A little more than a year ago, the city of Oakland put animal-control supervisor ReShan McClarty on paid administrative leave after a former employee alleged animal mistreatment and misconduct at the pound. Since then, the city has paid him at least $50,119 -- a year's salary -- to stay home from work. But McClarty's involuntary vacation may be coming to an end soon.
McClarty's union rep, Nilka Julio of the Professional & Technical Engineers Local 21, said Oakland Police Department Internal Affairs -- the police oversee shelter operations -- finally completed its investigation. Then, two weeks ago, management recommended firing the city kitty keeper. McClarty will make his case at a disciplinary hearing next week.
Julio didn't offer specific details of McClarty's alleged misdeeds, but it's clear they have something to do with the accusations leveled last year by former city animal control officer and veterinary technician Lori Barnabe.
Barnabe alleged that McClarty ordered 26 dogs to be put down in one day, even though the shelter had run out of sedative. She also suggested he had an itchy trigger finger, so to speak, prematurely killing adoptable dogs, including one that an owner tried to reclaim. Animals were sometimes returned to their owners unneutered, which Barnabe said was against the law. To top things off, Barnabe said McClarty would go missing for hours at a time several days a week.
The furor over the shelter seems like forever ago, which raises the question: Why has it taken so long to resolve? As we all know, it takes an act of God or Congress to fire a civil servant. But Julio says union protections aren't to blame for dragging out the process in McClarty's case.
Julio points out that it took the city a year to do its investigation and make a disciplinary recommendation. Management, she says, could have reassigned McClarty to another position pending the outcome of the inquiry so he'd be working for his paycheck. "He didn't place himself on paid administrative leave," Julio says.
Deputy Chief Jeffrey Israel said he couldn't discuss the details of McClarty's case, but he did note that investigators had to look into multiple allegations and interview lots of people. "Those are always going to take a long time," he explained.
McClarty isn't the only shelter employee sitting at home. Sergeant David Cronin says two other animal-control officers have been on paid leave for four months. Being so shorthanded has caused delays in responding to calls. "We do have some serious, serious staffing issues," says Cronin, who has been McClarty's stand-in for the past year.
City Council generalissimo and mayoral wannabe Ignacio De La Fuente says there's a lot of dead weight on the Oakland payroll. He says city management all too often puts people on leave and then loses track of them. De La Fuente didn't have exact figures, but he estimates city taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on people who aren't working. "It's one of the most chronic problems we have in the city, unfortunately," he says.
The Waiting Game
Speaking of things that take forever, the trial of former Alameda County Juvenile Hall counselor Hamaseh Kianfar has been delayed yet again. Kianfar, you may recall, was hanging out with a former juvie inmate at Berkeley's Rose Garden a year ago when her troubled teen companion slashed an old woman's throat. Instead of calling an ambulance or police, Kianfar allegedly took off with the girl in her sports car. The following month, police charged Kianfar with a felony count of being an accessory to the crime after the fact.
That's pretty much where things have stood since. There hasn't even been a preliminary hearing, the phase that precedes a jury trial. By contrast, the prelim for Scott Dyleski, arrested in October for allegedly killing the wife of TV legal commentator Dan Horowitz, has already concluded. Why the delay in Kianfar's case? Hard to say, but at one point her alleged role in the attack posed a potential legal problem for the county, which employed Kianfar until she resigned last April.
Dr. Anthony Rienzi, a psychiatrist who treated the troubled slasher, says county officials were worried about being sued by the woman who survived the vicious attack, and her lawyer husband. Last summer County Counsel Richard Winnie certainly seemed overly protective of information on Kianfar, refusing to release her résumé or even verify her hire date to, ahem, protect her privacy. The county, however, appears to have dodged that bullet, since the couple never filed suit.
Kianfar, who is out on bail, doesn't seem worried that she'll be spending time behind bars anytime soon: She's listed as a presenter at a May 5-7 conference sponsored by her parents' organization, the International Association of Sufism.
Four years ago, Oakland Auditor Roland Smith ran unopposed for his obscure city post. But thanks to a wave of bad publicity, much of it in this space, it doesn't look as though Smith will be so lucky this time. Three other people have taken out candidacy papers against him: Stewart Bolinger, an internal auditor for the Port of Oakland; Courtney Ruby, a member of the city's budget advisory committee; and, most interestingly, Michael Kilian, Smith's former chief deputy and onetime campaign treasurer.
Like nearly all of Smith's staff, Kilian fled the auditor's digs with the aid of City Administrator Deborah Edgerley for another city desk job in less hostile environs two months ago. For those not in the know, several staff members have accused Smith of basically being a batty old coot and a boss from hell.
Smith denies being a lousy boss and auditor, arguing that "there were a lot of exaggerations" made about his office in recent months. "I think I am a very good auditor," he says. "This audit office has been one of the most prolific in the Bay Area in terms of reports issued." As for Kilian's traitorous turn, Smith won't comment because it relates to a confidential personnel matter.
Smith and Kilian used to be good friends. The auditor, a former president of the Montclair Lions Club, had tapped Kilian as his top veep in that organization, and three years ago hired him as his chief deputy in the auditor's office. But that's when their relationship began to go downhill. "He's the worst manager I've ever encountered in my whole life -- just sheer friction," says Kilian, who is now in the city's budget division.
Kilian says he decided to run when he saw that Smith had filed papers seeking re-election. The former deputy auditor says he told himself, "This can't happen, that the city of Oakland would be stuck with him for another four years."
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