Alameda Councilmember Withdraws Claim for Reimbursal of Legal Expenses

Plus, running for president takes a lot of time, and "criminals" lurking in the state senate.

When Alameda’s former city manager alleged two years ago that Councilmember Jim Oddie threatened her employment if she did not select a candidate for fire chief preferred by the city’s firefighters union, the charge not only kickstarted a scandal that still resonates today, but led to exorbitant legal bills for the accused.

Oddie and Councilmember Malia Vella, another Alameda official accused of political interference by former City Manager Jill Keimach, racked up roughly $90,000 each in legal costs in their defense. Both had submitted claims for the city to reimburse them since the allegations were made against them in their official capacity as an elected official.

But last week, Oddie said he will no longer pursue his claim, citing a need for the city to move on from the scandal that has periodically reignited over the past two years — most recently through an independent investigative report and a scathing civil grand jury report released in June. The Alameda District Attorney’s office also issued its own findings in October 2018.

“Today I notified Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt that I am withdrawing my request that the city reimburse legal fees I had incurred responding to allegations made by the former city manager,” Oddie wrote. “I do so in the spirit of allowing me and the City to fully focus on the teamwork necessary to addressing the tough issues of school safety/security, housing affordability, homelessness and vital services for all Island families.”

Vella, however, said this week that she will continue to pursue her claim, which seeks remimbursement of her legal costs and also alleges defamation.

The independent investigative report released by the city in May 2018 is viewed as the most complete account of the scandal. It found that Oddie violated a provision in the City Charter that prohibits interference by elected officials into the city manager’s duties. Vella was not judged to have violated the charter. However, an Alameda County civil grand jury report found that she did, without citing any new information.

Eric Swalwell has skipped more votes than any other House Democrat

While pursuing his quixotic run for president, Rep. Eric Swalwell skipped more votes than any other elected Democrat in the House of Representatives this session outside of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Swalwell ended his bid for president after just three months last July, all the while missing a whopping 40 percent of all votes in Congress, according to a database compiled by ProPublica.

Swalwell was clearly pre-occupied with running for president. In prior years, Swalwell’s voting attendance record was relatively strong, although it had gotten worse in recent years. Over the course of his congressional career, Swalwell missed just 6.4 percent of his votes in 2017-18, followed by 3.7 percent in 2015-16, and 0.05 percent in 2013-14. By contrast, fellow Alameda County Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna, have respectively, missed 1.4 percent and 0.06 percent of their votes.

Swalwell’s missed votes were spread throughout the year. Notably, he last missed roll call on June 28. More than a week later, Swalwell dropped out of the presidential race on July 8. He has not missed a vote since.

The astonishing high number of skipped votes had been raised by some potential challengers to Swalwell’s re-election next year as a prime pressure point that could paint him as taking the district’s residents for granted. The attack line would have been ironic since Swalwell’s based his entire insurgent campaign against Rep. Pete Stark in 2012 on describing the incumbent as out of touch with the electorate and dismissive of their well-being. Swalwell also skewered Stark for not living in the district. After years of traveling back-and-forth between Washington, D.C. and the district, on a near-weekly basis, Swalwell now rents a town home in the capitol.

Meanwhile, the East Bay Times reported that U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris has missed more votes than all but one of her fellow members of Congress running for president. Harris has missed 44.3 percent of all roll call votes this year, the paper repord, behind only Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who missed 45 percent of all votes.

Amazon’s facial recognition software IDs California Sen. Steve Glazer as a criminal

East Bay State Sen. Steve Glazer, who represents the 7th State Senate District, is among 26 members of the California state lawmakers who were mistakenly identified by facial-recognition software to have committed crimes in the past.

The American Civil Liberties Union used software created by Amazon, known as Rekognition, to match the legislature’s 120 members against a database of 25,000 mugshots. A similar study using members of Congress yielded 28 false matches. The stunt was intended to underscore the problematic nature of facial recognition software, the ACLU said during a press conference.

San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting is carrying legislation that would ban the use of the software in body-worn police cameras. No city in California currently uses the software in that way. Oakland recently enacted a citywide ban on the purchase of facial recognition software. 

In Other News …

Former Oakland City Administrator Henry Gardner was named interim CEO of the Oakland Coliseum Authority. Scott McKibben resigned from the post after questions were raised about a conflict-of-interest he might have had in the recent stadium naming-rights deal. Gardner recently served two weeks as Richmond’s interim city manager. … Meanwhile, Richmond hired former Lafayette City Manager Steven Falk as interim city manager. Falk famously left his prior post out of frustration with the city’s rabid NIMBY elements. … A complaint was filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and AC Transit alleging they illegally coordinated public resources to support last summer’s Regional Measure 3 toll increase ballot initiative, the Marin Independent Journal reported. … BART is seeking $2.4 million in damages from the contractor behind the recent renovation of the Downtown Berkeley station, Berkeleyside reported. The station opened last October, 455 days late. … BART Board Director Deborah Allen is proposing an ordinance to ban all panhandling and busking, the ubiquitous side shows that entertain and annoy weary daily BART riders, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. …  

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Monday that raises the threshold for when police can use deadly force from a “reasonable” to a “necessary” threat, Politico reported. … California Kaiser Permanente employees voted overwhelmingly to approve an October strike “that would be the largest in the United States in 20 years,” SFGate reported. Such a strike could affect East Bay Kaiser facilities in Oakland, San Leandro, Pleasanton, and Fremont. … A federal monitor overseeing PG&E’s probation found the utility failed to trim vegetation near hundreds of power lines in the state, The Wall Street Journal reported. … The red-hot Bay Area economy is showing signs of cooling. One indicator is rent prices. Just three of 44 Bay Area cities reported increases greater than one percent in average month-to-month rents, the East Bay Times reported. They include Oakland, Pleasant Hill, and surprisingly, San Leandro. …

The Berkeley Civic Arts Commission voted last month to remove two sculptures that are seen by motorists on the pedestrian bridge that stretches across Interstate 80, Berkeleyside reported. The commission voted to remove the works by sculptor Scott Donahue due to what it said was the high cost of maintaining them in perpetuity. … Anne Weills, the Oakland civil rights attorney who once led opposition to solitary confinement in California has been banned from visiting correctional facilities for allegedly communicating with clients via contraband cell phones, the East Bay Times reported. … Because Cal has not played in the Rose Bowl since 1959, you would have thought alcohol was a prerequisite at Memorial Stadium, but not so. Starting this upcoming college football season, beer and wine will be available at Golden Bears home games, SF Gate reported. … The burger chain Shake Shack is coming to downtown Oakland, the Chron reported. The gourmet burger joint is reportedly slated for the Uptown Station building on Broadway once owned by Uber.


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