OAKLAND (KCBS) — The Alameda County civil grand jury issued a scathing report on the Oakland City Council’s ability to police itself, calling for the council to strengthen and better fund its Public Ethics Commission.
In a 22-page report titled, “Misgoverning The City of Oakland,” the grand jury found that the council failed to investigate numerous ethics violations by Councilmember Desley Brooks.
In the report, Brooks allegedly violated the city charter when she took control of the building, staffing and operating of a teen center in her district. The report called the ordeal “a complete fiasco.”
Brooks claimed she acted on advice for the city administrator’s office and that that’s where the process needs to be strengthened.
“$114,000 out of my discretionary funds was for that recording studio,” Brooks explained.
When asked if she violated the city’s charter, she responded, “That’s not what I said. I said that we have a process that clearly needed improvement and so improvement has been made. I’m ready to move forward.”
Councilmember Libby Schaaf said she agrees with a lot of the items in the grand jury report.
“I do believe that the ethics commission needs to be strengthened. It’s severely underfunded. It is a shame that the staffing was cut and I am very supportive of a proposal that is in front of us to increase that staffing a little bit,” Schaaf said.
The commission has one full-time staffer and a budget of less than $200,000 a year.
In order to partially address the grand jury’s concerns, there is a proposal to increase the Public Ethics Commission staff by one more person in one of the budget proposals being considered by the council this week.
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