Former Alameda city manager who secretly taped public officials eyes a comeback in Richmond

Former Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach at a candidate forum in Richmond last Monday for the city's open city manager position.

Less than three months after negotiating a separation package with the City of Alameda worth $900,000, former City Manager Jill Keimach is among three finalists for the open city manager position in Richmond.

Keimach’s turbulent past year in Alameda ended after during the course of an investigation of claims she made against two councilmembers, it was also learned she secretly recorded both public officials.

Keimach was placed on paid administrative leave and later the Alameda City Council unanimously referred the recording incident to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. Secretly recording individuals as Keimach admitted to last spring is potentially a violation of state law. But there has been no determination yet from the DA’s office.

During a candidate forum Monday night in Richmond, Keimach quickly acknowledged the controversies in Alameda that began in October 2017 when she accused then-unnamed councilmembers of violating an anti-interference provision in the City Charter. Keimach claimed Alameda elected officials and members of the firefighters union members unduly pressured her to choose their preferred candidate to become the next fire chief.

An independent investigator, however, found few of Keimach’s claims were credible. Instead, Keimach refocused Monday night on an alternative view she and her attorneys used in Alameda to assert her actions, instead, were intended to reveal an underbelly of corruption at City Hall. Moreover, Keimach remains very popular among Alameda’s older, conservative population for her fierce stance against the firefighters union in Alameda.

“I am well-known, most recently, for my ethics and my integrity and I have decided every time I’ve been tested to put the community first. To choose what was in the best interest of the community even when it meant it was going against hard-fought local politics, cronyism, and my own job,” said Keimach.

The City of Richmond received 30 resumes seeking to replace former City Manager Bill Lindsay, who retired last March. Richmond councilmembers interviewed five candidates last Friday and whittled the list to the three who participated in Monday night’s forum–Keimach, East Palo Alto City Manager Carlos Martínez and Ruth Osuna, a former Oxnard assistant city manager.

Over the past decade, Richmond’s political scene has become in some ways the new capital of the progressive movement in the East Bay. The Richmond City Council, led by the Progressive Richmond Alliance, which includes 15th Assembly District candidate Jovanka Beckles have led the way in passing rent control, raising the minimum wage, and making corporations and banks accountable for their actions following the Great Recession. Many of the moves have been mimicked in Oakland, Berkeley and other parts of the East Bay.

The possible selection of Keimach by the Richmond City Council and its progressive majority, however, would be curious. Keimach’s tenure in Alameda was littered with skirmishes not only with the city’s powerful firefighters union, but she was viewed by some as a hindrance for moving forward with progressive touchstones such as rent control and cannabis. During Monday’s forum, she mentioned her work on each issue, but left out any specifics. Among Alameda’s renters’ advocates there was a belief that Keimach kowtowed to the city’s landlords groups.

Similarly, Alameda’s progress when it comes to cannabis was repeatedly stunted by Keimach’s intransigence. While nearly every city in the East Bay that has shown a willingness to allow the cannabis industry to set up shop, Alameda lags well behind. For instance, Alameda is still in the application process while other city’s like Hayward, which got a late start, recently awarded 11 permits.

News of Keimach’s possible resurgence in Richmond comes two weeks after former San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata, who was also part of similarly high-profile controversy, was hired for the same position in Anaheim. Zapata, who also negotiated a separation agreement, unlike Keimach, announced he would donate his severance award to a San Leandro non-profit for the homeless. The amount is estimated to be roughly $100,000.

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