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Rebecca Kaplan speaks at a mayoral candidate forum in October. Photo by Sanosi Osman

Kaplan rep says councilmember is ‘truly sorry’ for ethics breach that prompted $19,000 penalty

on December 15, 2022

Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission fined Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan $19,000 Wednesday, for violating the Government Ethics Act by failing to fully report her real estate holdings. 

Kaplan, an at-large member of Oakland City Council since 2009, purchased a condo with her parents near Estuary Park in 2013 but failed to disclose it on a form filed annually by public officials to declare ownership of any real estate in Oakland other than their primary residence. That was problematic also because Kaplan voted twice on plans directly related to development in Estuary Park. Those votes were considered conflicts of interest because her  condo was within 500 feet  of the projects.

Kaplan was not at the meeting, and she did not respond to a call and email from Oakland North for comment. But she agreed to the settlement, said Simon Russell, the commission’s enforcement chief. 

Matthew Alvarez, who represented Kaplan at the meeting, said she was “truly sorry” and takes full responsibility. 

“She has, I can assure you, redoubled efforts to make sure that nothing like this or even anything remotely like this ever happens again,” he said. 

Russell said that on the one hand, Kaplan’s case involved “some very serious violations,” and on the other,  “some very significant mitigating factors.” 

He said Kaplan had cooperated in the investigation and that her violations were “negligent rather than deliberate.” He noted that Kaplan brought the case to the city’s attention by reporting it in 2019.

“The self-reporting like that is, in our opinion, not consistent with the idea that she was doing all of this secretly trying to enrich herself,” he said. 

Tanya Boyce, one of three residents to address the commission on the matter, said she didn’t believe that Kaplan, “one of the smartest women” she knows and with a law degree from Stanford University, didn’t know she should have listed the condo on the form.

“I think that she’s lying and that’s insulting on top of what she’s done wrong,” Boyce said. “And it also is probably a violation of our code as attorneys.”

Ralph Kanz said  the case should have been dealt with before Kaplan ran for re-election in 2020.

“It’s time for this commission to develop some policies around these issues because it doesn’t look good, that all of a sudden this gets settled after the election,” he said.

(Top photo: Rebecca Kaplan, 2014, by Sanosi Osman)

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