Alameda: Oddie pulls claim for city to reimburse him for legal bills

Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie racked up roughly $90,000 in legal bills to defend himself against accusations made by Jill Keimach, the former Alameda city manager who secretly recorded Oddie and another elected official. PHOTO/Zac Goldstein

When Alameda’s former city manager made shocking allegations two years ago that Councilmember Jim Oddie threatened her employment if she did not select a candidate for fire chief preferred by the city’s firefighters union, the charge not only kickstarted a scandal that still resonates today, but led to exorbitant legal bills for the accused.

Oddie and Councilmember Malia Vella, another Alameda official accused of political interference by former City Manager Jill Keimach, racked up roughly $90,000 each in legal costs in their defense. Both had submitted claims for the city to remimburse them since the allegations were made against them in their official capacity as an elected official.

But on Monday night, Oddie said he will not longer pursue his claim, citing a need for the city to move on from the scandal that has periodically reignited itself over the past two years by way of an independent investigative report and a scathing civil grand jury report released in June. The Alameda District Attorney’s office also issued its own, although narrow findings, in October 2018.

“Today I notified Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt that I am withdrawing my request that the city reimburse legal fees I had incurred responding to allegations made by the former city manager,” Oddie wrote in a statement Monday night.

“I do so in the spirit of allowing me and the City to fully focus on the teamwork necessary to addressing the tough issues of school safety/security, housing affordability, homelessness and vital services for all Island families.”

Vella, however, said this week that she will continue with her claim, which also seeks remimbursement of her legal costs, but also alleges defamation.

The independent investigative report released by the city in May 2018 is viewed as the most complete account of the scandal. It not only includes allegations of Oddie and Vella violating a provision in the City Charter that prohbits interference by elected officials into the city manager’s duties, but also Keimach’s decision to record a meeting with the same councilmembers without their knowledge.

The independent report did not find Vella violated the charter. However, an Alameda County civil grand jury report found that she did, without citing any new information.

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