Alameda City Council approves independent probe into city manager’s interference claims

Over the shoulder of Assemblymember Rob
Bonta, Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer, Council-
members Malia Vella, Jim Oddie, and City 
Manager Jill Keimach duirng at a council
meeting Tuesday.

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
Accusations made by Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach earlier this month alleging interference in the selection of the city’s next fire chief will be investigated by an independent probe, the city announced Tuesday night.

The hiring of an independent investigator was unanimously approved by the Alameda City Council following its closed session meeting. During the same session, the council also postponed performance evaluations for Keimach, City Attorney Janet Kern and its city clerk that were scheduled for Tuesday, the city announced.

The scope of the independent probe is unclear, but the closed session report read following closed session indicates it will focus on Keimach’s allegations laid out in an Oct. 2 letter to the City Council and not specific councilmembers, two of which were named in an opinion column published last week by the East Bay Times.

The report out of closed references potential litigation arising from Keimach’s letter “which did not identify the mayor or any individual City Council members as being accused of potential wrongdoing.”

During a public comment period prior to the late Tuesday afternoon closed session, the traditional battle lines in Alameda politics were again delineated. Highlighted by varying anti-labor views, numerous speakers were concerned by the allegations made against Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella by an East Bay Times columnist that they violated the City Charter by interferring with Keimach’s authority to choose its next fire chief.

The basis for the columnist’s call for both elected officials to be removed from office stemmed from comments made by Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri to the newspaper alleging Oddie threatened the city manager’s job if she did not select the fire union’s preferred candidate. The column, though, did not elaborate on evidence pointing to Vella’s involvement.

A number of union representatives, in addition to Assemblymember Rob Bonta, spoke in support of Oddie and Vella and said the baseline for the city manager’s allegations were attacks on progressives and the labor movement. “I think it’s a waste of time. This is a waste of money and I think it’s a waste of our progressive councilmembers time and energy,” said Gray Harris, member of the Alameda school board. “I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the city manager and I’m sure she’s heard them too.”

The postponement of Keimach’s job review, still pending since last March, is likely to also necessitate an outside review. The closed session report says the performance review issue will return, directing staff to “agendize assistance that may be needed to continue the evaluations” at its next meeting.

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