed an officer pinning Jarmillos to the ground with his knee, while Jarmillos yelled “I can’t breath." Jarmillos yelled “they’re killing me,” and "I can't breath" over and over before dying.