City Councilman Seeks Criminal Charges Against Critic Who Threatened to Recall Him

The San Bernardino Sun reports:

Tim Prince … [told San Bernardino Councilman Chas] Kelley [at an Aug. 6 City Council meeting that] he would pursue a recall unless Kelley put a repeal of the city’s charter on the November ballot….

“I would say that it’s extortion or bribery,” Kelley said. “‘If you do this, this won’t happen.’ That’s wrong, and elected officials should not be intimidated or coerced, blackmailed into making a decision one way or another.”

Kelley apparently asked the D.A. to file charges, but fortunately the D.A. said no:

“To investigate the complaint, our office reviewed the allegations in the complaint, various public statements by involved parties, and we conducted legal research,” says a letter signed by Deputy District Attorney Michael Abney. “It is our conclusion that criminal charges are not supported by the complaint.”

Should be pretty obvious — whatever one’s view of the blackmail paradox, surely a public threat to try to unseat a politician unless the politician implements a particular policy is the essence of democracy, not a crime. (For the flip side of this, see Brown v. Hartlage, which holds that a candidate’s public offer to take less than the normal salary if elected is a constitutionally protect campaign promise, not a criminal attempt to bribe the voters.)

Thanks to Josh Spivak (The Recall Elections Blog) for the pointer.