Thursday, December 26, 2019
[Alameda County] Opinion: Alameda to deny repayment of legal fees for violators
Blog note: this opinion piece references a grand jury report.
In the wake of the release of an infamous secret recording involving alleged impropriety by two elected officials, the Alameda City Council approved an ordinance last week that would deny the reimbursement of legal fees to councilmembers after they are found to have violated the city's charter.
"I hope this is a rare occurrence, but we don't know that," Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Aschraft said. "I think that it's really important to have clear policies that leave no question."
After former City Manager Jill Keimach accused Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella of violating a provision in the city charter than forbids political interference in the city manager's duties, the accusation led both officials racking up legal bills totaling roughly $90,000 apiece. The City Council denied both claims.
An Alameda County Grand Jury report issued last June concluded that Oddie and Vella violated the charter by their actions in pressuring Keimach to hire a specific candidate for the open fire chief position. Among the grand jury's recommendations was for the council to enact a policy against indemnifying councilmembers who violate the charter.
Last week's discussion aimed to specify who would make such a determination about a councilmember's alleged transgressions. The council ultimately chose to use any future investigation by the state attorney general, Alameda County district attorney, or civil grand jury as a guide. The majority of the council could also weigh-in, but only after appointing a special counsel.
Members of Alameda's boards and commissions are not included in the ordinance. But, notably, the city auditor and city treasurer were not included in the resolution. "It means those two people are not going to be held to same standard and they will be indemnified even if they violate the charter," Vella complained following the meeting.
December 10, 2019
East Bay Express
By Steven Tavares