Rex Reginald is a very busy man.
He's working to gather donations for K-9 Armor, a program that would outfit San Francisco's police dogs with bulletproof vests. On the national media stage, he wants to launch a new television series named "Star Universe" from his second home in Los Angeles. He promises it will be a "really hot show" that's already garnered the interest of stars including Leonardo DiCaprio. Reginald is also fighting to have his day in court against the makers of the film Wedding Crashers, insisting that they stole his ideas from his own party crasher's handbook.
But Reginald isn't nearly as busy as he was during the summer when he took on the less glamorous — though, he says, equally important — job of trying to get a San Francisco elected official kicked out of office. He was spokesman for the campaign to recall San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. Reginald attended strategy meetings, filed the recall committee's notice-of-intention paperwork with the city, spoke at press events, handed out informational packets, and wrote letters to those in local, state, and federal office detailing allegations of Peskin's misconduct. For example, at a July press conference held in Chinatown, Reginald and others criticized Peskin over numerous issues, ranging from Peskin's opposition to a 16- or 17-story City College building in Chinatown to allegations that he somehow abused his political power by purchasing his home for far less than it was worth.
But that was before Reginald abruptly quit the recall committee, filed a lawsuit in small claims court, and fired off a Sept. 4, 2007, letter addressed "To the People of San Francisco." Reginald's letter, titled "A Good Recall Gone Bad?" details why he got involved in the Committee to Recall Aaron Peskin in the first place — the supervisor didn't support his proposed "pet-friendly" legislation, which basically would have allowed landlords to charge extra rent for animals that wouldn't otherwise be allowed in buildings.
But Reginald now says that prominent real-estate agents and Chinatown power players Pius Lee (a former port commissioner) and Benny Yee (a former commissioner for the Redevelopment Agency) got him to work countless hours on the recall campaign — even as they pressured him to shift the focus of the recall. He alleges the campaign became an effort to help Supervisor Ed Jew by distracting the public's attention from Jew's host of legal problems, including a federal investigation. "When I spoke to Ed Jew and his wife, they asked me to help them," Reginald wrote.
Reginald also alleges that Lee vowed to pay him a salary of between $10,000 and $20,000 for his work in the Peskin recall committee, then failed to pay him. While sitting last week in his home on Seventh Avenue (well outside Peskin's District Three boundaries), Reginald clarified that Lee did pay him a small "deposit" for his recall campaign work, but insists that he's still owed another $10,000.
In his letter, Reginald even claims a large Italian man then warned his lawyer-housemate that "the Chinese would run me out of town and deal with me their way" if he took the issue to court.
Pius Lee declined to comment about Reginald's allegations, citing the small claims court lawsuit, which has an Oct. 1 trial date. Benny Yee did not return calls from SF Weekly.
But if Reginald was a media spokesman and key player in the campaign, he may be facing legal problems of his own. Campaign consultants, specifically anyone doing campaign strategy or campaign management, are required to register with the city's Ethics Commission if they intend to receive $1,000 or more from work on a campaign, according to commission staff member Kristian Ongoco. She added that campaign consultants are supposed to register before beginning work, or within the first two weeks of their employment. Reginald did not register with the Ethics Commission.
If that's the case, then Reginald "was breaking the law," says San Francisco political consultant Jim Ross.
However, Reginald says he didn't register simply because he was already part of the recall committee before Lee gave him a "personal commitment" that he would be compensated for his time.
The Committee to Recall Aaron Peskin has consistently represented itself at press conferences as an all-volunteer effort, even as it's been criticized for lack of clarity as to why the recall is necessary. The San Francisco Department of Elections, for example, initially rejected the recall effort in June, citing that notice-of-intention paperwork filed with the city gave inconsistent reasons for why the supervisor should be recalled.
But the Peskin recall crew hasn't given up. It filed another notice of intention later in the summer and has been again circulating recall petitions. Still, a Department of Elections staff member says the soonest the issue could be on the ballot is in February 2008 — less than a year before Peskin is termed out of office, in January 2009. In order to be considered for the February ballot, the recall committee would have had to submit its paperwork by Monday, which did not happen, according to elections staff members. To qualify the recall for the ballot, the group must collect signatures from about 3,300 people, or 10 percent of the district's 32,895 registered voters.
Peskin called the recall effort a "character defamation campaign." He says his opponents first attempted to make an issue of his home purchase in 2004 when he was running for re-election to the Board of Supervisors. Peskin says he's known since the beginning of the recall effort that Lee and Yee are "behind it for reasons of personal self-interest," but adds that he was interested to hear allegations that Ed Jew was involved in it too.
It's not about Ed Jew, according to recall committee member Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow (a longtime Chinatown gang leader who was profiled in the SF Weekly article "Enter the Dragon Head," Aug. 1, 2007). Chow says the focus of the recall is on standing up against Peskin, not earning a salary. "I don't get money to do it," Chow says. "I just do what I feel is right." Chow now suspects Reginald was more worried about making money than with the recall effort.
Reginald insists that this is now about "principle" rather than money and filed the lawsuit against Pius Lee alleging breach of contract in small claims court. He's asking for $7,500 — the maximum amount allowed in small claims. That case is one of 11 that Reginald has filed in small claims court since May 2006, a review of court records show.
Reginald had also filed a separate lawsuit against Supervisor Ed Jew, claiming he was also behind the Peskin recall campaign, but says he has since "decided against it" because Jew already has enough legal problems.