In a plea agreement Friday, former Rent Stabilization Boardmember Chris Kavanagh pleaded no contest to one felony count of improperly registering to vote in Berkeley, when he actually lived in Oakland.
In exchange for the plea, District Attorney Trevor White dropped five other felony counts related to serving on Berkeley’s rent board while living in Oakland, lying about it, and collecting a stipend and health benefits from the post.
Kavanagh will be sentenced April 24, and could receive up to six months at Santa Rita jail. He will be on probation for five years and cannot run for office during that time. He must pay a fine of $10,835 to the city of Berkeley.
Prosecutors dropped charges of voter fraud, filing false candidacy papers, perjury, fraudulent voting in Berkeley and grand theft for accepting a monthly stipend and health insurance benefits while serving on the rent board.
In a statement e-mailed to the Daily Planet on Friday, Kavanagh said, “As I indicated in a previous statement, like many Berkeley homeowners who own (or rent) two homes, I rented two living spaces over the last several years: one in Berkeley and another in Oakland. I kept possession of my Oakland space because I did not want to give up its local amenities and rare outdoor garden space. There is nothing unusual about possessing two living spaces.”
Kavanagh contends that he had a Berkeley residence “with the exception of a period of time during parts of 2006 and 2007 when I involuntarily lost my Berkeley home.”
Kavanagh, a Green Party member, was first elected to the rent board in 2002. In 2003 questions arose over his residency, and the city attorney asked the district attorney’s office to look at the case, but the district attorney did not pursue the issue.
Questions about his residency arose again last year when Kavanagh fought an eviction from his Oakland residence, a cottage on 63rd Street. The city attorney again asked the district attorney to intervene, which he did this time.
At its meeting on Thursday, the Rent Board members discussed how they will choose Kavanagh’s replacement. Candidates should submit a resume and statement to the Rent Board by March 10, according to Jesse Arreguin, Rent Board chair.
The board will choose a new director at its March 17 meeting. That director will serve until an elected member takes that person’s place.
Applications should be sent to Jay Kelekian, executive director, 2125 Milvia St., Berkeley, 94704. Applicants must be Berkeley residents.
An elected director will serve in the place of the appointed director after the November elections.
“I am grateful to my family, friends and colleagues for their confidence and support. It has been a sincere honor and privilege to have served on Berkeley's Rent Stabilization Board. I also apologize to my constituents for the period of time I was unable to live in Berkeley,” Kavanagh’s statement says. For the full text of the statement, see Page Fourteen.
Bay City News contributed to this report.