Oakland City Hall to undergo changes

July 9, 2008 7:04:24 PM PDT
Rocked by allegations of nepotism and possible criminal misconduct by former city administrator Deborah Edgerly, the city of Oakland is reeling from a new scandal -- a golden handshake supposedly offered to Deborah Edergely's close friend and advisor.

Fired Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly's photo still hangs outside her former offices. And so does the air of favoritism that was partially responsible for her dismissal.

Before Edgerly was cut loose, she sent a note to her pal and assistant city administrator Cheryl Thompson, telling her she would also lose her job and promised her five month severance package.

Thompson who made almost $217,000 a year was dismissed on Tuesday. And now she wants the city to own up to the severance deal.

"The events of the past couple weeks have shaken the public's confidence in City Hall. Not only that, the latest controversy stirring up at city hall has been an unnecessary distraction and a huge waste of taxpayers' resources and time," said City Attorney John Russo.

The timing couldn't have been better for Russo and city Auditor Courtney Ruby to lay out their five point plan for political reform in Oakland.

"There are systems missing in Oakland government that should be protecting us against the kinds of abuses we are hearing about," said Russo.

"I believe that the five administrative reforms the city attorney and I are offering here today, get to the heart of creating transparent principals and an accountable government," said Ruby.

The package of changes has been dubbed "Real Oakland Administrative Reform," or ROAR for short.

Backed by councilmember Pat Kernighan and Board President Ignacio De La Fuente, the "ROAR" plan makes significant changes to city policies.

  • It provides protection for whistle blowers.
  • Creates a strong anti-nepotism ordinance.
  • Reforms personnel department procedures.
  • Requires all supervisors and to attend mandatory ethics training.
  • It implements records management practices, which includes making sure all emails are saved and not deleted after 30 days -- as they are now.

    Mayor Ron Dellums skipped Wednesday's press conference. Instead, his office released a statement that said he supported, "in principal" the package of reforms.

    Effective immediately, the mayor has ordered:

    • A selective hiring freeze on hiring of new city employees (public safety hirings are not affected).
    • A moratorium on travel.
    • A complete review of all existing credit card policies.

    The city attorney hopes focused attention will turn the political tide in Oakland.

    "People are sick of hearing about unethical behavior, nepotism and abuse of power in Oakland. And people have a right to be angry," said Russo.

    The city attorney and auditor hope to present their final proposal in mid-September.

    Written and produced by Ken Miguel.


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