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  Two New Corky Stories - "Retaliation" and "Vendetta," He Says
November 22, 2013

How Corky Boozé runs afoul of the rules
Chip Johnson
Published 4:56 pm, Thursday, November 21, 2013
Richmond Councilman Corky Boozé takes calls at Caspers Hot Dogs. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle
Richmond Councilman Corky Boozé takes calls at Caspers Hot Dogs. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle
Once every two years, municipal governments across California hold ethics training for elected officials, but Richmond City Councilman Corky Boozé must have been holding court at Caspers Hot Dogs on Macdonald Avenue the day Richmond held its class.
Because when it comes to following the rules, Boozé appears clueless.
Boozé, a Caspers regular who meets constituents at that restaurant, introduced a measure last week to waive a $9,500 city lien on a property at 801 Hoffman Blvd., owned by a friend. The friend, Laura Baker, is also a former paid campaign consultant, a current landlord and an ex-girlfriend, the council member confirmed.
Baker "can't come and put her issues on the public safety agenda, but I can put it on the agenda so she can be heard," said Boozé, a member of the council's Public Safety Committee. It's what any elected official would do for any constituent, he contends. For the record, Baker lives in Vallejo.
Another property owned by Baker, who acquired it from Boozé's son in the late 1980s, is the subject of a city lawsuit against Boozé for code enforcement violations dating to 2008. The property at 22 Carlson Blvd., which Boozé used as a storage lot since the 1990s, was overflowing with car parts, tires, drums of motor liquids and rusted metal of all shapes and sizes. Trial is set for January, Boozé said.
In the meantime, Boozé just keeps on racking up demerits. But to hear him tell it, he is a humble man being persecuted for representing the city's most downtrodden citizens.
Boozé said that he'd planned all along to recuse himself from the vote on the lien waiver to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.
"Nobody ever asked me," Boozé said. "I'm not stupid. I would never vote on something like this. It's too close. It's not morally right on top of that. I don't hide anything. I'm not that kind of guy. I tell the truth."
Explanation falls short
Unfortunately, his explanation is insufficient.
Richmond City Attorney Bruce Reed Goodmiller issued a legal opinion this week that determined the Public Safety Committee had no authority to review the case because Baker did not appeal the case. Goodmiller, who didn't weigh in on the conflict of interest issue, said the measure should be withdrawn - which Boozé said he has since done.
"I go out and help people, and this is what happens," he lamented. "I get in trouble for helping people."
Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay has heard this song and dance before.
Because Boozé is the target of a significant city code enforcement action, he remains "suspect and not supportive of the city's code enforcement actions," Lindsay said.
"I'm certain he's taken the (ethical) training, but his actions are between him and the FPPC," Lindsay said, referring to the Fair Political Practices Commission, a state agency that monitors and fines elected officials for ethics violations.
'They're after me'
Boozé offers an alternate theory of how he has run afoul of the rules.
It's a political vendetta to damage his chances at re-election next year.
"They're after me," Boozé said.
It's his unrelenting crusade to expose ugly truths that has city government doing all it can to discredit and try to get rid of him.
The dustup over the waiver proposal is retaliation for Boozé's budget proposal to halt the practice of allowing managers to use city cars to drive to and from work, he said. The plan, which has been adopted, will have the greatest impact on Richmond's code enforcement manager Tim Higares, who lives nearly 100 miles away. Higares, who could not be reached for comment, filed the enforcement action in retaliation, Boozé claimed.
That's one explanation. Here's another.
Boozé's problems are largely those of his own making. As for pulling back the curtain on political dirt in Richmond, he's knee-deep in it. Right now, he is his own walking-talking, negative campaign advertisement for re-election.
With a trial pending and an incident that calls his ethics into question, Boozé runs the risk of becoming a one-term wonder whose only city office will be the popular hot dog stand he calls "City Hall West."
"You can call Caspers and they'll take a message for me," Boozé said.
Chip Johnson is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. His columns run on Tuesday and Friday. E-mail: chjohnson@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @chjohnson
Richmond councilman withdraws bid to waive fines against former partner
By Robert Rogers
Contra Costa Times
Posted:   11/21/2013 03:35:39 PM PST
Updated:   11/21/2013 03:59:02 PM PST

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RICHMOND -- Faced with mounting criticism from colleagues and city staff, City Councilman Corky Boozé on Thursday backed off his attempts to wave $9,500 in code violation fees slapped on a property owned by his former girlfriend and campaign worker.
Boozé, 69, pulled the item at the beginning of the three-member public safety committee's Thursday morning meeting agenda after the backlash culminated with an email from City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller on Wednesday declaring the item should be withdrawn because the proper process for appealing fines had not been followed.
"In no event, in my opinion, should the committee take up this item, let alone purport to act on it," Goodmiller wrote.
Richmond City Councilmember Courtland "Corky" Boozé speaks before residents and homeowners during a council meeting at Richmond Memorial Auditorium on Sept. 10, 2013. (Ray Chavez/Staff file)
Boozé had sought to overturn fines on an industrial property at 801 Hoffman Blvd. that is owned by Laura Baker, whom court records identify as Boozé's former domestic partner. Baker also owns several other properties that have been linked to Boozé and have come under fire for code violations and unkempt conditions.
The fenced property contains several dump trucks and piles of building debris.
Goodmiller's memo, which was sent to the City Council and city staff, said the committee could not legally hear the appeal because Baker had not exhausted "her administrative remedies," a conclusion Boozé disputes.
State conflict-of-interest laws preclude council members from voting on items with which they have a direct financial interest. Goodmiller sidestepped that point in his memo, writing that "we need not reach those issues and I, therefore, express no opinion on that point."
Earlier in the week, Boozé brushed aside criticism, denied any conflict of interest and vowed to fight to wipe out the fines.
But that changed at Thursday's meeting, when the item was pulled from the agenda at the outset and not broached again.
After the meeting, Boozé sounded a different note.
"Maybe I was too close to Ms. Baker; that's what everybody thinks," Boozé said. "It's a little bit close to me, so I need to back off."
But the controversial councilman did not back off his claims that rival council members and top city officials, including Goodmiller, Code Enforcement Director Tim Higares and City Manager Bill Lindsay, are using fines as "retaliation" against him.
Boozé said Higares is cracking down on Baker's properties, which some suspect are controlled by Boozé, in response to the councilman's efforts to take away perks like city-owned vehicles being provided for Higares and other employees to commute to and from work. Higares has denied those accusations. Boozé has clashed repeatedly with Higares and other city officials since his 2010 election.
"I know it's retaliation," Boozé said. "This is retaliation for me protecting the people of Richmond from department heads with cars for personal use coming out of the budget."
Thursday's meeting is unlikely to spell an end to Boozé's troubles. The councilman is set for a showdown with his own city government in January over allegations that he has violated court orders in maintaining a hazardous junkyard at 22 Carlson Blvd., another site owned by Baker.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/sfbaynewsrogers.

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