So in case you’re like, living in a cave or something and haven’t noticed, the District 5 race has turned all sorts of nasty. Mario Juarez had his office windows broken last weekend (his windows had been broken repeatedly in the past, well before he was ever running for office, prompting Ignacio to install a security camera on the office). Anyway, despite this, and despite the fact that Ignacio De La Fuente’s campaign office also had windows broken earlier in the campaign, Juarez all but straight up accused Ignacio’s campaign of doing it, and the local media totally bought his sob story. De La Fuente sent out a classy response, and Juarez responded by claiming that the lawsuit (PDF!) he settled with the City for breach of contract and fraud was political intimidation.
Juarez sent a message to a District 5 listserv denying the charges on the Oakland City Crook website and included this statement about his settlement with the City:
My attorney had no doubt that I would prevail in a lawsuit, but the fight was projected to cost $300,000 in legal fees to me. Spending that kind of money would have bankrupted us – forcing closure of our business and putting more than 60 people out of work.
So, I made a business decision to settle with the City, essentially paying back the amount we had been paid for the contract.
And that was just too much, so the City Attorney’s office sent this response to Juarez, and it’s just so awesome that even though I know I’m going to regret posting about this because of the irritating comments it will generate, I just have to share the entire thing:
Mario Juarez entered a contract with the City of Oakland in 2002 to collect on past due debts. Under this contract the City didn’t just hire Juarez as its agent, the City actually assigned the debts to Juarez. These debtors would then be legally required to pay money directly to Juarez. Juarez was then obligated under his contract with the City to pay the City 51% of any amounts he actually collected on the assigned debts.
Nearly a year passed with the City seeing little if any money from Juarez. In response to City staff inquiries about the status of debt collection, Juarez prepared a letter setting forth some problems with some of the information he had been given about some of the debtors. These problems were mostly things like incorrect addresses, phone numbers, and the like – the very type of problems that led the City to want to use a debt collector like Mario Juarez to find and collect the debts in the first place
The City, as was its right under the contract, asked to see Juarez’ files to determine whether he had actually collected any of these debts and whether the City was owed any money. Juarez refused to allow inspection of the files. This stand-off went on for a long time, years in fact, until finally the City had no choice but to bring suit against Juarez on November 16, 2006. That suit was settled when Juarez agreed to pay the City more than $30,000 that the taxpayers were owed out of the debts Juarez had collected.
There are three important points to make here about the truth of this situation:
1) Juarez says he didn’t fight the lawsuit because the legal fees would have “bankrupted us.” He leaves out the fact that he was already in bankruptcy at the time he signed the contract with the City in 2002. He was in bankruptcy again at the time the City sued him for its money in 2006.
2) Juarez says his settlement with the City “essentially” paid “back the amount we had been paid for the contract.” Juarez glides over the fact that the City had not paid him anything under the contract. The contract didn’t work that way; it was a contingency contract in which money flowed from Juarez to the City. Whatever complaints Juarez might have had about the condition of the judgment debt files the City had assigned to him, those problems have NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on whether he was obligated to pay to the City 51% of whatever debts he had actually collected. He refused to show the City his records and he refused to hand over the money the City was owed.
3) The City Attorney’s Office takes no position on the District 5 election. John Russo, the City Attorney, does not make any endorsements in any City of Oakland elections. We have no comment about any of the other stories and charges that have been made about Mr. Juarez.
We address this specific case only because Mr. Juarez has chosen — recklessly — to allege that the City Attorney’s Office brought this suit due to “dirty politics” and political interference. Mr. Juarez did not file his official candidacy statement until March 2008. Regardless of when Mr. Juarez first conceived that he might run for City Council, no one in the City Attorney’s office had any idea that he would be a candidate in this race at the time the dispute between Juarez and the City began in 2003. Nor did anyone in the City Attorney’s office have any reason to think Juarez might be a candidate when the complaint was filed against Juarez in late 2006. To set the record straight, there was no political pressure whatsoever brought on the City Attorney’s Office to file this case. Juarez’s allegation that there was, and its implicit suggestion that the City Attorney’s Office can be made to bring cases which have little or no merit, is false.
Apparently, in trying to deflect attention from his attempt to stiff the taxpayers of Oakland, Juarez has concocted a paranoid fantasy in which he was the victim of his own scam. He also has shown no hesitation to impugn the ethics and defame the reputations of the professionals in the City Attorney’s Office who worked, successfully, to get from Juarez some of the money that he tried to steal from the taxpayers. I am posting the full Juarez/City of Oakland contract, the City’s Nov. 2006 complaint against Juarez and Juarez’s bankruptcy file (dates included) on our web site: www.oaklandcityattorney.org. We hope that interested parties will review the relevant passages of the contract and the lawsuit and draw their own conclusions about the veracity of Juarez’s bogus allegations.