Ash Kalra’s Library Tax Letter Breaks Campaign Laws

Councilmember Ash Kalra violated rules on elected officials using city resources to do campaign work. In a March 20 letter sent to the rest of the council and Mayor Chuck Reed, Kalra used city letterhead and his council email account to push for support of library parcel tax Measure B—not the other Measure B.

“I am confident that you are excited as I am to support the upcoming Measure B in support of our libraries,” Kalra wrote. “I have offered to collect endorsement forms from the elected officials here on the 18th floor. I hope you can fill out the form and return it to Kimberly Hernandez in my office by noon on Monday, March 24, 2014. I will then deliver the completed forms to Mary McClane with the Save San Jose Libraries 2014 campaign.”

He added: “Thank you in advance for completing the endorsement forms promptly. I am glad we have found a Measure B that we can all agree on!”

City Attorney Rich Doyle, who did not return a call for comment, reissued a memo on Wednesday that seemed to be a subtle reprimand of Kalra’s actions. Doyle reiterated what campaign activities are allowed by including a memo that was first sent out in late January. The first of this year’s two elections is June 3.

Reached for comment Friday afternoon, Kalra admitted he shouldn’t have sent the letter.

“The second the city attorney’s office informed me I agreed and thought it made sense,” he said. “I misinterpreted the rules.”

Kalra added that he viewed the library parcel tax as a nonpartisan race. A council vote to put the tax on the ballot passed with unanimous support. Kalra told San Jose Inside that he sent the letter at the request of the library campaign.

“But it’s not on them, because I could have just used a non-office email,” he said.

Doyle’s memo from January clearly lays out what is and is not allowed during campaign season.

“City officials can be held personally liable for authorizing the improper expenditure of public funds for campaign purposes,” the memo states. “City officials are held to a ‘standard of due care’ which means that an official who fails to exercise ‘reasonable diligence’ in authorizing the expenditure of public funds is subject to liability.”

It’s not clear if Kalra will be subject to any penalty, but he did not attempt to sidestep responsibility.

“If you mess up, say, ‘Hey, I messed up,’” he said.

Almost three years have passed since Kalra was arrested for driving drunk, which he addressed with media just a day after the incident.

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

17 Comments

  1. If Chuck and Sam and Pete can violate campaign laws and get away with it then why shouldn’t Ash and anyone else who wants do the same?

  2. The world would be an even better place if elected officials didn’t make so many mistakes, and weren’t so ignorant of the rules. Don’t they send these clowns to an ethics class after they get elected?

    Can we do Ash’s thing when we’re stopped for a traffic violation and watch the officer rip it up?

  3. Wait, didn’t this labor lap dog get booked for ‘Driving under the influence’ a few years ago? What happened then?

    Oh! Well I guess he just said ‘Hey, I messed up’ and the cops (obviously, members of the Police Officers Association who endorse labor lap dogs like him) just sort of gave him a slap on the wrist then didn’t they?

    Wow!

    Again, anybody anti-labor or non-labor friendly is automatically ostracized BUT those pro-labor and labor lap dogs just get a get-out-of-jail card just by saying “Hey, I messed up”.

    Disgusting…

        • Robert,

          Both actions are against the law and Ash actually mentioned the DUI on his own when talking about owning up to mistakes.

          JK

          • Josh,

            In your next post please include the criminal history of all council members and those running for any council seat. Thanks

          • If Kalra specifically mentioned the DUI in his remarks related to this campaign incident you should include those remarks as a foundation.

            The first mention of the DUI related to this article came from a commenter and SJI’s first mention is that it happened and he addressed “it” (DUI) with the media shortly after it happened …nearly 3 years ago.

    • Wow Josh you are on a roll! And beginning to show your dark side about who you like and hate for political office. Lets keep it fair. This guy opening admitted to a mistake on what, a library measure. Heck Chuck lied to all of us about measure B, and we can go on and on about the rest of the want to be mayors on this council. Lets keep a fair field for the upcoming election. As I asked you before, bring out all the dirt on all and not just on some.

      • And beginning to show your dark side about who you like and hate for political office.

        LOL reminds me of a conversation my wife and her besty had with my friend Roy.. Roy was way into skinny puppy, eye makeup, and doc martins.

        “What kind of girl do you like?”
        “I like dark women.”
        “You mean dark like black?”
        “No I mean dark like depressed, but she can be black too”

      • Yeah , that would require Impartial reporting , and that simply doesn’t happen in San Jose

    • “Disgusting…” How? Kalra plead guilty to DUI and his sentence is reported here:

      http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/San-Jose-Councilman-Ash-Kalra-sentenced-for-DUI-2366120.php

      In any case its old news…. Reed spending an undisclosed amount of taxpayer money ($15k-45k) from his D4 council office budget on personal expenses (including campaign contributions, sharks tix and club memberships) ? Forgiven and forgotten after he got caught, wrote a check to cover the undisclosed amount while proclaiming what he did was perfectly legal?

      How about Sam Liccardo illegally soliciting/collecting contributions to his mayoral campaign prior to the date candidates were legally allowed to solicit/collect? Forgotten and forgiven when a campaign employee took the blame and Sam returned the money?

      I’m all for holding elected officials accountable no matter their allegiance. I’m not for selective memory.

  4. He wasn’t even behind bars!

    “Kalra said he was held in a processing center beneath the jail for at least four hours’ before being cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was then released.”

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_18021647

    What gets me is that he got off SUPER easy!

    “Santa Clara County Superior Court. Judge Edward Lee fined him $2,000, placed him on three years of probation and ordered him to undergo 90 days of DUI counseling.

    The judge also ordered Kalra to spend six days in jail, but gave him credit for a day in custody and said he could serve the other five days in the work-detail program…”

    http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/San-Jose-Councilman-Ash-Kalra-sentenced-for-DUI-2366120.php

    I wonder if ANY OF US would have gotten the exact same treatment…you know…us ‘regular’ folk.

  5. He should have known better. It was not for personal gain, so I think a mea culpa and a day or two wearing the dunce cap is enough punishment.

  6. Bickering over whether Kalra broke rules or not or whether breaking the rules is of significance or not sort of obscures the larger issue. Would a parcel tax even be needed if our labor beholden leaders (like Ash himself) weren’t so intent on paying way above market rate to run our libraries?
    Salaries and benefits should be more in line with those of their private sector counterparts such as Barnes & Noble employees. And I’ll bet Barnes & Noble employees weren’t paid to take the day off today (Cesar Chavez Day evidently).
    Our fair city- what a colossal racket.