(Editor's note: When Patch reported on a challenge that Hermy Almonte issued to Jim Prola, the article provoked dozens of comments. Read the commentary and add your voice.)
City Council candidate Hermy Almonte challenged City Councilman Jim Prola to return a $2,500 contribution he received from the Police Officier's Association (POA), calling the donation a "conflict of interest" given that the city is in contract talks with its officers.
Almonte made his challenge Friday, after the nine candidates for three city council seats had to file their last pre-election campaign disclosure statements.
Almonte, who has raised $6,790 in contributions and loans, thus far is running against Prola to represent District 6.
He also urged Councilwoman Ursula Reed to return the $2,500 she got from the POA. Reed is running against School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose and Bal Theatre owner Dan Dillman in the 2nd District council race.
One issue in the negotiations between the city and its unionized employees is the fact that San Leandro is virtually alone among East Bay cities in paying 100 percent of the pension contributions that go into the retirement funds of its police and civilian workers.
Earlier this month the bond rating agency Moody's said it would take a closer look at how San Leandro was financing its pension obligations.
Prola dismissed Almonte's challenge, noting that the police donation was less than 6 percent of the $44,440 he has reported raising thus far in the race in contributions and loans, including a $12,000 loan to himself.
Prola said the city would get pension reform at the negotiating table through the talks now underway.
Reed said the city council has hired negotiators to represent the best interests of the city in talks with its employees.
"We're not sitting at the table," she said.
Reed reported raising about $6,300 in the last few weeks, and has garnered a total of $15,400 in contributions and loans thus far in her reelection campaign. The POA contribution is one of her largest.
Candidate Benny Lee, who is running against Chris Crow, Darlene Daevu and Justin Hutchison for the open 4th District seat, also received $2,500 from the POA.
Lee, Reed and Prola were endorsed by the POA and have supported the police position that pension reform should be done though collective bargaining.
Almonte and two other candidates -- Morgan Mack Rose and Chris Crow -- have made pension reform a public issue and have had more adversarial relations with the POA.
In making his challenge Almonte said, "Prola and Reed’s acceptance of these donations demonstrates it is business as usual at City Hall."
See more campaign finance disclosure information in a separate story.