Concerns raised over group's Austin police oversight petition

Police reform advocates with nonprofit Equity Action believe the group, VOPA or Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability, is misleading voters.

Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis previously shared a video to FOX 7 of canvassers falsely identifying themselves as Equity Action canvassers.

However, Ellis knew that wasn't true because Equity Action already got their initiative on the May election ballot back in September.

Both petitions offer models for police oversight. However, advocates with Equity Action argue the second petition by VOPA is weaker.

"It was disappointing. Because we believe that the type of civilian oversight that we have, and its effectiveness is an important thing that deserves debate. And instead of debating on the issue. They tried to tell voters that they were somebody else doing something else," says Kathy Mitchell with Equity Action.

Fox 7 previously reached out to the Austin Police Association after finding out about the connection with VOPA. APA operates the petition's website.

But now that the financial report has been released, it shows that APA has funded about $300,000 for petition signature-gathering expenses.

"The police union was 100% behind it from the beginning. That the police union essentially is the only funder of this group and that their first major gift was on November the 14th," says Mitchell.

Now the city clerk is validating the signatures that VOPA collected which is concerning Equity Action because both petitions could be on the May elections ballot. And Mitchell sees consequences if the other passes.

"They deleted discrimination, discriminatory acts, and they deleted false criminal charges. And we believe that both of those things rise to the level of serious misconduct," says Mitchell.

Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis shares how she feels about the misleading information.

"I think it raises a lot of questions and potentially some eyebrows as well. We've tried really hard over the past few years to instill trust and transparency between the council, the police department, and the association," says Mayor Pro Tem Paige Ellis.

FOX 7 Austin reached out to the Austin Police Association for comment but did not hear back before the publication of the story.