ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL
A long-awaited investigative report from Southern California Attorney Michael Jenkins released Wednesday night found Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie violated the City Charter by sending a letter of recommendation for the firefighters union-preferred candidate to the city manager while using city letterhead. The finding may appear to be a glancing blow against Oddie given the investigator casted significant doubt as to whether the particular section of the Charter was constitutional. In fact, Jenkins recommended the council revise Section 7.3 pertaining to council interference. Meanwhile, nearly every allegation against the council by City Manager Jill Keimach was found to be unsupported by the evidence. But there is many more nuggets of interesting information contained in the report.
KEIMACH MAY HAVE HEAPED LIABILITY ON THE CITY
The implications of the redacted portion of Keimach’s Oct. 2 treatise to the council alleging political interference looms large near the conclusion of the independent investigator’s report. The redaction deals with information Keimach included about a city employee. Furthermore, a firefighter. Following reports that Alameda Firefighters union president Jeff Del Bono filed a preliminary complaint against the city, put two and two together. “Such publication has the potential to subject the City to penalties for violating the procedural safeguards meant to protect [redacted] property interest in his civil service employment,” wrote investigator Michael Jenkins, who later described Keimach’s comments as “unsubstantiated, premature and their inclusion only self-serving.” In short, Keimach may have violated the Firefighters Bill of Rights. Furthermore, despite media reports of Del Bono’s complaint, the main thrust of it is not defamation, but retaliation.
THE RELUCTANT FIRE CHIEF CANDIDATE
Domenick Weaver, the figure whose candidacy for fire chief perhaps unwittingly lit the match in this growing Alameda controversy was reluctant to apply for the opening, according to the report. “Although [he] did not call himself ‘Plan B,’ it appeared that he knew as much.” The union came to Weaver, he told the investigator, and later worried that the lobbying campaign was “too heavy-handed.” An unnamed ally wished him luck, according to the report, and said of his candidacy, “It’s not a test, it’s a campaign.”
Alameda City Manager
KEIMACH WAS SCREWING UP, BUT WASN’T GOING TO BE FIRED
Criticism of Keimach’s handling of the water crisis at Alameda Point last September, in addition, to her handling of hate crimes at the Temple Israel were legitimate, but Keimach linked the criticisms to perceived retaliation against her in the fire chief selection process. The consultant helping evaluate Keimach’s job performance said councilmembers believed Keimach had room for improvement. “There is no credible evidence, however, that Keimach was to receive an evaluation from the council so negative that it would result in termination,” wrote Jenkins.
INVESTIGATOR REPEATEDLY CITED KEIMACH’S STATE OF MIND
On numerous occasions throughout the report. the investigator generally asserts that actions by some in the firefighters’ union and its allies triggered additional stress and paranoia within Keimach, leading her to worry about her future job status. “Keimach’s heightened level of anxiety seems to have interfered with her ability to consider legitimate concerns being raised by councilmembers about the process that were not meant to influence her choice of candidate.”
ASHCRAFT’S CONSULTANT KNOWS BEST
Venerable East Bay political consultant Doug Linney, who is running Ashcraft’s mayoral campaign this year, was contacted by the firefighters union in an apparent bid to talk some sense into Ashcraft. She apparently resisted overtures by the union to back Weaver. Linney said the union described Ashcraft as “being very difficult.” Ashcraft responded by saying she would not meet with Del Bono in the future “unless there is a witness and I am going to take notes.” But according to the report, Linney attempted to smooth things over between the union and Ashcraft. The underlying motivation is clear: Ashcraft’s campaign to unseat Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer is almost cooked if she doesn’t have the support of the powerful union. The strategy hasn’t worked. Ashcraft is persona non grata to the firefighters and the rift appears irreparable.
COUNCIL WAS ADVISED TO STEER CLEAR OF INTERFERENCE
On Aug. 23, Rod Gould, the consultant working with the council on Keimach’s employment evaluation, along with Keimach, reminded the council via email about the separation of powers laid out in the Charter that covers interference. It was sent after Keimach consulted with Gould about some of her concerns following pressure on her to hire Weaver. Vella reached out to Gould about the implications of her sending Keimach a letter of recommendation for Weaver. Gould advised against it, according to the report, and Vella did not offer a letter of support to Keimach. Ashcraft also resisted writing a letter of recommendation. Later, Councilmember Frank Matarrese expressed concern over Oddie writing his own letter of recommendation to Keimach, and suggested Oddie had regrets, after the fact.
WHO BROUGHT UP RAYMOND ZACK?
It’s not clear who mentioned Raymond Zack, the mentally ill man who drowned himself at Crown Beach in 2010 while Alameda police and fire personnel watched on. The reference reportedly occurred during the Aug. 16 meeting with Keimach, Oddie and Vella that Keimach illegally recorded without their consent. The recording may be the only hope for the truth. Keimach’s attorney demanded Wednesday that the recording be released to be public. Last month, the City Council voted to send the recording to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to determined if any laws were broken by Keimach. Later in the report, Vella said she sensed Keimach was posing questions like she was “baiting a violation of the City Charter (e.g. are you telling me to hire Weaver?)” The description matches a recent report that Assemblymember Rob Bonta and Del Bono suspected that Keimach recorded them, too. Bonta said his conversation with Keimach felt like he was being deposed by an attorney.
ROLLERI AND BORENSTEIN
It remains unclear why Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri willingly placed himself into the controversy when the entire issue has nothing to do with him or his department. The report, though, clears up that his bombshell quote to the East Bay Times about Oddie threatening Keimach’s job did not come directly from Rolleri, but was posed to him by the reporter. Rolleri merely confirmed the quote to the newspaper. The distinction being, someone with knowledge of the alleged comment passed it to the newspaper. But, who?
MUTUAL AID DENIAL
The report affirms past reporting that Keimach initially attempted to recruit Stephen Healy, a former fire chief at the Moraga-Orinda Fire District, for the job in Alameda. The union, citing past issues with fire chiefs hired from outside Alameda, opposed Healy. But one of the more shocking new tidbits in the report is an allegation by Keimach that the Alameda Fire Department declined to helped fight a fire at Fish Ranch Road as mutual aid, and that it served as a message to her that she should not hire Healy. According to Keimach’s notes, Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda County responded to the request , but not Alameda. “Past practice is that AFD responds to every mutual aid,” wrote Keimach. She perceived the non-action as a “very obvious message to Healy that they would not support him.”