The swirling controversy over whether Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was using her cellphone when she collided with another motorist on June 8 took a strange twist Tuesday when the police retracted a Friday statement exonerating her.
The erroneous statement, e-mailed to the media by a mayoral spokesperson on behalf of the police department, said that investigators had “ruled out” that either party was using a hand-held communication device at the time of the accident. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that spokeswoman Karen Boyd said she sent out the Friday e-mail for the cops because the police administration building was closed because of a gas leak.
A message from the mayor followed shortly afterward. It said: “As the investigation found, and as substantiated by my cell phone records, I was not using my cell phone while driving, and it was not a factor in the traffic accident.”
Apparently that is not the case. On Tuesday, the police released a new 12-page report that says the officer who originally took the report said he saw no evidence of cellphone use, but the investigator who handled the case could not make any determination.
The driver of the other car, Lakisha Lovely, told police the accident occurred at approximately 5:32 p.m., according to the Oakland Tribune. Her stepson, who was in the car, said it was 5:30. Quan originally told police the accident happened at 5:30, but crossed that out in her written statement and wrote in 5:25.
Phone records indicated that Quan made calls at 5:16, 5:22 (an Internet GPS query), 5:29 and 5:31.
Shortly before that incident, she was photographed texting while driving. She copped to that one, sort of, telling the Chronicle, “I believe that in this photo I was looking up an address for an event I was headed to: using navigation apps is legal.”
“Resisting the urge to check our phones from behind the wheel is something we can all be more mindful about,” she said.
The short-lived story of the accident has undergone almost daily revelations followed quickly by retractions as eye witnesses identify one or other of the cars running a red-light or one of the drivers yakking on a cell.
Quan has had a controversial tenure and a poll in May showed her leading a crowded field of election challengers with just 20% of the vote. Her nearest competitor, Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, checked in at 15%, followed by San Francisco State professor Joe Tuman (8%); Port Commissioner Bryan Parker (7%); attorney Dan Siegel (5%); and City Auditor Courtney Ruby (4%).