At least one member of the Oakland City Council is willing to speak publicly on the multiple controversies surrounding council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney detailed recently in a series of investigative reports in the Express.
At the start of a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, Councilmember Noel Gallo attempted to schedule an agenda item in early March that would require Gibson McElhaney to answer to the ethical and legal issues raised in the Express reports.
In fact, Gallo said in an interview that his first inclination was to schedule the item using the city’s censure policy, which he introduced in December 2013 following hearings earlier that year involving alleged violations by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid of the city’s non-interference laws.
[jump] The City Attorney’s Office, however, told Gallo that his requested agenda item had to be noticed 48 hours beforehand and needed to include a list of allegations against Gibson McElhaney.
Instead, Gallo suggested during Thursday’s meeting that the city council schedule a closed session agenda item allowing for Gibson McElhaney to address the Express report that she used her personal nonprofit to flip homes in Oakland despite her own calls for limiting gentrification. Another article revealed the first term councilmember appears to have used a developer contracted with the city for the sprawling Coliseum City project to combat a proposed housing development next to her home. However, the City Attorney’s Office said that a council closed-door discussion of the Express reports would violate the Brown Act — the state’s open meetings law.
“All I wanted is for Lynette to come before the council and explain what’s going on — that’s all,” Gallo said. However, when Gallo broached the subject on Thursday during a council meeting, Gibson McElhaney momentarily left her seat at the dais.
If one councilmember breaks the public’s trust, it reflects not only on that person, but on the entire council, said Gallo. However, he does not believe any of his colleagues currently have an appetite for dealing with the issue. “So, for me to sit there silent, and, I’ve given them plenty of time to come forward. I’ve checked with my colleagues and it’s not going to happen so that’s why I brought it forward.”
Gallo said he has an issue primarily with the Express report that Gibson McElhaney used her city staff to interfere with the details of the housing project proposed in her neighborhood. He took umbrage with comments made by the architect in the article who suggested he had donated his time to help Gibson McElhaney because he believed in the cause.
“That’s BS,” said Gallo. “Why doesn’t he do my house, too? You can’t do that. I represent the public’s trust. Is there a conflict of interest? If you look at the policy, it is very clear that you can’t interfere with staff.”
Incidentally, Gallo was the only member of the council to vote against Gibson McElhaney’s appointment last month to become council president. Brooks abstained. At the time, he expressed concern over some of the earlier Express reports on her, while also questioning her lack of experience. Gallo, instead, nominated Reid for the post, but Reid declined.