Santa Clara County DA Probes Claims of Voter Fraud Against Monte Sereno Councilwoman

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.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

18 Comments

  1. If Ms. Turner broke the law it’s up to the district attorney to address it, without bias. If Ms. Turner’s actions are newsworthy it’s up to the media to cover the story in a manner that conveys fairness, something that has not been done on SJI.

    Maybe I can sneak this comment past the technological wall that is still being used to censor my replies on the original posting page of this story.

  2. What is even sadder are folks who were at the Council meeting on 10/20/20 and on NextDoor defending such shameful ethics of Turner, and her entitled sense in the City Council with her bullying tactics, belittling Staff while driving around the City offices in OR state registered vehicles for decades. Karma catches up eventually. Sigh!

    Mayor Lawler is endorsing such behavior explicitly too by endorsing Rowena is her re-election bid and implicitly through her inactions and by defending such poor behavior in the Council meetings. Even NextDoor is heavily moderated every time Rowena is called out there, and posts disappear that oppose Rowena in any manner. Dirty politics!

  3. Why is Monte Sereno even a thing? These are people with so much money playing dress up and playing with dolls. Have LG take MS over and end this charade.

  4. Thank you for continuing to expose this story in a transparent and unbiased way, Grace.

    I’m so sick and tired of reading about what appears to be a band of allies Mrs. Turner has built over the years ripping anything said about her down. The council meeting was an absolute joke, no answers and instead a bunch of scripted political nonsense rallied up to defend her case. There are records and data that can prove or disprove the allegations — this debate should be as simple as that, and anyone on their soapbox making this about anything or anyone else is missing the point. THIS IS A CRIME, A FEDERAL CRIME…. AND IF TRUE, SHE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE AND PAY FOR THAT. If it’s not true, she bears the burden of proof to show our city that she did not commit the alleged crime. Period.

  5. What a joke that poor Rowena is being “harassed”. Karma is a bitch. How about the shameful way Rowena helped “harass” Curtis Rodgers so she could be mayor? https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/03/07/monte-sereno-council-ousts-mayor-despite-pushback-from-residents/ Both she and her husband made false and misleading accusations. Or when Rowena lets her husband run amuck at the council meeting cursing or loudly talking over presenters? Or how she helped drive out EVERY staff member that was there during the last election? Or Brown Act violations that forced a rehearing of a council decision? Ellahie conspiracy? There were probably multiple public records requests, the first by the public agency suing the city, and the next one(s) by the media. I am glad that the matter is in the hands of the DA. But the council has to take action if the claims are found true, and vote her off the council. Unless the people do it first.

  6. I don’t see any evidence of a conspiracy against Turner. She clearly committed a crime and has been for years without batting an eye. What kind of person does this? A person like this lacks moral character and should not be in any kind of position of leadership. I wonder what else she’s gotten away with.

  7. I am a long-term resident of Monte Sereno.

    Council member Turner, in a social media post wrote, “The fact is that my husband and I are dual residents. We have a residence in California, and we have a residence in Oregon. We pay property taxes in both Oregon and California. We legally vote on state and local issues in both Oregon and California. But for national elections, like for President, we vote only in one state – the state of California. We do not vote twice in National elections.” Yes, council member Turner actually confessed to what appears to be a serious crime on social media?! OMG!

    So council member Turner, herself, admits that she is an Oregon resident, which brings up the question of whether she truly is a Monte Sereno resident. Yet, at the council meeting, somehow council member Ellahie is the bad person for asking if she is truly a California resident and, as such, whether she is permitted to serve on the Monte Sereno City Council. It appeared, from the meeting that the “charges” against council member Ellahie were completely fabricated by council member Turner’s ally, former council member LaBouve.

    What you don’t know from reading the story is that both council member Turner and former council member LaBouve have presided over Monte Sereno’s self destruction over the past two years—starting with the wrongful removal of Mayor Rogers, spearheaded by council member Turner, who then cast the deciding vote to choose herself to be the Mayor and appointed Mr. LaBouve to fill Mayor Rogers’ seat on the council. Ignoring universal community input condemning this action Council member Turner cited, as her primary reason for removing Mayor Rogers, that he had sneakily tried to take away her commission and committee assignments. She completely ignored all evidence showing she was wrong. There was even a social media post, though it might have been deleted to protect the guilty, which included email records proving council member Turner was wrong. So, it is understandable that there are quite a few Monte Sereno residents who hope council member Turner will either resign or not be reelected.

    Council member Mr. LaBouve is a brilliant and successful retired person who was Director of Business Operations at Intel Corporation and was able to retire at a young age. Unfortunately, success and intelligence, in his case, don’t correlate to having a moral compass. He came onto the council calling Monte Sereno governance, “undisciplined at best” and used his “private sector management processes” on the small close-knit City Staff (about 6 employees). As it turns out, what works for Intel, might not be so appropriate for a tiny city … within the next year the City Staff unionized for the first time in Monte Sereno’s 60 year history and five of the six highly-qualified and experienced staff (City Manager, City Attorney, Building Official, City Clerk, Finance Officer) quit.

    At the council meeting this past Tuesday Mr. LaBouve accused council member Ellahie of improper behavior because council member Ellahie had written, “Good suggestion. Hot seat for the next couple of months.” in replying to an email that said, “I’d recommend former Mayor Burton Craig [to fill the vacant seat]”. This was the extent of what Mr. LaBouve said that council member Ellahie did and for this, Mr. LaBouve said that council member Ellahie was unethical and should be sanctioned and recalled??!! Mr. LaBouve fabricated evidence by reordering emails to look like council member Ellahie was replying to an email from a different resident who was unhappy with council member Turner’s tenure and wrote that he hoped she would be the next to get off the council. Mr. LaBouve, who seems to be the email etiquette police, is the same council member who, just last month, wrote to a council member, “F*ck off! Never talk to me again.”

    Council member Ellahie has done nothing wrong and, in fact, appears to be the only not corrupt council member, yet the Monte Sereno Mayor, council member Turner and her allies are trying to throw council member Ellahie under the bus to distract you so you won’t notice council member Turner driving the bus at twice the speed limit on the wrong side of the road not paying attention to where she is going because she is trying to figure out how to fill out the two ballots in front of her!

    We are now the laughingstock city of the Bay Area and, I am afraid, with council member Turner’s blatant violation of the Public Trust and our City’s and its residents’ over the top defense of her unscrupulous actions, our tarnished reputation is likely to spread far and wide. Given how passionate and irrational council member Turner’s supporters are, it would not surprise me if council member Turner is reelected and this circus continues. I may be dating myself, but our town has become a Peyton Place, and I am not entertained.

  8. RESIDENTS BULLYING CRITICS OF COUNCIL MEMBER TURNER SHOULD BE ASHAMED wrote:
    “Council member Turner, in a social media post wrote, “The fact is that my husband and I are dual residents. We have a residence in California, and we have a residence in Oregon. We pay property taxes in both Oregon and California. We legally vote on state and local issues in both Oregon and California. But for national elections, like for President, we vote only in one state – the state of California. We do not vote twice in National elections.” Yes, council member Turner actually confessed to what appears to be a serious crime on social media?! OMG!”

    But Turner also conveniently omitted: “We have been driving OR state registered vehicles for decades because paying high CA DMV fees is not needed and this is how we can maintain our current wealth, dollar by dollar. Oh, by the way I just voted in the general election for Nov in Oregon state too while contesting for Council in CA state. Catch me if you can!”

    Her NextDoor post stating all this dual residency nonsense has been deleted recently. Hopefully it’s the DA investigation that prompted it.

    The residents supporting Turner on NextDoor (including the moderator who originates biased posts) don’t seem to have any judgement either. It’s almost like a cult following in that online circus.

  9. Council Member Turner must like her position, her State of Oregon ballot was received on October 20th.

  10. Council member Turner is the target of a smear campaign. This hit piece is part of it. By law, she can vote in two states–https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/non-resident-and-non-citizen-voting.aspx. And, even if for the November election, she would not have filled out President vote part, so she would not be double voting for President!

  11. Thank you for the comment above. It’s hard to tell what is real and not real in this day and age. It does appear the same person is spreading their agenda here.

    To the person spreading their agenda. You know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourself! The voters are sick of this sort of behavior and we will vote on Nov 3rd. Just because your husband is running as a candidate does not give you the right to smear a fellow woman and opposing candidate. People have a right to be represented in their local elections!

  12. PLEASE READ THIS Oct 27, 2020 @ 2:26 pm wrote:
    “Council member Turner is the target of a smear campaign. This hit piece is part of it. By law, she can vote in two states–https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/non-resident-and-non-citizen-voting.aspx. And, even if for the November election, she would not have filled out President vote part, so she would not be double voting for President!”

    And you know all this because you personally filled her election form that was received by the OR state on 10/20? :-) Do everyone a big favor – stick to Monte Sereno NextDoor where Turner’s friends rule with their big mouths, including the moderator. Tired of that online circus already!

  13. where is Turner paying her state taxes? Show the proof instead of loud-mouthing on NextDoor about “what if she’s innocent” question? How about the question “what if she’s guilty as multiple records already show”? Shouldn’t she resign voluntarily instead of “hiring a lawyer”?

    We all know where she is paying vehicle registration fees – definitely not CA DMV, for decades together. Where are her ethics, and where is her shame

  14. FRUSTRATED, if the charges against council member Turner turn out to be false, as I expect, who is going to maker her whole and restore her reputation. Aren’t you making a lot of assumptions when you talk about her car? Perhaps she owns a business in Oregon and the car is a company car that is required to be registered in Oregon. Perhaps she spends a lot of time in both Oregon and California–then she has the choice of where to register the car. Who knows? But if you don’t know, should you jump to conclusions? How would you feel if you were a candidate and someone smeared you and suddenly newspapers were printing horribly biased and unfair articles about you just before the election? Look how honorably council member Turner is behaving. She is not making a scene or criticizing anyone else. She is the adult in the room and deserves everyone’s support.

  15. PLEASE READ THIS Oct 28, 2020 @ 11:24 pm
    “Perhaps she spends a lot of time in both Oregon and California–then she has the choice of where to register the car. Who knows? But if you don’t know, should you jump to conclusions? ”

    If she does business there, let her car stay there and pay registration tax there, than using CA roads. It’s 20 days to comply, not 2+ decades :-)
    DMV needs to get this report – we are tired of her driving her out of state cars while asking for resident votes, attending Council meetings and bullying folks who are respectfully minding their own business.
    Next time, her car is seen, someone please report:
    https://www.chp.ca.gov/Notify-CHP/CHP-REG-(Out-of-State-Registration-Violators)

    She and Mayor Lawler were single handedly responsible for killing the recent fence ordinance on which City staff spent 6 months of tax dollars. Shame on them both for their divisive politics. Why not nip the effort in the bud than letting the City waste money on it?

    “How would you feel if you were a candidate and someone smeared you and suddenly newspapers were printing horribly biased and unfair articles about you just before the election?
    Press has duty to report potential fraud and they did their research confirming her double voting in general and primary federal elections. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/10/28/double-voting-probed-in-monte-sereno-what-stops-someone-from-casting-ballots-in-two-states/

    Only you and few others supporting her on NextDoor seem to be on some kool-aid and even defending her egregious behavior. Wake up and say “no” to bullies cheating the system. Monte Sereno can do better than such folks in their Council.

    And next time, you want to post again “what if she is innocent”, go to Next Door and continue this rant that has been going on and on with this theme.

  16. If people who know council member Turner to be a wonderful, compassionate, fiscally responsible, hard-working, honest, thoughtful, kind, generous, super smart, and over-all wonderful neighbor are “on some kool-aid” then what do you say about the horrible tactics by supporters of her opponents who are playing dirty politics by trying to take away our ability to vote for who we want to just days before an election. If this has been going on for 10 years they could have brought this up years ago when it could been addressed and discussed in a calm apolitical meeting. You should know she has the full support of many very well respected people, including Mayor Liz Lawler, Vice President of the County Board of Supervisors, Mike Wasserman, former Mayor Jack Lucas, Mayor Michelle Wu of Los Altos Hills, former Campbell Mayors Paul Resnikoff, Jeff Cristina, Rich Waterman, and many many others. Everyone knows these are good people and should respect that they wouldn’t endorse just anyone, let alone someone who committed these fake news crimes. I hope everyone will just give council member Turner a fair chance—just call and talk to her before you make any decision and you will see the kind of person she is and that she is completely law abiding citizen.

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