What to expect from Alameda investigator’s report on City Council interference

Alameda’s report on council interference is
scheduled to be released on Wednesday.

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
It’s been six months since the Alameda City Council hired an independent investigator to probe a number of claims laid out by Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach in an Oct. 2 letter. Keimach alleged two Alameda elected officials, now identified as Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella, violated the City Charter by interfering with her powers to hire department heads. In this case, impeding Keimach’s search for a new fire chief. Now the wait is over. On Wednesday, the council will release the investigator’s entire 80-page report. The document and possible fallout is likely to dominate day-to-day business at City Hall and the assuredly contentious mayoral and council elections this November. In the meantime, here’s what to expect in the report:

The report is likely to render to two competing verdicts, according to sources. While it may find Oddie violated the Charter’s prohibition on interference, the specifics are hardly a smoking gun. The violation will point to the letter of recommendation Oddie sent using city letterhead to Keimach in support of Dominick Weaver, the fire chief candidate backed by the Alameda Firefighters union.

Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach
was placed on administrative leave
in March.

But more importantly, the investigator’s report will find the particular Charter clause pertaining to interference is unconstitutional. The clause is in fact extremely vague and offers no description of what constitutes a violation nor does it include a mechanism for removing a violator from office.

Last month, City Attorney Janet Kern said there are two ways a sitting councilmember could be removed from office due to a Charter violation: By way of a voter-created recall campaign or following a recommendation from a criminal grand jury created by the Alameda County District Attorney. In this case, neither will happen. But voters will have a natural recall opportunity this November when Oddie is up for re-election to his council seat.

This section of the report, however, is likely to be parsed by supporters and opponents of Oddie and Vella. Whether or not Oddie threatened Keimach’s employment if she did not pick the firefigters’ union pick for fire chief in a conversation with Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri is immaterial, according to sources. The conversation, which occurred while Rolleri and Oddie were attending National Night Out parties in Alameda, was a private conversation. It is not clear whether it was deemed that Oddie uttered the threat or whether the entire chat was avoided by the investigator.

In addition, according to sources, Vella will avoid any wrongdoing in the matter. Furthermore, the only councilmember who will come out of this completely unscathed is Councilmember Frank Matarrese, according to sources.

Uncertainty remains over several other questions that may or may not be covered in the report. It is not clear whether Keimach’s use of a secret recording device is part of the report. She admitted to recording her August meeting with Oddie and Vella without their knowledge. Last month, the council voted to send the case to the D.A. But the report out of closed session on Mar. 9 suggests the existence of the recording was the subject of the legal advice contained in the report, which the council originally received in late January. The statement was communicated by Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer that night and Keimach was subsequently placed on paid leave. Last month, we learned the reason was related to the illegal recordings. Previously, sources said the investigator initially bristled at listening to Keimach’s recording for fear of abetting a crime.

Then there is the redacted portion of Keimach’s Oct. 2 letter that sources say is related to Alameda firefighters union president Jeff Del Bono and his pending legal complaint against the city. At the end of the day, the contents of this redacted section could have significant ramifications for a number of city officials. But, if this is a personnel matter, it’s unlikely to be included in the report and certain to be the next shoe to drop in this growing Alameda political scandal.

NOTE: Information pertaining to Alameda Police Chief Rolleri and Oddie’s conversation were added after publication.

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