Brooks responds to accusations of misspending

November 19, 2008 7:20:12 PM PST
An Oakland City Council member who came under fire for her questionable spending of city funds defended herself Wednesday.

City Council member Desley Brooks has spent more than $100,000 on entertainment in her East Oakland district, paid for out of the city's "pay-go" fund, money meant for capital improvement projects like new sidewalks and street lights.

Tuesday night Brooks was criticized during a heated council debate, but she says the music and food was for park volunteers - a good cause.

"In exchange for the food and the DJ we got the play structure and a field and we helped to reshape a park that a community now uses," Brooks said.

City records show $12,000 of pay-go money went to sound equipment rentals for a concert.

"There's a distinction between renting equipment and throwing a party; that's not what I did," Brooks said.

More than $2,700 rented a room at the Marriott for a Christmas and Kwanza party, more than $1,100 for a DJ and more than $1,400 for barbecue.

And Brooks isn't apologizing.

"If I used city money to make people feel comfortable in their own community, I will continue to do that," brooks said.

But critics say pay-go money is meant for something more concrete, like repairing potholes.

Council President Ignacio de la Fuente introduced a measure at Tuesday's city council meeting that would have banned council members and the mayor from using the $250,000 they get annually for pay-go projects on entertainment.

It was dead on arrival, failing to get enough support even to be voted on.

"Most of the council members do those types of events in our districts, but we don't use capital improvement money, you raise money," de la Fuente said.

Dozens came to support brooks, but others in Oakland find it hard to choose between potholes or parties.

"I can't say both," resident Michael Prince asked. "Both of them are important."

De la Fuente said he may reintroduce the pay-go measure soon.


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