Benicia council directs staff to file complaint over “push poll”By JOHN GLIDDEN, October 17, 2018 at 6:08 pm
BENICIA — City Attorney Heather Mc Laughlin has been directed by a unanimous vote of the council to send a formal complaint to the state about a recent polling survey in the city.
The vote took place during the City Council’s closed session on Tuesday.
Mc Laughlin will send the complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission after the polling firms, hired by Valero Benicia Refinery, refused to provide a copy of the questions.
City officials believe the survey may have violated the city’s municipal code when the callers failed to state that the survey was a political call. Research America and EMC Research, which were contacted to conduct the survey, said, through their attorney, that the calls were not political and thus didn’t require a disclaimer or “paid for” notice.
Vice Mayor Steve Young spoke during the open session portion of Tuesday night’s meeting and said the issue could be resolved if Valero simply provided a copy of the questions asked to about 250 residents.
“It’s easy to put to rest,” Young said about Valero providing the questions.
The council earlier this month directed Mc Laughlin to obtain the questions and other items related to the survey after Young and other residents reported receiving one of the survey calls in late September.
Young called the survey a “push poll,” which is a survey used to influence the respondent instead of collecting factual information.
The polling companies, through their lawyer, further said 256 randomly selected likely voters from within Benicia were contacted from Sept. 6 to Sept. 20 to participate.
During her investigation, Valero admitted to paying for the survey.
The Times-Herald has asked Valero repeatedly for a copy of the questions but the company has ignored those requests.
“It’s their property,” Young further said Tuesday night about the survey questions.
He said Valero’s failure to provide information about the survey forces the City Council to act.
“We’re put into the position of having to take the next step to protect our own ordinance,” he added.