Archive for March, 2013

Ruby’s Flawed Audit Fails to Make Case

By Ken A. Epstein

If you read the city auditor’s new report like it’s the gospel truth, then Courtney Ruby’s 64-page “performance review “ cites damning evidence against two members of the Oakland City Council who are accused of interfering with city staff in awarding a multi-million dollar contract for part of the city’s Oakland Army Base development project.

But to a critical reader who expects an audit to back up its claims with evidence, the allegations against City Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid quickly begin to fall apart.

According to Ruby, Reid and Brooks in 2011 interfered with city staff, attempting to steer a contact worth at least $2 million to Turner Construction, a local minority-owned construction company.

But the facts do not line up with Ruby’s account. The contract ultimately went out to bid, and the City Council, including Brooks and Reid, voted 7-0 (with Jane Brunner abstaining), June 19, 2012 to give the contract to the lowest bidder, Downrite Construction.

Strange behavior for public officials who were allegedly directing business to Turner Construction. Their vote does not square with Ruby’s statement: “Both the councilmembers involvement and interference in the contracting process appears to inappropriately favor Turner.”

Ruby’s Army Base allegations are a key part of her “Non-Interference in Administrative Affairs Performance Audit” for 2009 through mid-2012, released March 21, and widely reported uncritically in the media.

The audit never claims the two councilmembers stood to gain financially from the alleged behavior or tries to explain the reasons

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

for the councilmembers’ actions.

If one looks to the audit for reasons, they will not be found. Ruby did not ask Brooks and Reid for interviews until after the audit was completed. Nor did the auditor’s office talk to a representative of Turner Construction, which has earned a record in the city as a responsible builder that seeks to hire and train the formerly incarcerated.

Unlike most audit reports, Ruby’s findings lack evidence. Of course, she cannot identify whistleblowers, but she does not quote or paraphrase any of those she interviewed.

Her report says she reviewed telephone records and “all the councilmembers’ and all council aides´ email accounts for evidence of interference, including “tens of thousands of emails.”

None of this evidence was quoted or cited in the report.

The report said “27 hotline tips were received” and the auditors’ staff talked to  “more than 40 individuals, which included interviewing specific employees in areas likely to have instances of interference.”

This sounds like a lot, but these numbers are connected to multiple allegations spread over three years. .  How many tips did the auditor receive, and how many people did she talk to specifically about the Army Base contract?  She does not say.

Just as important as the councilmembers’ unexplained vote to the lowest bidder and lack of documented evidence, the auditor fails to go back to the beginning of the council discussion in 2009.

It’s hard to understand a story when you come in at the middle.

Ruby starts her timeline on May 20, 2011 and concludes it with the City Council vote on June 19, 2012.

But she leaves out the most important part of what happened, which goes back to August 2009 when city staff conducted open bidding to award the Oakland Army Base demolition and remediation (Building 6) project, which was worth at least $2 million but could go as high as $6 million.

After the bidding, John Monetta, real estate manager for the city, wrote in an Oct. 9, 2009 email, “The preliminary staff recommendation is to select PARC Services for the job,” PARC Services was a consortium of contractors that included Turner Construction and other local contractors.

When pressure was exerted to derail the process, it did not come from councilmembers but from Phil Tagami, who was negotiating to become master developer of the Army Base project, in an email dated Oct. 15, 2009. This was before he was awarded an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement on Jan. 22, 2010.

“(We) must insist that the bid solicitation be rejected and the process significantly revised with our direct involvement before being re-started,” Tagami said in the email to Walter Cohen, then director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency.

“In the spirit of working as a team we want to be supportive and timely in our responses to agency requests and hope our constant communication and meeting throughout the week was deemed responsive and helpful in identifying issues and pitfalls that justify an alternative course of action.”

Tagami said he wanted the contact to go to part of his team, Top Grade Construction, consistent with the philosophy: “One vision, one team, one project.”

City staff withdrew its recommendation and decided two years later to give the job to Top Grade, which is not a local company, without sending the contract out to public bid.

Ruby recognizes staff’s failures to publically bid the contract but called the actions a  “misinterpretation” of whether they could issue a sole source contact for the demolition work.

“Under the standard contracting process for construction contracts exceeding $50,000 the administration should have conducted a competitive bid process,” the audit said. “This occurred because, according to redevelopment, in an effort to speed up the remediated work on the Army Base, redevelopment attempted to contract with Top Grade Construction who was a contractor of the master developer of the project,” Phil Tagami.

It was at his point that the two councilmembers, according to the audit,  “directed staff to work with Turner to establish a bid proposal.”

The staff in June 2011 was attempting to give Top Grade two no-bid contracts, one for $2,676,750 and another for $2 million, which was opened-ended and could rise to as high as $4 million.

According to Brooks and Reid, they never pushed for Turner to receive the bid. Instead, they rejected the sole source agreement,

Larry Reid

Larry Reid

and in public meetings demanded the city stand by its open bidding rules, which include opportunities for local small businesses, they said.

In fact, they argue, Turner Construction has rarely done business with the City of Oakland.

The councilmembers say the attack by the auditor is not about them personally but against elected officials who are willing to back the community’s demands for local jobs on city-funded projects.

“We stood up for local hiring, and a ton of bricks dropped on us,” Reid said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 31, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Ruby Responds to Post Questions

By Post Staff

In response to questions from the Post , City Auditor Courtney Ruby disputed criticisms raised by a Post reporter and community leaders on the quality of her “Performance Audit”  that targets interference with city staff by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid.

Ruby, speaking in a phone interview,  said that the two council members vote for the lowest bidder,  Downrite Construction, in

Courtney Rub

Courtney Ruby

June 2012 did not undermine the auditor’s finding that they were trying to steer business to Turner Group Construction.

“To interfere and coerce staff, a councilmember does have to be successful,” she said. “It is the act of coercing or interfering.”

She disagreed that the audit’s finding were undermined by the  failure to include evidence of wrongdoing.  None of the witnesses were quoted, and none of the 10,000 emails and many phone records reviewed were specifically cited.

“We go through government standards,” Ruby said. “Everything that is in the audit report has been independently reviewed and substantiated ” by an outside and independent reviewer.

She was asked why she did not go back to 2009 to examine Phil Tagami’s involvement in derailing an open bidding process and attempt to  give a sole source contract to Top Grade Construction , which was affiliated with Tagami’s team.

At that time, pressure on staff did not come from councilmembers but from Tagami, who was negotiating to become master developer of the Army Base project, in an email dated Oct. 15, 2009.

“(We) must insist that the bid solicitation be rejected and the process significantly revised with our direct involvement before being re-started,” Tagami said in the email to Walter Cohen, then director of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency.

But Ruby’s focus was on interference by two council members – not what was happening or why.

“The object of the report was to look at interference,” she said. “Where we have documented findings is  related to interference.  It is not about the (Army Base) contract. This is not an audit of the (open bidding) process.”

According to the two council members, what  they were doing at the time was saying in public meetings that they would not vote for the  a no bid contract and were insistent on following the city’s open bidding policy.

“The instances identified in the audit are clear interference,” she said. “Whatever their  motivations and reasonings are, these are clearly instances  of interference.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 31, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Uproar over Dividing Up Youth Jobs Money

By Ken A. Epstein

A proposed decision on how to divide up federal job money for youth for the next two years is stirring charges that nonprofits that provide services to Latinos and young people in West Oakland are excluded and that the decision favors the bigger, better-funded agencies.

Ron Muhammad

Ron Muhammad

“When do you show fairness?” asked Ron Muhammad, a West Oakland activist, who said his community has not received federal

youth job money for the past two years.

“Year after year, you always deny us, a whole district. We can’t go on and not get anything,” and Latinos in the Fruitvale District are not getting anything either, he said.

Based on an application and interviews conducted by a three-member panel of the Youth Council of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB), the Youth Council and the WIB Executive Committee approved a decision at their meetings on Wednesday to give money for 2013-2015 to five groups that provide year-round job training for youth:

Youth Radio, which is requesting $208,980; CivicCorps, asking for $275,000; Lao Family, $300,000; Youth Employment Partnership (YEP),  $300,000; and Youth UpRising, $300,000.

The decision still must be voted upon by the full WIB board and the City Council. The actual amount that each organization will receive must still be negotiated and depends on the new federal budget. The services that the groups will deliver also remain to be negotiated.

Groups that were not funded were First Place for Youth, asking for $294,899; GRIP/Pivotal Point, $300,000, a small nonprofit that serves youth mostly in West Oakland; and Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation, $299,997, which serves Latino and immigrant youth in the Fruitvale District.

Several speakers said that neighborhood and turf differences mean that many young people will not travel between West and East Oakland to participate in a program.

“There are real lines and different cultures between West and East Oakland.   If we have a (police) crime plan that addresses West Oakland, we should have a youth job plan that addresses West Oakland,” said Marlon McWilson, member of the Alameda County Board of Education.

The Latino population in East Oakland is large and growing, and it is not being served, he said.

Henry Rosales, executive director of Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation, criticized the board for failing to reverse years of underserving Latino youth.

“Our organization has been in the Fruitvale for 40 years. I’ve been on the Youth Council for seven years now. It’s never been addressed in my opinion,” he said.

“I …hear we are sensitive, (but) it’s not good enough. This is a systemic problem. Speaking on behalf of the Latino community, it’s insulting that (this) continues to go on when this group has the power to do something about it.”

Peter Roos

Peter Roos

Peter Roos, attorney and board chair of the Foundation, said the decision on dividing the money could be open to legal challenge.
He said he had heard that all the interviewees and presenters were given the questions in advance, but the Speaking Speaking Citizen’s Foundation speaker never received the questions.

It was said during a Youth Council meeting, he said, that the same questions were asked in the interviews with  each agency that was presenting. “Everybody was given the same questions, so there would be parity,” Roos said he had heard.
One of the questions was, “What language skills does your staff have?”

“Nobody ever asked us that question,” Roos said. “If that is true, Spanish Speaking had its feet shackled during (the) race,” he said.

Three agencies were denied funding, not because they were not qualified, but because of a lack of sufficient federal money to serve everyone, said Al Auletta, Development/Redevelopment program manager in the City Manager’s office.

“In the ideal world we would be able to touch every neighborhood and every target group. But in the real world we have very limited funds,” he said.

Questions were raised at the meetings about why funding was limited to five agencies, not all eight.

“We had a fixed target of five organizations” to fund, said Gay Plair Cobb, WIB board member and CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council. “Is there any reason why five was the magic number?” she asked.

Auletta said the decision was based on how much federal money the city was likely to receive.

For many years, Cobb said, “Latino youth have been underserved in both year-round and summer programs.” In addition, some Latino youth speak indigenous languages, not Spanish. “Who’s gong to be interacting with them?” she asked.

Others asked why the five agencies receiving funding had not been required to partner with smaller agencies. Several WIB board members said that possibility would be considered. “Small agencies do not just need partners. They need the financial resources to do their work,” Cobb said.

Additionally, speakers complained that only 25 percent of the scoring on the application was based on the written application. Seventy-five percent was based on the oral presentation.

“I’m very uncomfortable (supporting the decision) when so much weight is put on the presentation and interview,” said Frank Tucker, WIB member and CEO of Tucker Technology, adding that the process put the “small guys … at a disadvantage.”

“Are the (funded) providers equipped to serve the Spanish speaking community?” Tucker asked. As the proposed decision stands, it “would alienate a major portion of the youth community we are attempting to serve,” he said.

Rosales of Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation said he previously had seen indications that funding decisions would not take into account the needs of specific communities but would end up favoring larger, better-funded nonprofits.

“We’re seeing it play out here,” he said.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 22, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Under Hannigan’s Leadership City “Gives Back” $600,000

By Ken A. Epstein

Some representatives of nonprofits agencies and community leaders are calling for a sweeping discussion and overhaul of the way the city runs the Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and its delivery of federal jobs funds to groups that help the unemployed, especially Oakland teenagers.

The City Council should authorize “an independent administrative and fiscal audit of the WIB finds,”which should be conducted by an

Dezie Woods Jones

Dezie Woods Jones

outside agency such as the state Employment Development Department or federal Department of Labor, said La Tronda Lumpkins, speaking at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of the City Council’s Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee.

Lumpkins is executive director of Pivotal Point Youth Center in West Oakland.

“(Further), I ask for the system administration of the WIB dollars to be placed out for public bid because we need this system to be managed more efficiently by an organization with adequate workforce development experience,” she said.

“WIB’s attention has been on publically scrutinizing and humiliating its service providers. No attention has been put forth making adequate recommendations for work  on a better workforce system.”

She focused on what she called an effort by the WIB “not to serve younger youth, ages  14 to 16, because performance outcomes would be much more difficult to obtain. This is not the best decision for Oakland,” she said.

The discussion at the CED meeting was on the agenda as a report by Executive Director John Bailey about why $600,000 in job money, which would have employed 40 laid-off workers, had to be returned unspent to the federal government in late 2012.

But speakers talked about many WIB issues, including late payments and contracts to agencies providing youth jobs, whether the city had gotten to the bottom of why the money was sent back and whether the WIB was in fact improving in response to criticisms.

Agreeing with speakers who demanded a full public hearing, Councilmember Larry Reid said he would call a hearing in the evening, so young people, agencies and members of the public could discuss and seek solutions to the issues that were being raised. He said the failure to call a public hearing so far was the result of miscommunication between himself and city staff.

Bailey, in his report, talked about the reason for the loss of the job money and the lessons that had been learned and incorporated by the WIB. He said the Dellums administration had won the grant, though as written, the funding contained “discrepancies” that made it impossible to implement without modifications.

“These discrepancies did not receive the full attention of the WIB until the addition of needed staff,” he said, and by then it was too late to spend most of the money.

As a result, he said, the city was only to provide jobs for 16 of the 56 workers who were supposed to receive help.

Further, Bailey said “Timely contracts…. and a quick reimbursement process to providers… (are)  something I personally monitor today. If

Mike Hannigan

Mike Hannigan

there’s an issue that might delay payment, staff knows to notify me right away.”

Mike Hannigan, WIB board member and former chairman of the WIB board, said the loss of money was due to a unique set of circumstances that were not likely to be repeated.

“I was the chair at the time,” he said. “ It happened on my watch.”

“It’s very easy from the outside to come in and complain how everything didn’t come out perfectly, but when you are in a position of having to actually produce results under rules that are established for you and guidelines that you have to implement, sometimes it looks a little bit different,” said Hannigan, who is president and co-founder at Give Something Back Business Products.

Gloria Crowell, development director at Allen Temple Baptist Church, which has youth and adult job programs, said she had tried to seek funding through the WIB but found the process hard to navigate.

“I am disillusioned by the inability for the WIB board to get this thing correctly, to get the service dollars that should be out in the streets to the youth who really need these dollars.  We are losing, and our youth are losing,” she said.

Ben Tapscott, retired McClymonds High School coach and West Oakland education activist, said the city’s WIB staff should not continue administering job programs.
“I’ll talk in coachs’ terms here: I watched them fumble, drop the ball, make fouls. They are in my opinion not doing what they are supposed to do,” said Coach Tapscott.

The loss of $600,000 “ is only the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “Half of our children are out on the streets with nothing to do. “
Dezie Woods-Jones, chair of the Oakland Private Industry Council board and former City Council member, said she was pleased the city and the WIB were seeking answers and solutions.

“I am pleased to hear the WIB director speak about understanding lessons learned,” she said,” But we don’t want  (the loss) to have to be repeated.”

Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, which provides jobs for youth, said she is not convinced the WIB has turned the corner.

“While its well to understand and learn lessons, we haven’t heard at WIB meetings very much that inspires confidence that the future will be different and that the future will be better,” she said.

Also speaking was Gretchen White, president of the Metropolitan Greater Oakland (MGO) Democratic Club, who called for accountability of staff members responsible for losing the $600,000 grant.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 14, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

Remembering Hugo Chavez, Who Aided Hurricane Katrina Victims

By Ken A. Epstein

As millions of Venezuelans mourn the death of 58-year-old President Hugo Chavez, a number of local residents remember the controversial leader’s efforts on behalf of the poor in his country and the U.S.

Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

Under Chavez, the CITGO – Venezuela Heating Oil Program has provided low-cost heating oil to 1.7 million people in the colder parts of the U.S. and free heating oil to Native Americans living on tribal lands since 2005.

The program helps 153,000 households a year and 252 tribal communities.

The program began when Jesse Jackson was visiting Chavez, and the two were watching the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Shocked by the disaster, Chavez asked Jackson what Venezuela could do to help.

Venezuela opened CITGO’s petroleum company’s warehouses to be used as shelters in affected areas. Chavez later started providing heating oil to 25 states, which included Harlem in New York City and Washington, DC.

Many people in the U.S. do not realize that an estimated 67 percent of the population of Venezuela is mixed race, including President Chavez, who often spoke of his African, indigenous and Spanish roots, according to Martín Sánchez, an East Bay resident who was formerly consul of Venezuela in San Francisco and is a member of an organization in Venezuela: The Network of Afro Venezuelan Organizations.

The network lobbied for a law to promote the rights of Afro Venezuelans, which passed in 2011.

“The law actually aroused people to file lawsuits against employers and owners of housing,” said Sánchez.

According to statistics, education and medical care has improved, and poverty in the country fell from 67 percent in 1997 to 27.4 percent in 2011.

Among U.S. celebrities who made many visits to Venezuela to meet with Chavez are Danny Glover, Harry Belafonte and Oliver Stone, said Sánchez.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 8, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

City Staff Retaliates Against Non-Rrofit Youth Agency Whistleblowers

By Ken A. Epstein

Is the city retaliating against Pivotal Point Youth Services, which provides job training to low-income youth in West Oakland, after the Oakland Post reported on the city’s failure to provide timely payments to the agency?

John Bailey

John Bailey

The Post reported complaints made by Pivotal Points at public meetings of the Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and also reported that the program’s staff said failure to receive payments from the city had placed the future of the agency in jeopardy.
The failure to receive funding already has meant that most of the agency’s staff has stopped receiving salaries and are working as volunteers, staff members said.

“We are not in this for the money. We’re still here. We’re continuing,” said La Tronda Lumpkins, Pivotal Point’s executive director.
In a March 1 memo to city officials, WIB Director John Bailey said he was writing to set the record straight.

“The purpose of this memo is provide factual information in relation to certain points made in the Oakland Post,” he wrote.  “Pivotal Point is the only agency mentioned or quoted in the Oakland Post articles.”

Facing lack of city funding, the agency has lost its business liability insurance, which Bailey pointed out.

Without this insurance, Pivotal Point is “conducting program activities in clear violation of their contract,” Bailey wrote.  “A notice to cease activities pending correction is being issued at this time.”

According to Post sources, Bailey called Pivotal Point’s insurance carrier to find out if the agency had insurance. At that point, the nonprofit was still operating under a one-month grace period from the insurance company.

Lumpkins responded for Pivotal Point in a March 4 email message to Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council. “Mr. Bailey’s memo is in keeping with the WIB staff’s unfortunate practice of blaming the youth service providers for situations that have, in fact, been created by the WIB staff.  I am a bit dismayed as I would prefer to see Mr. Bailey spend his time improving Oakland’s Workforce System instead of persecuting its service providers.”

“The WIB executive director’s pattern has been to retaliate against organizations that appear at WIB meetings to complain,” said

Lumpkins, who added that Bailey had not sent her a copy of his March 1 memo.

Lumpkins claimed that, prior to Pivotal Point difficulties, Scotlan Youth and Family Center in West Oakland had lost its contract after

La Tronda Lumpkins

La Tronda Lumpkins

speaking out at a public meeting.

“As a result of these two situations alone,  (federally funded Workforce Investment Act) services to youth in West Oakland have almost entirely been curtailed, she said. “Please be reminded of the very reason why Oakland receives workforce funds, to serve youth and adults to enable them to be successful in today’s labor market.”

In his memo responding to the Post, Bailey wrote that the contracts for agencies that started on July 1, 2012, were “executed Nov. 29, 2012 with the exception of two; one for YEP (Youth Employment Partnership), (and) one for Lao Family Community Development, which were executed on Dec. 5.”

Responding to Pivotal Point’s complaint that it was providing services for months but not receiving reimbursement, Bailey wrote, “This statement is only partially correct.

“The Youth Contracts are Performance Based contracts, which have five set benchmarks.  As those benchmarks are met, the agencies may invoice and receive payment.

“Pivotal Point has consistently underperformed and has not been able to realize the full value of their contracts.”

According to Lumpkins email, “WIB staff fails to point out that payment points are based upon the youth’s performance of work experience and diploma acquisition which require the youth providers to advance funds that they have not received – a perfect Catch 22.

“This is the third year in a row that contracts have been issued between 6 and 9 months into the fiscal year. These years coincide with the city assuming responsibility as system administrator for (federal job) funds.”

The city’s failure to pay has created crises at Pivotal Point, Lumpkins wrote,

“Inability to pay, retain and reward experienced staff; inability to pay fixed operating costs –i.e., rent, insurance, taxes; inability to complete performance-based contracts within the fiscal year under contract; the most egregious impact: diminished services to low-income youth in Oakland.”

Bailey also responded to assertions that agencies requesting 20 percent advances had not received them.

“Advances were not part of the original contracts. This issue was voted on in Youth Council in November 2012 and ratified by the full WIB,” he said. As of this month, advances “have been approved and are presently in the signature phase,” Bailey wrote.

“Advances which enable performance to begin have not yet been executed,” wrote Lumpkins, who added, “They were previously approved by the WIB and promised by the WIB staff.”

Peter Roos

Peter Roos

In an interview with the Post, Peter Roos, chair of the board of Spanish Speaking Citizen’s Foundation, another of the nonprofit agencies receiving funding, the city appears to be moving to stop funding small agencies that cannot afford to cover expenses until the city starts paying.  “They seem to only want to work with the large outfits that front the money to the city,” he said.

No youth agencies have been paid so far for the year starting July 2012, more than eight months ago, according to Post sources.

Pivotal Point and Spanish Speaking Citizens Foundation were among 16 organizations and individuals who signed a complaint on Dec. 17 regarding a “failed” RFP (Request for Proposal) process conducted by the Workforce Investment Board.

The complaint said the impact of the process “has been to deny the basic principles of fairness and a ‘level playing field’ to all potential bidders and to significantly contaminate their morale and interest in the process.”

The complaint also asked that, “Safeguards be established by the city to prohibit retaliation by any member of city/WIB staff.”
John Bailey told Post staff that he was doing the mayor’s wishes.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 7, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

Review Board for Complaints Against Police Still On Hold

By Ken A. Epstein

The city’s administration has not implemented a City Council decision to begin sending complaints against Oakland police offers to a Civilian Complaint Review Board, which was supposed to staffed and operating by Jan. 1.

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

Nor has the delay been discussed at a City Council meeting.

According to supporters of the review board, the new agency is a crucial step in making the Oakland Police Department more accountable to local residents.

When it is finally in operation, the review board will handle all intakes of new complaints. As part of the change, 10 to 15 highly trained officers who are part of the police department’s Internal Affairs Division could be reassigned to patrol duty, meaning that money could be saved on hiring sheriffs and Highway Patrol officers to beef up police on the streets.

Internal Affairs has been criticized by the federal monitor for finding in favor of the officers in many complaints.  In addition the results of a survey indicated that many residents are unwilling to turn in complaints to the police about the police.

Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, which has been working on increasing police accountability for many years, wants to know why the City Council’s decision has not been carried out.

“Why are all these discussion happening behind closed doors rather than in open session where somebody would have to be accountable?” asked Grinage.

In an interview with the Post Wednesday, Santana said the city cannot move ahead with the review board without the approval of the new federal compliance officer, who has not yet been appointed by Judge Thelton Henderson.

“We have to seek his or her approval,” she said, reiterating a Jan. 16 memo to city officials in which she said a December federal court order contains “provisions which we believe require the city to work with the court assigned compliance director before action is taken to transfer these functions.”

Grinage disputed Santana’s reasons.

“That’s factually not correct,” she said. “This has been run through monitors and all the other parties involved (in the federal agreement) since day one. We would not have been stupid enough to go through a seven-year process without having done our due diligence. And the City Council would not have approved it if all the parties had not agreed.”

“They don’t care who investigates the complaints as long as they were done to the standards of the (federal agreement).”

Santana also said the city’s Human Resources Department, which was responsible for writing job descriptions and hiring new staff, is short-staffed and overworked. “We have a real staff constraint,” she said.

Further, the city has had to talk with the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA).  The change “was subject to a ‘meet and confer’ process” with the OPOA, Santana said in the Jan. 16 memo.

Disagreeing with the city administrator, Grinage said the city had previously tried to argue that it needed agreement of the police officers’ association before starting the review board but had lost in court.

“Our position is that it was not subject to met and confer. We established that when we went to superior court,” referring to a 1999 decision in which Superior Judge Henry Needham “ruled civilian oversight belongs to ‘managerial prerogative’ rather than labor and therefore needs to be discussed publically, and not subject to bargaining.”

“It was a settled matter. It was supposed to start in January. Then the lights went out,” said Grinage.

“Where has the City Council been on this? Why has there been no public discussion.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 1, 2013 (www.postnewsgroup.com)