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Blowback from Fisher Participation in Chevron Assessment Appeal Continues



From: Jeff Ritterman [mailto:jeffritterman@yahoo.com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 8:44 AM
To: bapacccc@sbcglobal.net
Cc: jim112927@aol.com; Joe Fisher; maria_viramontes@ci.richmond.ca.us; Butt, Tom; Ludmyrna Lopez; elirapty@aim.com; Bates, Nat; Gayle McLaughlin; Marquez, John; Mike (MCoyle) Coyle; Lindsay, Bill; Randy Riddle; Goins, James; Gioia, John
Subject: Dr. Ritterman responds to BAPAC




I will be succinct and to the point.


The article in question raises serious questions of conflict of interest.  To my mind, you still have not answered the charges.


If it is true that Joe Fisher was involved in receiving and distributing funds from Chevron to BAPAC's chosen candidates, as the article states, then, in my view, it was improper for Mr. Fisher to sit on the Appeals Assessment Tax Board which was charged with deciding Chevron's property tax liability.  I see this as a clear conflict of interest, and I do believe it affected Mr. Fisher's judgment, if only unconsciously.  Even if it did not, a clear perception of a conflict of interest existed and that is enough to undermine public confidence in the democratic process.  We are living in a time when corporate influence over the democratic process has seriously weakened our democracy and we should not allow that to happen in Richmond.  It's bad for the city and it's bad for Richmond's residents.


Given that, I believe that Mr. Fisher should have recused himself.


If my characterization as "scandalous" is too strong, I gladly retract it, apologize for it, and substitute the words "improper" or "inappropriate."


If you would like to discuss this further, either in a public forum or privately, I am happy to do so.


In partnership,

Jeff Ritterman, M.D.




--- On Tue, 11/10/09, BAPAC wrote:

Subject: News from BAPAC - Allegations, Assertions and Untruths Published
To: jeffritterman@yahoo.com
Date: Tuesday, November 10, 2009, 12:00 PM

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   Date: November 10, 2009
       To: Jeff Ritterman
    From: Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC) of Contra Costa County
               Board of Directors
Subject: Allegations, Assertions and Untruths Published about Joe Fisher & Black
              American Political Action Committee
This paper is written in response to both the October 21st East Bay Express article by Robert Gammon ("A Friend of Chevron Gives It a Costly Gift") and subsequent emails originated and circulated by you  and forwarded to members of your cabal, the Mayor and members of the Richmond City Council. Since your emails were not sent by Councilman Jeff Ritterman, for the purposes of this paper you will be referred to in most cases as Jeff Ritterman.
First of all BAPAC is appalled that you Jeff Ritterman, a councilman for the City of Richmond would use a degrading word such as scandalous to describe Joe Fisher who has been an upstanding volunteer public servant and community leader in the City of Richmond for over 40 years. Mr. Fisher, President of BAPAC has an impeccable record of public service and the accusation of perceived conflict of interest is baseless.
Accordingly, we believe that it is important to summarize the evolution of the issues and allegations in question.

  • Councilman Jeff Ritterman through former city councilman Jim McMillan, requested to meet with Mr. Fisher regarding the decision of the Assessment Appeals Board.
  • A meeting was held between Mr. Fisher, Councilman Ritterman and Jim McMillan in Mr. Fisher's Office.
  • Councilman Ritterman explained the negative financial impact of the Assessment Appeals Boards decision on the City of Richmond.
  • Mr. Fisher asked Councilman Ritterman if he made decisions on the city council based on truth, right or wrong, or on whom it would benefit. After Councilman Ritterman did not answer Mr. Fisher's question. Mr. Fisher then stated that it was his obligation to follow the letter of the law.
  • Mr. Fisher surmised that councilman Ritterman was not interested in the process used to make the decision, which took 2 years, 50 hearings, volumes of document review and testimony by many experts.
  • Councilman Ritterman implied that Mr. Fisher should have voted against Chevron regardless of the facts.
  • Mr. Fisher rejected Councilman Ritterman position and the meeting was terminated.
  • Several days later Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express interviewed Mr. Fisher.
  • On October 21, 2009 the East Bay Express article is circulated by Jeff Ritterman.

BAPAC denounces the absurd allegations reported in the East Bay Express on October 21; they are without merit. BAPAC also unequivocally denounces your statement that "It also implicates BAPAC as being basically on Chevron's payroll." We challenge you, Tom Butt and Courtland Booze to produce evidence to substantiate your statement.
BAPAC also denounces your statements that "campaign contributions to John Marquez and Harpreet Sandu were laundered through BAPAC." Also, you stated "if the story is accurate" then we need to change the system to remove these corrupting influences. The context of your statements imply to the readers of your email that BAPAC has been engaged in illegal activities. We view this characterization of BAPAC as an attempt at organizational assassination. BAPAC is demanding that you retract the statement.
BAPAC is a political action committee established under the California Fair Political Practices Commission and has not violated any laws or rules governing political action committees. All contributions received and expended are reported on state campaign contribution forms, completed by an outside Certified Public Accountant and filed with the Contra Costa County Registrar's office. Unlike the East Bay Express, BAPAC believes in full and accurate disclosure.
For further clarification of the methods used by the Assessment Appeals Board we recommend that you read the Rick Radin's investigative article in Sunday's West County Times page A20 (Chevron tax refund ruling may set a pattern).
We strongly suggest that in the future, before you make degrading character damaging statements that could potentially cause you financial and or political ramifications, you consider the source of your information.
We want to be crystal clear that BAPAC will not allow Tom Butt or any one else to tell us that we were ostensibly started to help elect African Americans and we are obligated to support Black candidates, which is contrary to our mission statement and our democratic principles. BAPAC was organized to encourage African American participation in local and county political activity. Under no circumstances do we support any candidate based on the single criterion of race. We are an issue oriented organization and we endorse people who best represent the community interests as we collectively debate them.
It is a fact that BAPAC has a history of supporting non-black candidates. As a matter of fact one election year we supported Tom Butt, who is not to our knowledge a friend of Chevron. You may recall that in the 2008 elections BAPAC of Contra Costa County endorsed non-black candidates in the cities of El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules.
The bottom line is that we refuse to go back to the plantation where we were told what to do and say. This position is firm and non negotiable.