East Bay News

Audit accuses Oakland councilmembers of ethics violations

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Oakland City Audit Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid

Two Oakland city councilmembers may face more investigations after a city audit found serious ethics violations. They're accused of trying to influence things ranging from multimillion-dollar contracts to parking tickets.

Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks are accused of breaking rules in the city charter by "interfering in the city's administrative affairs" and the city's "bidding process." The information was learned because city employees, or "whistleblowers," came forward.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan says that where some may see the report as a 'black eye' on the city, she says the report just shows things are working the way they're supposed to.

Among the accusations in the 40 page audit, Auditor Courtney Ruby says that Reid and Brooks told city employees who should get a $2 million demolition contract for the Oakland Army Base. She also accuses Brooks of hiring staff for the construction of the "Rainbow Teen Center" in East Oakland, and putting people she handpicked in key positions to run it

"This reports strikes right at the integrity of Oakland's government; that employees should not be subject to undo influence in doing their jobs and citizens and businesses should be able to live and transact business in a city that they know plays by the rules," Ruby said.

Mayor Quan says the report sends a clear message to investors and contractors that the city has a "transparent, fair, and competitive bidding process," and employees do not have to take orders from councilmembers.

"I'm mostly concerned that the citizens and the people who do business with the City of Oakland understand that we're going to protect their rights in terms of the processes being without political interference," Mayor Quan said.

Councilmember Reid denied the ethics violation, telling ABC7 News, ""I have never threatened a city staff person regarding their job. I have been an elected official for 16 years and I have been a staff person in the city of Oakland for another 14 years and out of 30 years of being an employee in the city of Oakland, all of a sudden now city staff is afraid of me. I don't think that is the case."

The audit focuses on issues that have surfaced over the last two years and after interviewing more than 40 employees and reading thousands of emails, the auditor says she and her team were able to substantiate 14 instances of councilmembers or their aides violating the city charter.

It is important to note that the audit does not make legal recommendations. Ruby has presented the findings to the Alameda County District Attorney's office. It will fall on the shoulders of District Attorney O'Malley whether or not to press charges.

If charges are filed and if there is a conviction it would be a misdemeanor, but it would be enough for the councilmember to lose his or her job.

Councilmember Brooks has not responded to requests by ABC7 News for comment.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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oakland, jean quan, east bay news
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