Supervisor Vallie Brown apologizes for falsely claiming former tenant didn’t pay rent

Apology comes after court documents emerge in decades-old eviction battle

UPDATE 3:02 p.m.: Through an attorney, Supervisor Vallie Brown has issued an apology to her former tenant, Mary Packer, for incorrectly saying that Packer and her fellow tenants did not pay rent on a property Brown later purchased.

These statements — which were proved today by tenants advocates to be completely false — were made to multiple news outlets and in campaign mailers sent to San Francisco voters.

Brown’s attorney said in a statement, that she remembered in “good faith” the information being conveyed to her 25 years ago by her attorney.

A portion of the statement from campaign attorney Jesse Mainardi follows:

“Supervisor Brown’s campaign attempted to address these attacks based on her good faith recollection of events occurring long ago, and on information that she remembers was conveyed to her at the time by her attorney.

The campaign’s responses were lengthy and thorough, but of course did not mention Ms. Packer by name.

Yesterday, you indicated that one contention among the many in the response – that the tenants of 152-A Fillmore Street had not paid rent for years and had refused to pay rent – was inaccurate. Supervisor Brown is sorry for repeating incorrect information and she thanks you for bringing it to her attention.

Supervisor Brown and her campaign apologize to Ms. Packer, and to the other tenants, for that misstatement, which they retract and which they have removed from their website.

Supervisor Brown would also like to convey her apology directly to Ms. Packer, and to otherwise discuss the situation with her. Please convey Supervisor Brown’s apology and request to Ms. Packer and let me know if she would be willing to meet with Supervisor Brown.”

Packer’s attorney, Robert De Vries, pushed back on the apology and said it should go to everyone who heard the initial misstatements — the voters.

“This ‘apology’ is not signed or a statement by Ms. Brown, but by her attorney,” De Vries told the San Francisco Examiner. “Moreover the defamatory statement as I understand it was directed to every voter in the district — while the admission that Ms Brown (issued) was sent to me. If she is going to treat her statement and apologize, that should go to the same universe of people to whom she sent the defamatory mailer — each voter in the district.”

The original story follows below.

Ghosts from Supervisor Vallie Brown’s past are rising to haunt her just before election day.

Mary Packer, a tenant Brown evicted from a Fillmore Street home 25 years ago, served Brown with a cease-and-desist letter Tuesday and demanded an apology from the incumbent supervisor.

The letter alleges Brown made false statements to the press and in campaign literature, claiming Packer and other tenants had not paid rent before Brown evicted them from a home she bought with three friends in the 1990s.

Packer, and her attorney, want Brown to publicly apologize and to retract her statements. If she does not, Packer will consider filing a defamation suit.

That’s because Packer did pay her rent, her attorney claims. And as the kids are saying these days, they’ve got receipts.

In this case, literally.

Court filings from the property’s estate attorney show Packer paid rent from June 1992 to April 1994, near when Brown purchased the house. That’s $205 monthly. “Rental income received,” read the records.

“That attorney’s job was to collect rent while the building was up for sale. His records were very good,” said Jennifer Fieber, the San Francisco Tenants Union staffer who unearthed the documents.

Brown’s campaign has not yet returned a request for comment.

But those records fly in the face of what Brown’s campaign spokespeople told me earlier this month.

When SF Weekly broke the news that Brown had evicted tenants in the Western Addition 25-years-ago, a black mark in her personal story as an advocate for renters, Brown’s spokespeople defended her by telling me the tenants had not paid rent.

Brown used that same defense in SF Weekly. And made the same claim to Mission Local.

Read Packers’ attorney’s letter and see the rental receipts in a PDF here.

They even splashed that claim in campaign literature. “The building was in complete disrepair and tenants had not paid rent in years,” Brown’s campaign claimed in a mailer no doubt sent to thousands of people.

It took digging by the San Francisco Tenants Union in the subsequent weeks to prove otherwise. They found filings for the estate, they found proof Packer and others were paying rent.

What Brown’s campaign said, however? So much fluff.

So what did the ever-straightforward Ms. Packer have to say about that?

“I feel bad. I’m really, really disgusted that she put my name out there and is lying,” Packer told me, Tuesday. “The things she was saying were not true.”

It’s easy to be suspicious of claims made during an election. So was Ms. Packer put up to this by Brown’s opponent, candidate and tenants advocate Dean Preston? No, she said.

In fact, she initially refused to speak to press about her eviction and declined comment to SF Weekly when they first called her. It wasn’t until she saw Brown’s claims that she became completely livid. Packer, 69, who is a retiree and formerly worked for Wells Fargo bank and Rite-Aid, reached out to Preston’s campaign for help in reaching reporters.

“I am doing this on my own. If she hadn’t have said those things about me, I’d never have came out,” Packer said. She was so disturbed anyone would suggest otherwise, she said “I’ll put my hand on the Bible and have God strike me dead.”

Packer’s attorney, Robert De Vries, originally represented Packer after she filed a wrongful eviction suit against Brown and her fellow homeowners 25 years ago.

He told me this doesn’t have to get messy — and doesn’t have to enter the courts.

“Our hope is we won’t reach that point. Our hope is Vallie Brown says ‘I made a mistake … I’m sorry,’” De Vries said.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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