While negotiating a settlement with city officials, Alameda’s now former city manager Jill Keimach may have been worried about her exposure to a potential criminal investigation following a disclosure that she recorded a meeting with two councilmembers without their knowledge.
A draft of Keimach’s separation settlement originally called for the city to pay any legal costs in order to defend her in a civil or criminal proceeding, according to the settlement agreement, which included the paragraph. It is unclear why the draft document, included the crossed out passage, was distributed to the public.
Keimach admitted last month to recording a meeting with Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella that occurred in August. She did so after experiencing pressure from elected officials and labor representatives to select a union-backed candidate for the city’s next fire chief, said Keimach. In a letter to the council on Oct. 2, Keimach asserted the pressure violated a City Charter provision prohibiting political interference between the powers of the council and the city manager’s office.
The Alameda City Council sent a referral to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office April 17 to investigate the recording incident, which is potentially a violation of state law, punishable by one year in jail and a $25,000 fine for each offense.
Attorney’s for Keimach deny wrongdoing and assert a provision in the law allows for surreptitious recordings of individuals if they believed a crime was being committed.
On Tuesday, Keimach and the city agreed to step down as city manager and negotiated a compensation package worth $900,000. The settlement included salary and benefits package of $257,400–roughly the remaining 18 months of her current contract; a separation payment in the form of a $519,790 annuity; and $125,000 in legal fees to Keimach’s attorneys.
However, the initial inclusion of language to indemnify Keimach in the event she faces legal charges suggests trepidation on her part over the pending DA investigation into the recording incident.
“The City confirms that said defense and indemnity provision includes any potential legal actions, whether administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings for actions taken during the inclusive dates of her employment as City Manager. As to defense of actions that are allegedly criminal in nature, the City will advance defense costs, subject to an undertaking by Keimach to repay the defense costs in the event of a conviction,” according to the draft agreement language.
Nevertheless, Keimach faces serious financial jeopardy in the event she is charged by DA and, furthermore, convicted. The specific scenario would result in Keimach losing her state pension.
Notably, the city’s milquetoast official statement announcing Keimach’s departure and settlement agreement was less glowing than an earlier draft.
The short three-sentence statement read by Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer Tuesday evening originally included a fourth line. “During her tenure, the City Council and Ms. Keimach successfully worked together to address a number of important issues, on a wide range of projects and initiatives benefiting the citizens of Alameda, from fiscal responsibility to quality of life.”
Meanwhile, the prospects for a return of calm to the city manager’s office is unclear. The contract for Acting City Manager Liz Warmerdam runs through the end of June and is likely to be extended, following this week’s events.
Keimach could conceivably rescind her separation agreement within seven days. It is a reason why city officials have declined any comment about her departure or the settlement. In turn, there is no plan for the city’s next steps in naming a permanent city manager at this time.
However, in the event the council chooses to recruit an outside candidate, as they did in hiring Keimach in 2016 following former city manager’s John Russo departure for Riverside, the process will be long. For example, Russo resigned in February 2015. Keimach’s first day in Alameda was 13 months later.
***Become an East Bay Citizen supporter***
Nearly every city in Alameda County is a news desert, devoid of city hall reporters. But you’re thirsty for local political and government news. That’s why you’re here and why I’m at all the council meetings. Please think about putting a few dollars toward supporting the future of local independent journalism.