Fong’s Campaign Ads Put Cop, SJPD in Awkward Spot

UPDATE: Paul Fong's political consultants at Terris, Barnes & Walters provided the following statement:

Paul Fong participated in a ride-along with the San Jose Police Department on September 23, 2013 to obtain a street level view of crime in San Jose. Mr. Fong was not a candidate at the time of the ride-along.

Assemblymember Fong's Campaign apologizes to the officer and the SJPD for the inadvertent use of this photo and has taken precautions to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Paul Fong may not be breaking any rules by letting a lobbyist hold a $100,000 debt over his head during his entire time in the State Assembly, but his latest transgression could be seen as a violation of state law and local police policies.

Over the weekend, Fong, who is running for a seat on the San Jose City Council, posted new ads on his campaign Facebook page featuring him and San Jose police Sgt. Rob Imobersteg shaking hands in front of the officer’s car. Each of the four ads posted online threw out a local crime statistic and the deductive slogan: “That’s why: ‘SAFETY FIRST.’” The ads, which were hastily removed Tuesday, also misspelled the word “city” when recommending Fong for the District 1 council seat.

Ironically, while crime is up in San Jose, the political ads could have added one more to the pile.

California government code section 3206 states, “No officer or employee of a local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform.” Not only was Imobersteg in uniform; the SJPD emblem on the car’s driver-side door is in clear view. The SJPD duty manual also forbids officers on-duty or in uniform from “willfully being photographed in uniform (on or off duty) with political candidates.” (See c-1437 and c-1452.)

Sgt. Heather Randol, a public information officer for SJPD, told San Jose Inside in an email, “The sergeant was unaware this photo was being used as a political campaign ad. The photo was taken approximately 6-8 months ago at the end of a ridealong at the request of Mr. Fong. Mr. Fong was assigned to ride with the sergeant after requesting a ridealong with San Jose Police Department.”

If the photo was taken roughly six months ago, it’s conceivable that Fong was already a candidate. San Jose Inside reported last September that he was in escrow to buy a home in San Jose so he could run for council. Randol said SJPD had no plans to investigate the incident, but San Jose Inside has requested more detailed information about when the ridealong occurred.

Randol added that the department made a request for Fong to remove the ads, which disappeared from his Facebook page without comment sometime after 3pm Tuesday. The ads were first posted on Sunday, March 23, and accumulated a total of 76 likes on Facebook. Fong’s campaign did not return San Jose Inside’s call for comment.

Randol said neither Sgt. Imobersteg nor Chief Larry Esquivel knew or approved of the ad beforehand, as it would have equated to a department endorsement of Fong—which would clearly be illegal.

Regardless, Fong should have known better. He chairs the Assembly’s elections committee.

Below is a slideshow of the four ads Assemblyman Paul Fong posted to his San Jose City Council Facebook page before removing them without comment on Tuesday:

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

10 Comments

  1. See, he needs to take lessons on skirting the law from Sheriff Laurie. Take pictures of your little pets at police events and then plaster them all over your campaign pages. That way the deputy isn’t doing anything political, but hey, there they are in their full uniformed glory supporting Sheriff Laurie on her campaign pages.

    Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical and there is nothing ethical about our sheriff, not that I expect Pulcrano’s rag to call her on it.

    http://caseythomas.wordpress.com

  2. How did Paul Fong think it was OK to use Sgt. Imobersteg’s picture without his consent?

  3. I found the following in an article about Leland Yee’s arrest.

    Cressman, who until last June was vice president of the non-partisan government watchdog group Common Cause, issued a statement Wednesday morning saying that Yee’s indictment must be “a wake-up call” given other Senate Democrats’ criminal charges.

    “We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate,” Cressman said. “The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person’s soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all.”

    http://www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25423273

  4. The slideshow is four identical items. We need to see what is on the back side of each.

    This clown Fong owes $100k to a lobbyist and that’s not a violation of Assembly Ethics rules? Oh, stupid me, of course it isn’t. They’re all in the pocket of one lobbyist or another.

    Fong and his campaign manager are both idiots for not knowing the rule about using a photo of a cop in uniform on a campaign piece; as well as for not clearing the use with the Sgt. And Fong is a carpetbagger for District One besides. The SJ Elections Commission and the FPPC should be looking into this and get a decision out before the June primary.

    • If you look at the messages on the right side of the photos, each picture has a different crime statistic. (Might need to go full screen to get better zoom.) And there is no backside, because these were Facebook campaign ads.

      Thanks for reading,

      JK

  5. It is really selfish to stigmatize the police officer and SJPD for Paul Fong’s campaign! I would not vote this kind of selfish candidate. His student Evan Low has ever been elected as Mayer of Campbell. But Evan have been living in another state during that period. This is so ridiculous. What a Mayer! Now he is even going to run for assemblyman. Who would need such an irresponsible assemblyman?