Politics

Auditor Says Oakland Lawmakers Interfered With Contract Bidding Process

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Oakland City Hall. (CBS)

Oakland City Hall. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby issued a report Thursday alleging that City Council members Desley Brooks and Larry Reid interfered with the bidding process for the demolition and remediation process at the former Oakland Army Base.

Ruby’s report also alleges that Brooks interfered with city workers in her efforts to get two teen centers built in her district in East Oakland, the Rainbow Teen Center and the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center.

In addition, Ruby said Brooks threatened a city employee’s work assignment and one of Reid’s aides interfered in administrative affairs by directing parking officials to fix two of the aide’s personal parking tickets.

Ruby said Reid’s aide tried to “intimidate” parking officials and acted “inappropriately” toward the parking officer who issued the tickets by using profanity and trying to slap the tickets out of the officer’s hand.

In her report, Ruby said she found “a general culture of interference within the city” which “appears to be felt across many city departments and is perceived to come from multiple council members.”

Ruby said some staff, including people in senior management positions, declined to speak with her office during her investigation “because of their fear of councilmembers’ retaliation.”

In a separate letter to Oakland residents, Ruby said, “This report strikes at the very integrity of Oakland’s government. Employees should be able to do their jobs without being subjected to undue influence from councilmembers and citizens and businesses should be able to live and transact business in a city that they know plays by the rules.”

Reid and Brooks didn’t return phone calls Thursday seeking comment on Ruby’s report.

Ruby alleged that Brooks and Reid favored the Turner Construction Group in its bid for the Oakland Army Base project.

But in a letter to Ruby that’s included in her 64-page report, Reid said, “Under no circumstances did I, at any time, direct staff to issue a RFP (request for proposals) on behalf of the Turner Group as it relates to the Oakland Army Base development or any other development project within the city of Oakland.”

Reid said he was only trying to make sure that local firms had a good chance of getting the contract, which originally was set to go to an out-of-town firm through a non-competitive process.

Ruby said Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana “should not tolerate abusive treatment of their staff by councilmembers or their aides” and continue to educate staff that they should make a report anytime a councilmember inappropriately yells at or threatens them.

She said a lack of involvement and guidance by Quan and Santana allowed for one of Reid’s aides to mistreat staff members working on a city of Oakland and Alameda County joint neighborhood initiative at Sobrante Park in East Oakland.

Ruby said the aide’s actions, including yelling at people and threatening them, appear to have impacted the ability of city staff as well as county officials and community partners to perform their jobs and are impeding the progress of the program.

She said that although the problem has been ongoing for more than a year Quan’s administration didn’t begin to help mitigate it or shield city staff from verbal abuse until December.

Santana said in a letter responding to Ruby’s report that when she became city administrator in August 2011 one of her first priorities was to focus on improved governance and emphasizing that elected officials as well as staff members “must operate within the ethical boundaries and functional parameters defined in the city charter.”

Santana said ethical climate surveys conducted since she took her position found that city employees believe Quan’s administration “has improved in creating an environment in which staff is comfortable raising ethical concerns.”

Santana said Quan’s administration agrees with Ruby that “city staff must be consistently and routinely informed that they may not take direction from city councilmembers and staff must be provided with clear guidance and protocols regarding how to respond to councilmembers’ legitimate requests for information or how to work on community projects.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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