Oddie: Release the recording

Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie. PHOTO/Zac Goldstein.

A secret audio recording by Alameda’s former City Manager Jill Keimach made two years ago in hopes of gathering evidence that two former Alameda councilmembers were illegally pressuring her to hire a fire chief of their choosing is again in the city’s consciousness.

Alameda beatAlameda Councilmember Jim Oddie said Saturday that he welcomes the release of the recording. Oddie, along with Councilmember Malia Vella, were recorded by Keimach without their knowledge during an August 2017 meeting at Alameda City Hall,

“It is illegal to tape private conversations without the knowledge and permission of all parties, and the former City Manager violated those ethics,” Oddie wrote, in a statement Saturday

The 55-minute recording has never been available to the public, but was quoted in an Alameda County grand jury report released last June.

In his statement, Oddie appeared to hint, at least, at the tone of conversation in the recording. “However, I concur the public should have the opportunity to hear the recording themselves and draw their own conclusions. Those who have worked with me know that my style is blunt and straightforward, and my role in that conversation is no different,” Oddie wrote.

The civil grand jury, which acts as a government watchdog, found Oddie and Vella violated an Alameda charter provision barring elected officials from interfering in the duties of the city manager.

“It is my hope that we can all move past this to fully focus on addressing the needs and vital services for all Island families. Alamedans hold their leaders to the highest standards of transparency and conduct, which I agree with and will continue to work to earn,” Oddie added.

On Saturday, Alameda City Attorney Yibin Shen was notified of Oddie’s position for releasing the recording, Oddie said. The subject of the recording could possibly be part of the council’s pair of closed session meetings scheduled for next Tuesday night.

Two weeks ago, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley sent a letter to Shen urging the city to release the recording because of public demand and government transparency. O’Malley had reviewed the recording last year while in the process of determining that Keimach’s surreptitious recording did not violate state law.

Shortly after the controversial recording, which at the time was unknown, Alameda’s political scandal was ignited by a letter sent by Keimach to the entire City Council alleging two unnamed councilmembers had violated the City Charter by pressuring her to hire a candidate for the vacant fire chief position that was endorsed by the Alameda Firefighters union.

In the end, Keimach and the city agreed to part ways, but not before she received a $945,000 settlement. Keimach was named town manager of Paradise Valley, Ariz., a small  northeast of Phoenix. Oddie returned to the Alameda City Council after last November’s election, but he and Vella have been the subject of a large number of poorly-conceived recall campaigns that have all failed to advance past the signature-gathering stage. Oddie and Vella are both up for re-election in November 2020.

Also behind closed doors Tuesday night, the council is scheduled to again discuss Vella’s request for reimbursement of legal bills stemming from her defense of Keimach’s allegations. Similarly, Oddie had previously requested reimbursement of his own legal bills, but withdrew it last August.

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