Less than a month until the June 5 primary, labor unions fired off several accusations Tuesday that Councilmember Rose Herrera lied to voters during her 2008 campaign and may have even committed perjury in the mid-1990s. Herrera responded by calling the unions “bullies” who are using “misrepresentations and lies.”
According to PDF documents on a website the firefighters union spent $5,000 to build, Herrera provided false information about her marriage status on two documents to transfer property, as well as on a personal bankruptcy filing.
In a Wednesday speech to the San Jose Rotary Club, Mayor Chuck Reed defended Herrera and said the unions “are trying to take Rose out as a punishment for saying ‘no‘ to them.” Reed encouraged business leaders to “reach out to Rose and help her” and respond to the “personal” and “vicious” attacks.
“Rose Herrera’s going to win,” the mayor predicted.
Two other accusations against Herrera made on the labor-funded website—that she manipulated investors in her company, according to a fraud lawsuit; or that she had code violations as a landlord—could be damaging to Herrera’s re-election campaign, but they don’t seem to rise to the same level as the allegation of perjury.
“The charges are not true,” Herrera said Wednesday evening. “I’m incensed at this point. These are not legitimate charges against me. These are people trying to reach for things, documents where allegations were made. They’re not telling the truth. They’re misrepresentations and lies.”
The most serious of the three allegations against Herrera includes copies of grant deeds signed by Herrera and her second husband, Saru Deshpande. The first was dated next to the signatures June 17, 1993, and recorded by the county on Feb. 14, 1994. This document says the couple took over property from a business partner and lists the couple as married. A second grant deed, which transferred property from Deshpande to Herrera and is recorded by the county 11 days later after the first—Feb. 25, 1994—lists both Herrera and Deshpande as single.
A third document, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing in 1996, shows Herrera also listed as single, when, in fact, she was still legally married to Deshpande until early 2007.
Herrera said she and Deshpande were married in 1990 but “separated not very long after we were married.
“We stayed partners, but we were not together.”
Herrera disputed union allegations that the designation of single or married on the forms had any fraudulent intent. “We decided we were eventually going to get divorced, we were not together, and he was conveying the property to me,” she said.
“You can say that, yes, legally we were still married, but that doesn’t constitute fraud. The whole point was transferring assets. The only way there could have been fraud is if we were trying to protect assets, and our bankruptcy happened years later.”
Herrera also said the unions’ allegations are designed to rehash her personal bankruptcy as well as her company’s—Cinnamon Software, Inc.—in an attempt to distract voters from the issues at all costs.
“I never denied I went through a bankruptcy,” Herrera said. “I couldn’t make the payments, so I’m being crucified for what a lot of businesses have gone through in Silicon Valley, what a lot of businesses are going through right now.
“There just trying to drag this out and make some spurious accusations, because they don’t want to talk about the issues. They’re training their sights on me so they can try to take out the sixth vote (on the council). These guys are nothing but bullies. They can’t get what they want, so they’re going to try to bully me, and they’re going to try and bully this community.”
Herrera also wondered aloud why she has been the main focus of criticism from labor forces, instead of defeating Measure B or candidates in the four other council districts up for grabs.
She said she feels singled out for personal mistakes of years ago that have nothing to do with her actions as an officeholder. “Ash Kalra has a drunk driving ticket and they’re not talking about that,” Herrera said, noting the DUI arrest last year by the labor-endorsed incumbent in District 2.
On Tuesday, Sheriff Laurie Smith retracted her endorsement of Herrera. Sources close to the sheriff tell San Jose Inside that the perjury accusations, as well as her support for Reed’s law enforcement funding cuts, were key factors in the retraction.
Other reasons Smith gave in a press release disseminated by the San Jose Police Officers Association, which has been the source of a slew of attack ads against Herrera, cited concerns about funding for public safety, including her vote to accept an IBM report that suggested staff cuts. Those concerns, however, didn’t stop the sheriff from endorsing District 6 Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio, who cast the same votes as Herrera on public safety issues, including the IBM report.
Herrera’s council colleagues who support the June 5 pension modification ballot measure also released a joint statement Tuesday denouncing the attacks as political distractions.
“These hit pieces are backed by the same lobbyists, labor lackeys, and lie-lobbers that drove this city into a fiscal ditch over the last decade and a half,” Councilmember Sam Liccardo said. “Rose Herrera had the courage to help pull us out, giving San Jose its first budget surplus in a decade, and the labor cabal now wants the car keys back.”
“Not one single attack they’re making is about the issues,” Herrera said, “and it’s unfortunate the sheriff fell into the trap.”