Censure Is In The Air: Oakland City Council Looks Into Rebuking Brooks For Alleged Misconduct

Desley Brooks (PHOTO/Steven Tavares)

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//CENSURE | Oakland City Council President Pat Kernighan says nagging questions about the alleged misconduct of Councilmember Desley Brooks needs to be dealt with more sooner than later. On Thursday, she called for a July 25 hearing that may lay the groundwork to censure Brooks for interfering in the construction of a teen center in her district.

Kernighan said the controversy and inaction swirling around Brooks since a city auditor’s report last March alleged 12 violation of the city charter pertaining to non-interference rules has “been a drag on the reputation of the Oakland City Council.”

“I am painfully aware that this is going to be a difficult conversation,” Kernighan said during a rules committee Thursday morning. “I think it is important that we just deal with this issue that has been dogging us for awhile and I would like to dispense with it one way or another regardless of how it turns out before we go on break.”

Councilmember Larry Reid, also cited in City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report for violating the City Charter, but not included in the potential censure hearing later this month, objected to Kernighan’s proposal. “I don’t think you’re going to get four votes for the censorship,” said Reid. “I think it’s a dog and pony show and I certainly would hope you would rethink your position.”

Reid said it was unfair to ask the three new members of the City Council to pass judgment on Brooks without knowledge of the allegations. “It’s going to be very, very ugly meeting,” said Reid, before adding, “I think it’s a big mistake on your part.”

Kernighan said the hearing is more about resolving the matter one way or another rather than worrying about gaining the requisite votes to censure Brooks. Councilmember Libby Schaaf also agreed with the sentiment.

Two months ago, Kernighan and Ruby issued statements postponing any action on the allegations against Brooks and Reid while the council dealt with more pressing matter such as the tumult in the Oakland Police Department’s leadership and issues surrounding the next fiscal year budget.

However, in the past few weeks, attention again focused on the City Council’s inability to focus on the allegations after an Alameda County civil grand jury report harshly criticized its ability to “self-police” regarding Brooks’ actions interfering with city staff in the construction of the Digital Arts and Culinary Academy. The grand jury’s own investigation mostly corroborated allegations against Brooks found in Ruby’s March 30 report.

The talk of censure comes a day after the AC Transit Board of Directors moved quickly to rebuke At-Large Board Director Joel Young for violating its code of ethics and misusing district property for his own personal gain. Similarly, the use of censure against a public official carries no fines or penalties. However, its use is unusual and carries a certain stain of impropriety going forward, especially for someone like Brooks, who is up for re-election next year.