The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office is looking into allegations of whether Monte Sereno Councilwoman Rowena Turner violated election laws, a spokesperson for the department confirmed.
News of the probe comes just days after a San Jose Inside article revealed that Turner, who is running for a second term, voted twice in at least seven elections. Public records from the Oregon Secretary of State and Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters show that Turner is registered to vote in both Monte Sereno, California, and Grants Pass, Oregon.
Records show that the Republican councilwoman voted twice in five general elections—2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018—and twice in the 2020 and 2016 primaries.
Elections experts previously interviewed by San Jose Inside say that’s illegal.
Under federal election law, it’s a crime punishable up to $10,000 and five years in prison to vote more than once in “any general, special or primary election held solely or in part for the purpose of selecting or electing any candidate for the office of president, vice president, presidential elector, member of the United States Senate [or] member of the United States House of Representatives.”
On a state level, one of the requirements for registering to vote is to be a resident of that state. In Oregon, the law says that, “if a person goes from this state into any other state or territory and votes there, the person shall be considered to have lost residence in this state.”
On Tuesday evening, the Monte Sereno City Council discussed whether to take action against Turner for allegedly breaking the law.
However, the council opted not to do anything after being advised by City Attorney Sergio Rudin that he has “no authority to impanel a grand jury to assist in investigating violations of state law, nor does [he] have subpoena power in respect to allegations.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Turner’s supporters jumped to her defense and accused Councilman Javed Ellahie and his political allies of fabricating a smear campaign in an attempt to oust her from the council.
Daniel LaBouve, who abruptly resigned from the council last month but is still running for re-election, demanded that Ellahie be investigated for making what he claimed were threats against Turner.
LaBouve cited communications attached to the meeting agenda that he obtained through a public records request. In a Sept. 1 email relating to LaBouve’s resignation, Ellahie wrote, “I guess this makes it official.”
Former Monte Sereno Mayor Marshall Anstandig responded to the councilman saying, “One down one to go! Rowena is next!!”
“Council member Turner has been the subject of public attacks, misleading accusations, including a hit piece news article,” LaBouve said. “Council member Ellahie needs to explain his statements. ... There is a clear intent to go after Rowena Turner, which is just not proper and it is harassment.”
Ellahie said his aforementioned comment was a “political statement” in support of the people challenging Turner’s re-election bid.
Mayor Liz Lawler agreed with LaBouve’s assertation, stating that Ellahie has an “appearance of bias against Turner and a potential plan to remove her from office or at minimum put her in the hot seat for the next couple of months.”
Turner, who has previously stayed silent on the matter, said that she is being represented by a lawyer and could not make “any public statement.” She also rebuked her colleague for placing the item on the agenda in the first place.
“You have made allegations against me and you knowingly put me in a position where I can’t defend myself in public,” she said.
Ellahie responded, saying that while it was her right to legal representation, he didn’t “know why [she] would need to retain an attorney if [she did] nothing wrong.”
Turner and Lawler did not respond to additional requests for comment.