Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 17, 2017

All for one

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:07 am

One of the bullet point allegations made in the — let’s call it Threat-Gate for ease — Threat-Gate letter from the City Manager was this point:

keimach2

My initial gut was to chalk this delay up to incompetence on the part of the City Council than any real malice:

If anyone, coughthiscolumnistcough, they will know that this City Council is a mess.  If the delay of the evaluation occurred it was probably out of lack of time rather than actual malice or attempt to sway the process.  This is also conjecture without any actual proof, but it sounds really shady though.

But since we’re super low on actual evidence and any real facts, I thought I’d look back to see what actually happened based on agendas and minutes.

So this bullet point claims that the delay of evaluations started in March 2017.  The first time the evaluation for the City Manager comes up on the April 4 meeting.  But I’ll also note that the agenda item for the evaluations were for the big three City Staff that are  direct reports to the City Council: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.

This meeting also contained the closed session negotiations about the Animal Shelter and the regular session saw Rent Stabilization items.  The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m. and the Regular Session at 12:57 a.m. and the Regular meeting itself had to be continued to a later date.

The item was also on the next agenda on April 18.  The one performance evaluation item was again for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.   The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 7:01 p.m. and the Regular Session at 1:53 a.m.

The item was also on the next agenda on May 2.  The one performance evaluation item was again for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.   The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 7:01 p.m. and the Regular Session at 9:58 p.m.

The item was also on the next agenda on May 16.  The one performance evaluation item was again for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.   The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 6:46 p.m. and the Regular Session at 12:38 a.m.

The item was also on the next agenda on June 6.  The one performance evaluation item was again for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.   The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 6:00 p.m. and the Regular Session at 12:42 a.m.

The item was also on the next agenda on June 20.  The one performance evaluation item was again for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.   The Closed Session meeting adjourned at 6:47 p.m. and the Regular Session at 10:50 p.m.

And then on July 5 the agenda item for the evaluation of all three positions disappeared.

It also was not on the July 18 agenda.

The City Council was on break for all of August.

When the City Council returned to session in September it was not on the September 5 agenda.

However the item did return on the September 19 agenda, but this time the evaluation was only for the City Manager position.

On October 3, the item disappeared again from the agenda.

For tonight’s agenda, the one performance evaluation item for all three positions: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk is back on deck.  I have a request out to the City Clerk to see who on the City Council asked for this item to be added to the agenda on October 9.

That ends the fact based part of this blog post.

A few notes.  Did you all notice that the evaluations that were delayed were for all three of the direct reports to the City Council.  This speaks to the inability of the City Council to get stuff done in a timely manner rather than a malicious and elaborate chess game to hold over the head of the City Manager the hiring of one position.  If the delay were consistently for only one position and the City Council had swept through the other evaluations in a timely and efficient manner then there would be a stronger argument for some sort of gamesmanship on the part of the City Council.  But since it’s all of the City Council reporting staff in the same boat it’s a weaker argument that the City Manager was somehow singled out.

There were a lot of fairly complex, citizen affecting issues on this City Council agenda during the time that the City Manager felt as though her performance evaluation was being deliberately delayed.  Oh, by the way, the date that the “delay” began was three full months before the job for the Fire Chief was even posted which means that she is alleging that the City Council was anticipating that she wouldn’t appoint whoever it is they wanted her to appoint so they started delaying three months in advance in order to ensure that her performance evaluation hinged on this one issue.

So folks can read whatever the want into these six months of agenda and minutes tracking.  Some people will see nefarious actions in the delay, some people will see incompetence, some people will see priority setting for other issues, some people won’t give a shit.

 

23 Comments

  1. Whether the City Manager is speculating about why her evaluation was not conducted between March and the present, or has a very good idea why, seems tangential to the main question of whether or not there was an attempt by a Councilmember or Councilmembers to influence her decision on the new Fire Chief.

    Again, if the unimpeachable source, Police Chief Rolleri, accurately described what Councilmember Oddie said before the decision was made (i.e. City Manager out if she makes the wrong decision on the hire), and if there was also, among other things, a meeting between two Councilmembers and the City Manager in which a particular candidate was urged on the City Manager lest “labor peace”, e.g. a strike, be imperiled (again, reportedly), then that would seem to be pretty direct evidence, or very strong circumstantial evidence, of an intent and an effort to influence the City Manager’s hiring decision. Again, “Sec. 7-3. …. An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment or the purchase of any materials or supplies shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance.”

    True, also, that on the surface there is a time gap between Chief Long’s retirement announcement in September and the alleged start of the pressure on the City Manager by delaying her evaluation beginning in March. (I think March was also around the time expansion of the building inspection unit was being discussed). There may be no link. On the other hand, we don’t know if Chief Long’s retirement announcement in September was unanticipated, surprising, unplanned or if instead it was expected earlier this that he would retire at or around year’s end. Retirement announcements are sometimes unexpected and sometimes they have been carefully planned in advance (as most people would hope they can do some day).

    Comment by MP — October 17, 2017 @ 8:05 am

    • This was her first bullet point, it seemed to be important enough for her to speculate on this first. I’m not indicating that this particular set of facts (eg that the performance evaluations were delayed for all of the City Council’s direct reports) is sufficient to say that the letter is full of shit, but certainly the severity and shock value of the “delay” as contextualized by the City Manager is a bit different knowing that the performance evaluations were delayed for three people and not her singled out alone.

      Comment by Lauren Do — October 17, 2017 @ 9:47 am

      • The conclusion or suggestion that the performance evaluation was delayed because of the Fire Chief hiring decision is, of course, open to question. We in the peanut gallery don’t really have enough information at this point.

        Of equal, or more, “shock” value on the question of an attempt to influence the City Manager’s decision, however, are this (from the opinion piece):
        “Writing to Keimach on official city letterhead, Oddie “strongly” recommended that she pick Weaver. A day later, in a conversation with Police Chief Paul Rolleri, Oddie threatened Keimach’s job. “He said, ‘well she better do the right thing,’” Rolleri recalled. “‘There are already two council members who are ready to fire her if she doesn’t.’””

        And this, among other things, from the City Manager’s letter: a meeting with two Councilmembers in which they suggested that their choice was in the interest of “labor peace”.

        We’ll see what the response is to these assertions.

        Comment by MP — October 17, 2017 @ 11:38 am

  2. Lauren,
    I agree with a your assessments here. I don’t believe there was any intention to try and fire the City Manager over this issue.

    Passions are high on every side; hopefully we can learn from it and move on.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 17, 2017 @ 8:11 am

    • No. The more we just “move on”, the more this crap keeps going on. They haven’t learned positive lessons from anything that’s happened so far. Not even from the Raymond Zack tragedy.

      Comment by vigi — October 17, 2017 @ 10:13 am

  3. I’m very saddened by the lack of concern that not one, but two Council members have been accused of violating the Charter. You were quick to point out how Spencer overstepped her role as Mayor according to the Charter. You were quick to make Dumaguete an international incident. But suddenly there is a very real situation involving Council members and the Fire union and you immediately side with the union. You’re just like the rest of them. Thank God people like Keimach and Rolleri are willing to stand up for what is right.

    Comment by Eyeroll — October 17, 2017 @ 9:09 am

    • Well said, eyeroll! Leaving the performance evaluation entirely out of it, the very act of 2 council members [a] interfering with hiring the fire chief and [b] colluding to do so, is grounds for malfeasance charges. Let’s just hope the Alameda County Grand Jury takes notice. I’m with the East Bay Times take on this matter.

      Comment by vigi — October 17, 2017 @ 10:09 am

  4. I dunno. The delay you discuss is interesting side show but more important thing is the arm twisting going on. It looks like a violation of the City Charter. I think that’s where attention should be.

    Comment by "Attention must be paid!" — October 17, 2017 @ 10:07 am

  5. It is interesting that most of the union’s most loyal supporters/shills/lackeys are silent during this controversy.

    Comment by dave — October 17, 2017 @ 10:53 am

    • Not silent, dave – just enjoying lots of people tie their shorts up in a knot over a situation in which we do not have many facts but the vacuum has been filled by lots of hype and accusations – with a lot of help from at least one right-wing axe-grinding editorial ideologue. I am more interested in making sure our decision-making processes work properly: they do not seem to these days, but the major problem has to do with one elected official (no, NOT Oddie or Vella). And the problem has nothing to do with any city employees, either–unionized or not.

      Comment by Jon Spangler — October 17, 2017 @ 10:37 pm

  6. The arrogance displays by the IAFF is very revealing. It shows just how much control they’ve gained over the city government – their campaign-finanance bribes have been quite effective, it seems, and their minions Vella and Oddie are certainly playing their appointed roles.

    On a positive note: Alameda, and America, needs more Jill Keimachs and more Paul Rolleris.

    I have to add, this is one of the few pro-corruption blogs I’ve ever seen. Lauren can at least be commended on her originality.

    Comment by kurt — October 17, 2017 @ 11:56 am

  7. I seem to remember another city council member who was running for office and had this type of accusation, her name was Lena Tam. she eventually was shown to be innocent, and the city had to pay approx. $44,000. to reimburse her for her own expenses to defend herself. so I would only suggest that maybe we get a little more information before we burn these folks at the stake. I’m not a fire union supporter, I am however a person who believes in getting all the facts before we hang them, instead of after.

    Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — October 17, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

    • John,

      The Tam case isn’t a good one for union supporters to cite. The labor mafia doesn’t look good in that one.

      Lena Tam admitted bcc-ing the city’s plans & positions both Suncal and the IAFF. The word “treason” is often overused and generally applies to matters of national security rather than municipal government, but it’s really difficult to find another word for giving sensitive, critical information to the other side of an adversarial situation.

      That she was never charged was a travesty of corrupt backroom dealing. Paying her legal fees even though she was never charged was a rotten cherry on top. If you side with the union, you should probably find other cases to cite.

      Comment by dave — October 17, 2017 @ 6:40 pm

      • so because she was never charged it was a travesty,? or maybe it just wasn’t the way you felt it should go. maybe you missed part of my comment, ” I’m not a fire union supporter”. Dave, sounds to me like you already have all the facts buttoned up , so why should we even bother to get anymore information. so I would have to guess that you are anti union, “the labor mafia”?

        Comment by JohnP.TrumpisnotmyPresident. — October 17, 2017 @ 9:46 pm

        • I did read where you say your’re not a fire union supporter, but I’ve read your posts here for years, and you have certainly walked that walk.

          I freely confess to not having a very high opinion of unions in general. It started when I was a kid and my family received death threats because my dad, a middle management guy, was working on negotiating a union contract. For a couple of weeks there was a police car parked in front of our house 24/7.

          In the case of Alameda, the IAFF’s contribution in exchange for outsize compensation is corruption, pure and simple. I’m against corruption, especially when it involves public funds. Why isn’t everyone?

          Comment by dave — October 18, 2017 @ 10:27 am

      • Dave, much the information that Lena Tam shared with SunCal and the IAAF came FROM the IAAF originally. And that information was previously on the public record and not “confidential,” so Tam’s accusers did not have a case.

        Comment by Jon Spangler — October 17, 2017 @ 10:40 pm

  8. Anyone else watching the parade of union reps supporting Malia and Jim? I think it proves how much influence the Union has and gives some credence to Keimach’s claims. Malia/Jim/Bonta/Jeff certainly have been busy calling in the troops today. Tonight proves there needs to be an independent investigation.

    Comment by Eyeroll — October 17, 2017 @ 5:27 pm

    • Eyeroll – whoever you really are – If you think I am a “union rep,” think again. Sure,I have carried a union card (when I worked for AgriPac in Eugene, Oregon in the 1970s). And yes, I support unions in general. (I like the 40-hour work week, safer working conditions, health care for workers, and a host of other benefits that people died for in years past.) But no one has asked me for any favors and no one puts words in my mouth. Period.

      I have taken my elected representatives to task many times (Jim Oddie more than once) despite their pro-union stances. I just don’t do it publicly. And I always use my real name when I do.

      Comment by Jon Spangler — October 17, 2017 @ 10:49 pm

  9. Lauren wrote: “Some people will see nefarious actions in the delay, some people will see incompetence, some people will see priority setting for other issues…”

    I, for one, believe the overwhelming evidence before us points to “incompetence” (particularly and unfortunately in one individual) as the primary delaying factor.

    2, 5: I agree with Karen Bey’s premise: I took City Manager Keimach’s letter seriously, nevertheless, and communicated my concerns directly to Council members Oddie and Vella: their actions in support of Domenic Weaver may have been reasonable but may have been mis-perceived as not so reasonable. (In any event, I discount the axe-grinding opinions of ideologue Daniel Borenstein because he often plays fast and loose with the facts.)

    I fully support CM Keimach’s decision to hire a better-qualified professional fire chief from outside of Alameda at the same time that I respect and support all of our firefighters in both
    unionized and non-unionized positions. And I hope that the many anti-union commentators here never experience the suffering that often accompanies a call for help from the capable professionals of the AFD.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — October 17, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

    • I think this is mostly about strong-arming the city manager into hiring a particular fire chief. Not about union or anti-union. No?

      Comment by "I live day to day" — October 18, 2017 @ 12:23 pm

  10. I hope that the defense against the accusations is based on an honest, straightforward and prompt account of the facts. The City Charter provision at issue, i.e. the rule to be applied, seems, on its face, straightforward enough: Sec. 7-3. …. An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment … shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance.”

    Finally, it makes no difference under that rule if a Councilmember attempts to influence the City Manager’s choice of a new fire chief at the request of the fire union, or a fire engine manufacturer, or an ambulance company, or on no one’s request. To ask that the matter be properly investigated is not anti-firefighter’s union, much less anti-union generally, and the matter should not be brushed aside or avoided as a mere an “anti-union” campaign. Indeed, although the firefighter’s union might be asked some questions relevant to the matter, the union would not be the subject of the investigation of a potential violation of the City Charter provision (because the City Charter provision governs only Councilmembers’ attempts to influence, not the union’s). And let’s not rush to give too much credit to alleged “anti-union” folks or a single alleged “ideologue”’s (Borenstein) “axe-grinding” article on Oct 12 for creating this controversy in the first place. A full two weeks earlier on Sept 27, not-anti-union-journalist Steven Tavares wrote on his EastbayCitizen website: “But Keimach, who was only hired in March 2016, is facing enormous pressure to choose the candidate backed by the Alameda International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Union Local 689, a number of elected city officials, and Assemblymember Rob Bonta.” Although “enormous pressure” is stated in conclusory fashion, it is unlikely that the decision to publish that story — two weeks before the alleged “ideologue” Borenstein’s Oct 12 piece — arose out of any “anti-union” ideology.

    Comment by MP — October 17, 2017 @ 11:34 pm

  11. And now, let’s hear from another “right-wing ideologue”…the former city manager of Hayward, Fran David: http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/10/17/opinion-alameda-council-coercion-violated-public-trust/

    PUBLISHED: October 17, 2017 at 7:05 am | UPDATED: October 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm
    Recent disturbing events surrounding the hiring of a new Alameda fire chief should greatly concern residents and businesses in the city.

    Alameda has a council-manager form of government, which means that the city manager works for the City Council members, reports to them and is accountable to them for the effective and efficient operations of the city. The council, in turn, is accountable to the community. There is an unshakable tenet of the council-manager form of government: Commitment to ethical, professional, inclusive and transparent decision-making.

    The Alameda City Charter carefully separates the duties of the two entities in Article II, Sec. 2-3 by stating clearly that department heads, such as the fire chief, “…shall be appointed by and hold office at the pleasure of the City Manager.” The charter further clarifies in Article VII, Sec. 7-3 that “Neither the Council nor any members thereof shall interfere with the execution by the City Manager of [her] powers and duties.” According to an Oct. 12 column by Daniel Borenstein, despite this clarity and definition of roles and responsibilities, council members apparently deliberately chose to violate their own charter by attempting to coerce City Manager Jill Keimach into hiring someone less qualified for the job — and threatening to fire her if she didn’t.

    I am deeply disappointed and angered by City Council members’ actions. Their blatant, misguided attempt to protect their self-interest in complete disregard for their own city charter and their duties and responsibilities as elected officials is deeply disappointing. At the very least, it is ignorant, self-serving and in violation of the public trust. At the worst, it borders on complete lack of ethics and malfeasance.
    In fact, Article VII, Sec. 7-3 says just that. “An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment … shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance.” On the other hand, I am fiercely proud of City Manager Keimach. By refusing to capitulate to the council pressure, she is making a professional, ethical and difficult decision. She is doing what she was hired to do and doing it with courage and professionalism. She represents the ethics and high professional standards of the profession of city managers.
    This situation demonstrates the value of the council-manager form of government. Without that structure in place, Alameda would likely now have a fire chief irreversibly politically indebted to two or three elected officials at the possible expense of his commitment to the community of Alameda and the professional growth and development of the Alameda Fire Department.
    That indebtedness could have placed him in the position of having to choose between the self-interest of an elected official and the protection or needs of a member of the community; or between a special project of a council member and an expenditure that would better equip or prepare his firefighters to protect the Alameda community.

    I fervently hope that the city attorney, backed by other members of the City Council, will conduct an appropriate and thorough independent investigation; and will hold all parties publicly and legally accountable for their actions.
    I also hope that Edmond Rodriquez, Keimach’s pick for fire chief, stays with the community and does not let this unfortunate series of events dissuade him from taking the job. He successfully competed for the position against 41 other candidates through a rigorous selection process.
    Both the community of Alameda and its Fire Department deserve the best for their fire chief. He, in turn, along with City Manager Keimach, deserve the respect and support of their council and mayor, and of their community.

    Fran David, now retired, was city manager of Hayward and finance director in Berkeley.

    Comment by vigi — October 18, 2017 @ 10:10 am


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