ALAMEDA COUNTY//ANALYSIS | On Feb. 14, just as then-Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad was placed on administrative leave for allegations of sexual harassment and assault, I asked a source, what’s going on with him? “He likes to fuck,” said the source.
An investigator for the county last week, though, found the charges alleged against the 39-year-old Muhammad were unsubstantiated. The San Jose Mercury News and other local outlets trumpeted the news and buried the item incongruent with the appearance of innocence on Muhammad’s part–the once up-and-coming chief probation officer up and quit.
This outcome should come as no surprise and was expected by most I spoke to when news of Muhammad being placed on administrative leave was quickly announced at the end of a lightly-attended Board of Supervisors meeting in February. If you recall, a few hours later Nadia Lockyer announced she was heading to rehab, launching a brief-two hour scramble to discern whether the two shockers were related. They were not. In short, Muhammad’s departure was very much expected regardless of the results from the county’s investigation. However, the county’s ambivalence and odd laudatory comments heaped on Muhammad since are very troubling.
Like other recent scandals, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors have a habit of hiding in closed session conversations and later feigning ignorance. They did it with knowledge of Lockyer’s drug habit and they recently employed the maneuver with backdoor deal making and skulduggery leading to the appointment of her replacement, Richard Valle.
“I am glad that the false allegations made against me were proven to be unfounded by an independent investigation,” Muhammad said in a statement last week, even though a criminal investigation by the state attorney general is still underway, as is a civil suit brought on by a former county employee. That suit alleges, among other things, Muhammad sexually assaulted the woman at the San Leandro Marina.
While Muhammad’s advances may or may not have been accepted by the plaintiff, according to numerous county sources, other women working for the county were far more amendable to his amorous desires, including a staff member for one of the county supervisors. Court documents filed in the sexual assault case also alleged Muhammad has also been accused of harassment by female employees when he worked in Washington, D.C. Although, no suggestions of addition impropriety have been alleged by any other female county employees against Muhammad, nonetheless, it paints a far different picture of his tenure at the county probation department than some on the Board of Supervisors are willing to portray.
Beginning from his appointment over two years ago, Muhammad has always had a few supervisors under his spell, similar to how the youngest of many children seemingly dodges discipline from adoring parents despite a long rap sheet of disobedience. Muhammad came to the county with the reputation as an innovator. Much excitement was attached to his hiring and there was also a romantic meme attached to him. The prodigal son returns to Oakland a better man than when he left and gives back to the community. It sounded like a good story, but like most stories too good to be true, this one ultimately began to unravel.
Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson had always been big fans of Muhammad. His story as a troubled Oakland youth ultimately shaking off the shackles of poverty to become a respected community member and savior for urban youths resonated with both supervisors. However, there still remains persistent questions over whether the county, in its zeal to hire Muhammad, fully vetted his background. Last April, an article in Patch reported Muhammad once penned an opinion piece in 1997 for the San Francisco Examiner where he described, as a 15-year-old, he attempted to murder a man. “The case never came to trial due to lack of evidence, but the truth is I was guilty,” wrote Muhammad under the byline David Gaither.
Regardless, Miley heaped goodwill on Muhammad as late as this May during a candidates forum for his re-election campaign and had no qualms with the county’s vetting process. “He is a good example of someone who we thought could be a role model,” said Miley, and “a change agent.”
“Mr. Muhammad was thoroughly vetted,” Miley added. “We did with him what we do with all of our county hires. Unfortunately things happen.”
Some current employees of the county probation department also say they are upset over comments made by Carson that appeared last week in various iterations of Patch that they construed as the supervisor placing blame on the department rather than Muhammad’s raging libido.
“He inherited a pretty volatile situation to begin with because there have been a series of chiefs in recent years and it’s always a very challenging environment in which to operate,” Carson said.
Muhammad “had a lot that he wanted to accomplish there and he wanted to make major changes” but he ran into resistance from employees who wanted to do things their own way, Carson said.
He said Muhammad “will be sorely missed because he was trying to put a lot of good practices and programs in place.”
Carson’s comments are more than a bit self-serving. Muhammad’s performance as chief probation officer have never been questioned during this scandal–neither, positively or negatively–and appear to be the more of the same from public officials in Alameda County whose default setting for moral decency is set on covering their own asses.
These sort of comments from public officials are deeply troubling within a situation as complicated and horrific as sexual assault. One thing is sure: both Miley and Carson better be damn sure Muhammad is innocent of the allegations against him. If not, they should remember there is a woman currently working for the county who had the courage to stand up and say enough. Nothing good can be gained, but justice. From her view, the entire world is against her–questioning her, doubting her story, whispering gossip about her around the water cooler–and now the all-powerful apparatus of political power in Alameda County has nothing but good to say for a man who may have ruined her entire world. How’s that for your government standing by you in times of need?