Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 18, 2017

Pressure on people

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

More on Threat-Gate (Pressure-gate?) this time with a reporters touch, from Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times:

Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern said Monday she hopes to have identified an independent investigator this week to review allegations that Vice Mayor Malia Vella and City Councilman Jim Oddie wrongly attempted to sway who would be hired as the next fire chief.

Kern also said Monday she would recommend the council postpone carrying out a job evaluation of City Manager Jill Keimach — who contended that Vella and Oddie violated Alameda’s City Charter by pressuring her as she looked for a new chief — until after the investigator issues a report.

While Kern said she would recommend that Keimach’s job evaluation again get postponed until after the investigation, Kern also said it was up to the council to decide whether to go forward with it.

Along with Keimach, the council is set to carry evaluations during Tuesday’s closed session of Kern and City Clerk Lara Weisiger.

It’s not a surprise that Janet Kern is heading in this direction, she’s a pretty cautious City Attorney and it’s best to not have anyone declaring her to be biased one way or the other depending on how the investigation goes.  Hopefully this time around the independent investigation firm is a lot more careful than the time before so that the City is not on the hook for the independent investigation cost, the cost to pay someone to adjudicate what happened after the fact, and the cost of legal fees to the aggrieved City Councilmembers as it has before.

But, much like the last time we went down this path it really doesn’t matter what the investigation turns up and what happens in the aftermath based on what actual facts are revealed or not revealed, folks have already made their decision on the guilt or innocence of the parties involved based on their biases and feeling about the players in the game.  The ones with their pitchforks sharpened and their torches at the ready are those who wouldn’t care if the final adjudication is “nothing to see here” because they’ve already determined that because of who is involved their guilt has already been determined.

In the end though, personally, if everything in the City Manager’s letter ends up being independently verified then whatever protocols for censuring or removing a City Council member and/or Mayor should be initiated and will be completely deserved.



  1. I listened to the Council meeting last night and didn’t hear much of a pitchfork crowd or people with “torches at the ready” (I’ll assume that is not a reference to the darkness of recent events in Charlottesville and an awful president who keeps throwing fuel on the fire. The issue here seems much different: whether City Charter section 7-3 was violated: “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.”)

    One speaker called for an investigation (not any particular conclusion) while at the same time questioning those who take contributions from those with contracts with the City (be it a union or a vendor) but recognizing that this is not illegal. That second part of his comments did not directly address Charter section 7-3.

    The spokesperson for Alameda Renters Coalition stated they were there to stand with the firefighters union, organized labor and Councilmembers Vella and Oddie because this government needs to solve housing, create new revenue streams, and needs the City Manager to do this. They mentioned anti-union ideologues and that some part of this controversy was insulting to others such as teachers and hospital workers. The ARC stated that no money should be spent (it was unclear whether on a lawsuit or an investigation) concerning the possible violation of the City Charter and that instead that money should be spent on getting housing and revenue.

    Ms. Camacho from the Labor Council made some similar comments, calling Councilmembers Oddie and Vella “shining lights” in the labor movement and supported human rights and dignity (in regards to immigration issues). She also made comments that I didn’t quite understand, and that perhaps suggested that she knew more about the matter than the average person, to the effect that the City Manager should have more “self-regard”, “self-esteem” and “self-control” before putting the allegations out there.

    Comment by MP — October 18, 2017 @ 6:43 am

  2. I am disappointed with the lack of political savvy on many fronts in this mess for such a small battle. The unions have compromised quite a bit of goodwill and trust all for a fire chief’s position, which may impact more important political battles around wages, healthcare and pensions -especially if this affects next year’s election. While many people support unions, they don’t support bullies. Sometimes we have to look at the battlefield with some degree of objectivity and understand what is actually at risk if things go sideways. Certainly the alleged undue pressure on our city manager whose job is to be objective and not to rubber stamp the union’s picks is unseemly. The continued disparagement of her decision makes it even worse -especially since the union says it holds nothing against the new fire chief.

    The fact that the city manager was willing to take the risk of losing her job to pick the most qualified candidate says volumes about her character. She knew that choosing Mr. Rodriguez was going to cause her trouble AND that she still was facing a job review in the process and chose him anyway. That takes the toughness of ovaries. There are many stakeholders in any government decision and they deserve a seat at the table, but a city manager’s job is to take a look at the possibilities and choose what’s best for Alameda -and sometimes that’s going to piss off the union. I look forward to the investigation but regret that it might result in a more conservative city council in next year’s election, in which case the actions taken by the union would be all the more regrettable.

    Hearing this news come out over the last week has impacted my belief in our city’s potential to address some of our biggest challenges, especially around housing. The 2018 election might be a turning point for our community.

    Comment by Angela — October 18, 2017 @ 7:02 am

    • Hear, hear! Angela

      Comment by MI — October 18, 2017 @ 4:43 pm

      • Ditto

        Comment by Jack — October 18, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

    • Which of the actions of the Union did you find regrettable Angela? Was it the fact that they backed one of their own for Fire Chief?

      Comment by dc — October 19, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

  3. It’s not so hard to come up with a title, Lauren. Why don’t you call this affair something that reflects reality–like “FireChiefGate”?
    Lest the City Manager be portrayed as one person against the union, the EBT article says:

    “City Manager Jill Keimach said Rodriquez was the top pick during the three panel interviews that were part of hiring someone.”

    Three panel interviews. How many other panelists—people experienced and qualified to select the best candidate–also found the union’s recommendation lacking? After everyone was interviewed, how was Weaver ranked? He didn’t win, but did he place or show?

    Just living in Alameda all your life should not factor into picking a fire chief. Such persons are often accused of having an “Island Mentality”.

    Comment by vigi — October 18, 2017 @ 9:51 am

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