OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It was an extraordinary move by Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price. She closed all offices today -- no phone calls from the public answered, no cases worked -- for a staff meeting with all 350 employees at Oakland Arena. Her predecessor, Nancy O'Malley, also held once-a-year meetings but always kept some staff working.
Throughout her campaign and in her oath of office, Price promised to be transparent. Yet, she won't give us interviews, she rushes away from the camera, and she didn't allow us inside today's staff meeting that reveals her vision for her next six years in office. But, the I-Team obtained pictures and audio from sources.
The order came directly from Price. All attorneys and staff -- 350 people in all -- had to report to the Oakland Arena for a meeting. They were run through a metal detector, could bring their own seat cushions, and were instructed to "bring a pen, pencil, and/or crayons and a small pad of paper ... for a fun team-building exercise."
Matt Finnegan is the union rep for the Alameda County Prosecutors Association. He told us, "I'm not really certain why someone would bring crayons."
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DAN NOYES: "I'm picturing the all these prosecutors who deal with sometimes very serious cases, being told to whip out a crayon and draw."
MATT FINNEGAN: "It's sort of a ridiculous thought. It's also ridiculous in the thought, in the couple of months that she's been district attorney, there's been no speak of her vision or what how she wants to operate the office."
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The meeting comes as Price faces criticism for this memo: her plan to reduce prison terms by eliminating sentencing enhancements for things like guns, gang activity and criminal history. And she has gotten rid of more than 20 experienced prosecutors, six still out on paid administrative leave.
"I don't think anybody did anything wrong," Finnegan said. "I think that they were put on a list of political non-supporters, or vocal, vocal critics of her either in the last election or the election before. And she, she couldn't terminate them because of our contract."
Today, along with guided meditation and a creative writing exercise, Price gave a "State of the DAO" this afternoon. I-Team asked to attend, got turned down, and when we asked for a recording, Price's spokesperson Angela Ruggiero emailed yesterday, "No, we will not be recording it."
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But there it was on a photo a source sent -- a full video camera recording. We've already put in a public records act request for it and spoke to San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, the featured lunch speaker: "I said, every single one of your jobs is so crucial to the mission and public safety. I said, what matters to me the most is victims."
One of the attendees sent us a recording of Wagstaffe's address, in which he said, "They've suddenly encountered the worst moment in their lives. And they're looking where their victim advocates, lawyers, everybody, staff were there to help them."
And we obtained Pamela Price's speech late this afternoon.
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She started with, "Thank you all for coming here today with open hearts and be willing to listen and learn and to join us in this collective endeavor to make our journey easier."
Price wrapped up her speech at 4 p.m., and people in the room tell I-Team that the reception was chilly. Some felt she was talking down to them.
As we said, we'll get a copy of that video and share it with you. It's a public record. You paid for it.
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