SAN JOSE -- The president of the San Jose Police Officers' Association on Thursday filed a complaint with the state's political watchdog commission alleging technical violations of campaign laws governing the transfer of money between political committees that involves the District 8 City Council race.
San Jose police Sgt. Jim Unland's complaint said a committee linked to Mayor Chuck Reed's Measure B pension reform campaign illegally funneled $100,000 into a committee established to promote District 8 City Councilwoman Rose Herrera's re-election.
It also said the independent committee broke the law because it didn't disclose itself as a major contributor on a pro-Herrera mailer.
"I would hope to hear from the mayor or Rose Herrera speaking publicly that this money should not be spent," Unland said.
In a statement Thursday, Mayor Reed called the charges "yet another political stunt from San Jose employee unions who want to distract voters from the real issues at hand: solving San Jose's fiscal problems and putting more police officers back on patrol."
Unland filed the complaint with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, and wants the issue resolved before the money can be spent on behalf of Herrera.
Gary Winuk, chief of the enforcement division at the FPPC, confirmed his office received the complaint and said it must decide within 14 days whether or not to investigate the matter.
California limits contributions to political campaigns, but a series of recent court decisions have eliminated those limits for independent political committees. But by law, those committees are not supposed to operate in coordination with candidates or measures.
The current controversy stems from recent campaign contribution reports filed for the period of July 1 to Sept. 30, in which an independent committee called San Jose Reform Committee Supporting Rose Herrera for City Council 2012 raised $164,000.
Of that, $100,000 came from another independent committee called San Jose Fiscal Reforms, Mayor Chuck Reed, Chamber PAC and IMPAC proponents, which was the primary committee formed to promote Reed's Measure B pension reform campaign. Herrera has been a key Reed ally in support of implementing Measure B and his fiscal reforms, which the police are trying to block in court.
In his statement, Reed said that the POA knows it's legal to make independent expenditures to San Jose campaigns and for independent committees to fund and contribute to other similar committees. In fact, he said, the POA and other city and county unions spent $186,000 in the primary election to defeat Herrera.
Unions representing San Jose police and firefighters, among other employee groups, are furious at Herrera for backing Measure B, which San Jose voters overwhelmingly passed in June. And unions have thrown tens of thousands of dollars into an independent committee that is supporting Herrera's opponent, Jimmy Nguyen.
Unland confirmed that the police union's communications coordinator Kerry Hillis last month took a leave of absence to work for the Nguyen campaign.
Herrera on Thursday called Chuck Reed "a man of character and honesty and integrity," and said she would "be surprised if there was any substance to their charge" in the complaint.
Meanwhile, Herrera supporter and San Jose attorney John Daley late Wednesday filed his own complaint with the San Jose Elections Commission against Nguyen, alleging her opponent violated city campaign fundraising limits, as well as state campaign finance laws.
The commission investigates alleged violations of city campaign law.
"I am very concerned about these apparent violations because 1) they are so flagrant and 2) they are being made by or on behalf of an attorney, who is generally held to a higher standard than other citizens," wrote Daley in his complaint.
Nguyen, a mediator who was admitted to the California state bar in January, called Daley's complaint "a trumped-up effort to distract voters from the real crimes being committed in District 8."
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.