(April 30, 2007) -- After learning that a mailer supporting the election of 6th district City Council candidate Ahmed Saafir included a photograph of LB Police Chief Anthony Batts in uniform, City Attorney Bob Shannon sent a letter to the Saafir campaign, advising that using such a photo in political materials violates a California Government Code statute and directing that the campaign cease and desist from using such photos in its campaign materials.
Unknown to the City Attorney (who didn't have the actual item in hand), the mailer wasn't sent by the Saafir campaign. It was an "independent expenditure" (separate from the candidate's campaign) sent by the "Long Beach Pro-Business PAC"...which is sponsored by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce.
As LBReport.com previously reported, Chief Batts hasn't endorsed Mr. Saafir or anyone in the 6th district Council race; Mr. Saafir and his campaign didn't claim the Chief's endorsement...and the Chamber PAC's mailer doesn't explicitly claim it.
But City Attorney Shannon realized the mailer raised another issue: CA Government Code section 3206 states, "No officer or employee of a local agency shall participate in political activities of any kind while in uniform."
Following LBReport.com's report on the Chamber PAC's role in the mailing, City Attorney Shannon told us, "I would think that the Chamber PAC at minimum would have contacted our office before using a photo of the city's Police Chief to ensure use of the photo was appropriate."
[Our perspective: the photo used by the Chamber PAC may have been from an entirely non-political event...and if so, using it in a politicized context was in our opinion unfair to the Chief, to the City and to taxpayers that employ him.]