Political agency opens investigation into Alameda County District Attorney

The enforcement division of the Fair Political Practices Commission has opened an investigation into illegal campaign allegation against Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, KTVU has learned.

FPPC Chief Enforcement Division Angela J. Brereton wrote attorney James Sutton about the investigation on Tuesday in a letter obtained by KTVU.

Sutton represents civil rights attorney Pamela Price, who is running for O'Malley's seat for a second time.

Brereton told Sutton he will be notified the results of the investigation, whenever that might be. But at this time, the office has made no determination about the validity of his allegations.

She also sent copies of the letter to O'Malley's Sacramento government ethics attorney Gary Winuk and Richard Rios, who represents the group, CAs United for Safe Neighborhoods & Schools Opposing Pamela Price for DA 2018. 

Winuk did not immediately respond for comment on Wednesday. And O'Malley's spokeswoman declined to comment when the allegations first surfaced last month. 

In early September, Sutton fired off a letter to the FPPC alleging that O'Malley and her staff have been engaging in illegal campaign practices by communicating about campaign issues using their government emails. 

Some of alleged violations include using county email accounts to solicit campaign contributions to pay for "hit pieces" against Price – who ran against O'Malley in 2018 and lost – and to solicit volunteers to support O’Malley. The emails also appear to show members of her office were working with the police union-backed independent expenditure committee.

The Sutton Law Firm also alleged in its complaint that deputy district attorneys working on O'Malley's re-election campaign in 2018 wrote frequently about raising funds to pay for anti-Price ads. Specifically, the Sutton legal team said they found 35 campaign-related emails sent or received via government email in 2018 and 12 in 2021. 

Coordinating campaign ads, fundraising and other activities using government letterhead, time and emails all on company time, violate state campaign laws. It is also illegal under the state government code for a candidate’s campaign to coordinate with an independent expenditure committee, which are not subject to fundraising limits.  Any violation of the Political Reform Act can result in a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation. 

O'Malley has announced she won't seek re-election in 2022. 

But Price is running again in 2022 and her camp pointed out in its formal complaint that O'Malley's supporters will "very likely" spend time and money on "additional hit pieces" against her.