OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Embattled Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks alleges that a lawsuit filed against her by a former aide earlier this week is a political attack driven by her political opponents.
In a reference to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Brooks – who was elected to her District 6 seat in East Oakland in 2002 and faces four challengers in the Nov. 6 election – issued a statement late Wednesday titled, “Well Funded and Orchestrated Campaign to Remove Mayor’s Leading Critic.”
The subheadline says, “Former disgruntled staff member’s claims used as fodder for political hit pieces and media circus.”
Brooks was referring to Sidney Wilson, who worked as an aide for her from July 2016 until he resigned in October 2017.
Wilson filed a wrongful termination suit against her on Monday alleging that she was an abusive boss and ordered him to collect money from farmers market vendors directly to her with no proper accounting.
Wilson alleged that Brooks “launched a campaign of retaliation” against him after he told her that he thought it was illegal for her to pocket the proceeds from the Millsmont Farmers Market, which is held in Brooks’ district in East Oakland.
Brooks said in her statement that she “terminated Wilson’s employment over a year ago due to incompetence, sexual harassment, inappropriate activities and intoxication after hours in City Hall.”
Brooks said, “Suffice it to say that he was let go for a reason, and this is just a political attack driven by my opponents to distract people from my work to bring stability, equity, jobs and housing to my district.”
Brooks also complained that she “has been the subject of an unprecedented number of poorly investigated articles” by several Bay Area news organizations by reporters “whose open opposition to Brooks has created a series of heavily biased pro-Mayor Schaaf and anti-Brooks narratives.”
Brooks didn’t provide any information to support her contention that her political opponents are behind Wilson’s lawsuit.
Brooks’ lawyer, former unsuccessful Oakland mayoral candidate Dan Siegel, said in a statement, “The stories promoted by the mayor and her donors are designed to grow their power, influence, and agenda of gentrification and displacement to take out Desley by poisoning the water in the District 6 race.”
Siegel said, “We need to retain a Council Member in our District who stands in opposition to the policies being driven by the Mayor’s biggest real estate donors, policies that are in direct conflict with the interests of the City’s most underrepresented communities.”
Brooks hasn’t attended recent City Council meetings or candidate forums.
Attorney Charles Bonner, who represents Wilson, said on Wednesday that Brooks still owes almost $200,000 in punitive damages and attorneys’ fees in a recent case in which jurors awarded former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown $3.75 million in compensatory damages and $550,000 in punitive damages.
The lawsuit was for injuries she suffered when Brooks attacked her at the Everett & Jones BBQ restaurant near Jack London Square at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2015.
The attack occurred when the two women got into an argument about a public housing project in West Oakland.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Herbert, who presided over the trial, ruled in April that the jury awards were excessive” and weren’t based on the evidence in the case so he reduced Brown’s award to $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.
Bonner, who also represents Brown, said he thinks Brooks is “deliberately evading” being served with court papers ordering her to pay up.
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