OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Enough is enough! That is what city officials in Oakland appear to be saying when it comes to allegations of unethical behavior among some of its council members and years of institutional abuse. An explosive audit released Thursday may have been the bravest attempt in years aiming to quell the tyrannical ways of Councilmember Desley Brooks and the wily side-dealing of Councilmember Larry Reid. City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report levied 12 instances of Brooks violating the city’s non-interference laws pertaining to contracts and implicated Reid in another allegation he and Brooks attempted to steer a favored company to win a $2 million contract at the Oakland Army Base. The report also painted an extremely hostile work environment for city staff when dealing with both council members.
In hindsight, the shadow of Ruby’s audit could be seen in the last week by some comments made by Reid and Brooks. During a Community and Economic Development Committee, Mar. 12, chaired by Reid, he called out Ruby to conduct an audit in the Oakland Army Base deal and its master developer. Reid may have been foreshadowing Thursday report when he said, “If she wants to do the city some justice, she should take on those two areas and come back with a finding and maybe she’ll prove me wrong. If she asks the right questions, she’ll prove me right.” According to Reid’s response in the report, he already knew of audit’s findings as early as Mar. 6.
Last Tuesday, Brooks was in rare form, even for someone quite infamous from her rude and tirelessly uncooperative demeanor with colleagues and staff. As reported, Brooks tore into City Administrator Deanna Santana, City Attorney Barbara Parker, Mayor Jean Quan, Council President Pat Kernighan, Police Chief Howard Jordan and Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez during discussion of private security expenditures at the First Friday street fair. Brooks’ specific ire for Santana has been obvious since last year when the seeds of Ruby’s audit, the allegation Brooks improperly funded a pet project in her district, was first publicized by Santana. But, Brooks’ diatribes this week now show she is not going to down without a fight. During numerous exchanges Tuesday, it was clear Brooks was attempting to pin Santana with her own ethics scandal by asserting the authorization of general funds dollars for private security at First Friday exceeded her powers. While Brooks may have presented some salient points, the theatrics give us a clue of how the possible public discussion and talk of censure for Brooks and Reid will play out in the next few months.
In terms of the amount of difficulty Brooks is known to dole out to her colleagues, other East Bay officials and constituents, she is without peer, at least, since former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi was termed out of office last year. In fact, Hayashi’s downfall from likely state senate candidate to political nobody following a shoplifting charge is a guide to how Brooks reacts to these allegations and the spectacular dimension of her possible flameout. Both are widely known tyrants whose mean streaks are as much apparent in public as they are in private. Few public officials have anything good to say about them and anybody willing to work them is seen as desperate.
On a positive side, both are very strong women, but also two people born with copious amounts of hubris. Hayashi didn’t change when she ran for Alameda County supervisor last year and Brooks will not sit at the council dais and take these charges and accusations without first challenging everyone to a knife fight. Unfortunately for Brooks, she and Hayashi’s sowed their fate long ago by the sheer amount of their poor interpersonal skills. Whereas, Reid is slick and willing to publicly express love for his “brothers and sisters,” he will undoubtedly attract others to stand in support with him. Brooks, however, is a pariah; a woman on her own island of anger and retribution. Both Brooks and Reid have had time to draw up a game plan to combat these charges. From their recent comments, Reid will try to massage his way out of it and Brooks will not be satisfied until she takes everyone down with her.