[Editors”s note: The following is an unedited press release from the Oak to Ninth Referendum Coalition, received at 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, 2006.]

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For further information:
Helen Hutchison 510 654 2216
James Vann 510 763-0142


On behalf of the Oak to Ninth Referendum Coalition, Attorney Stuart Flashman has written to City Attorney John Russo protesting his action to halt verification of 25,000 signatures gathered on a petition for referendum, and stating that Russo's letter seems to reveal serious violations of the City Charter by the City Council and city staff.

Russo claimed that the petitioners used a faulty version of the Oak to Ninth Development Agreement. However, citizens have now compared this first "final" development agreement provided to them by City Clerk La Tonda Simmons on July 22 (four days after the hearing) with a later, much-revised "final" version at last obtainable only after several weeks and many requests. Mr. Russo claims the first version is the wrong one, and that the latter is the official one.

By law, a referendum petition must be circulated within the 30 days immediately after an ordinance's passage, and must be based on its exact language. Helen Hutchison, President of the League of Women Voters of Oakland, asked, "If the wording of ordinances continues to change after the final vote, how could anyone ever petition for referendum? The Coalition finds itself in a real ‘Catch 22’ situation."
Flashman's letter says:

"There is indeed a public policy favoring full disclosure to voters. However, there is an equally, if not stronger, public policy that government be open and forthright in dealing with its citizens, and that an ordinance not be modified substantially after first reading, and most certainly not after it has received final City Council approval. The City’s post-approval manipulation of the Development Agreement violated this policy, which is explicitly stated in the Oakland City Charter. From the documents I have been provided, it appears clear that the document my clients circulated with the petition was precisely the document the City Council had before it and approved on July 18th. It is also the document my clients obtained through the City Clerk's office on July 22nd. Based on the City's representations to the public and to my clients, the City is therefore estopped from asserting that a substantially different document is the approved City ordinance. I would ask you to reconsider your letter and your actions in advising the City Clerk to withdraw the petitions. Please be advised that unless the petitions are returned to the Registrar's office and the signature validation allowed to resume, my clients will be filing suit against the City of Oakland, the Oakland City Clerk, and the Oakland City Attorney to reverse these improper and illegal actions.”