A local renter and treasurer of SLO Voice, the ballot committee in favor of Measure B-17, is alleging San Luis Obispo's mayor, city council and city attorney altered the language of the special election ballot now before city voters.
Mayor Heidi Harmon and the city council repealed the city's former - and unpopular - rental housing inspection program earlier this year. But because backers of an initiative to repeal the inspection program filed papers to put it on a special election ballot, voters are having to decide whether to replace that defunct program with a permanent ban on any future, similar programs.
"Whereas, the People of San Luis Obispo seek to protect the privacy of all residents from discriminatory inspections invading residents’ privacy that violate the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution," reads a portion of the initiative's full text. "The City of San Luis Obispo shall not discriminate against any person based upon age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home, by imposing any compulsory program, policy, intrusion or inspection applicable to any residential dwelling unit."
As a principal member of SLO Voice, Kevin Rice is key supporter of the repeal and replace measure now before voters. And now he's filed an 89-page criminal complaint with the California Attorney General's office and the Secretary of State's Investigative Services department.
Rice accuses the mayor and city officials of purposely misleading voters with ballot language different from what thousands of local voters thought they would be supporting when they signed a petition calling for the special election.
"The city has actually conducted unlawful operations that have altered what's on everyone's election ballot. And to me that's a crime," Rice told KCBX News Thursday.
In Rice's complaint, he alleges, "instead of following the letter of the law, the city adopted the initiative in part - thus altering the initiative- by substituting an ordinance of its own design that enacted only half of the initiative's text."
San Luis Obispo city attorney Christine Dietrick says the filing appears to be solely political, and called it "dirty pool."
"The city acted consistent with the law and its obligation to provide clear, complete and truthful election information to the public so that they can make an informed decision about the measure before them," Dietrick said. "That decision is their's and the city is committed to moving forward with whatever the voters tell us is in the best interest of our community."
Unless a court stops the election, the voting period will last until August 22. Late Thursday, the county's election office said about 3,500 ballots of the 29,000 sent out July 24 have been returned.
[CORRECTION: In a previous broadcasted version of this story, KCBX News identified Kevin P. Rice as a local attorney. This is incorrect. Rice identified himself as a "local renter, principal and treasurer of SLO Voice, and a career firefighter." We regret the error and have made the correction in the text.]