Berkeley City Councilman Laurie Capitelli said Monday that he never served as the real estate agent for Police Chief Michael Meehan’s home purchase and never split a nearly $30,000 commission for the deal, contrary to a story published last Friday by the Bay Area News Group.
When Meehan went looking to buy a home in Berkeley in 2010 — aided by a $500,000, 3 percent loan provided him by the city of Berkeley — he hired an agent from Red Oak Realty, a company in which Capitelli was once a partner with a 15 percent stake, but from which he had largely divested by 2009. That agent asked Capitelli some questions about whether Berkeley or a homeowner was liable for the upkeep of sewer lines and creek beds. After Meehan purchased a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood, she paid Capitelli $5,925 for his advice, he said in a statement.
“I reiterate that I received no compensation whatsoever from Red Oak from the sale itself,” Capitelli said in the statement. “I have had no financial interest in the company for several years. I did not, as reported, split any commission on the sale. I did receive a $5,925 unsolicited payment for dealing with a variety of questions and issues forwarded to me by the agent, which arose during their search for a new home. To avoid any suggestion of impropriety I will nonetheless donate that fee to a local charity.”
The Bay Area News Group reported last week that just months after the Berkeley City Council had approved the $500,000 low-interest housing loan for Meehan, Capitelli worked as his real estate agent and split the nearly $30,000 commission. Several ethicists, as well as City Councilman Kriss Worthington, raised questions about the ethical nature of Capitelli voting to give Meehan a loan, and then profiting from that loan.
Capitelli told the newspaper he had consulted with City Attorney Zach Cowan, who said there was no conflict because there was such a long gap between the 2009 council vote and the house purchase in 2010.