DeMaio: Caltrans head should resign over alleged gas tax campaigning

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SAN DIEGO -- The chairman of the Yes on Prop 6 campaign Thursday called for the director of Caltrans to resign after its workers allegedly were caught stopping traffic and politicking at a road work site.

Former City Councilman and Yes on Prop 6 Chairman Carl DeMaio called for Caltrans Director Laurie Berman to resign after alleging at a Wednesday news conference that workers handed out "No on Prop 6" campaign literature at a work site Tuesday morning.

The Yes on Prop 6 campaign aims to repeal California's controversial gas tax that went into effect Nov. 1.

The 12-cent tax on unleaded fuel -- which rises to 19.5 cents per gallon in 2020 -- and a 20-cent tax on diesel fuel is billed by state officials as raising an estimated $5 billion per year to fund infrastructure repairs and improvements.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill authorizing the tax hike in April 2017.

DeMaio at first only called for an investigation into Caltrans' actions and filed an ethics complaint with the San Diego County District Attorney, the California Highway Patrol and the California Fair and Political Practices Commission.

'Yes on 6' supporters say this image and other video evidence proves people in Caltrans uniforms were handing out "No on 6" flyers to drivers along State Highway 78.

Thursday, he ramped up the pressure by calling for Berman's resignation.

"There is absolutely no gray area here -- Caltrans is caught in blatant violation of California law that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for campaign activities or advocacy," DeMaio said.

When notified of the call for Berman to resign, Caltrans reaffirmed its initial statement released on Wednesday.

"It is our understanding that these individuals were private contractors, not Caltrans employees," Berman said in the statement. "Regardless, the department does not condone political advocacy or the distribution of campaign information on work project sites and is contacting its contractors to remind them of this."

Gubernatorial candidate John Cox also called for an investigation into the agency and attorney general candidate Judge Steven Bailey joined DeMaio in calling for Berman's resignation.

"Laurie Berman has clearly demonstrated her inability to control Caltrans contractors, who have been caught red-handed violating the law," Bailey said. "If Laurie Berman cannot hold her own agency accountable, she must resign."

Yes on Prop 6 supporters held a news conference Wednesday alleging contracted workers supervised by a Caltrans employee held up traffic on Route 78 between Julian and Ramona and distributed fliers reading "Stop the Attack on Bridge & Road Safety" and "Vote No on Prop 6."

The workers violated state law by stopping traffic without necessity and using public resources for campaign purposes as employees of the state government, according to Yes on Prop 6.

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