Oh, Oakland, have you no other song to sing? The Deborah Edgerly scandal mercifully wound down last week, as Mayor Ron Dellums finally up and fired the scandal-ridden city administrator. Edgerly, you may recall, was put out to pasture after she refused to cede any authority over the police department, even while officials are looking into whether she interfered with a police investigation targeting a West Oakland street gang. But then Edgerly declared that no, she wouldn't retire after all — not until any investigations had utterly cleared her name. Dellums had put up with Edgerly's defiance and obstinacy for so long that his reputation was seriously damaged; now, he had no choice but to can her "effective immediately." This final episode cost Edgerly $4,000 a year in adjusted pension benefits. Note to self: When the entire city tells you to go away, take their advice.
Ah, but city council President Ignacio De la Fuente wasn't done yet. Apparently suspecting that Edgerly and other city officials had been improperly promoting or hiring their friends and family members for years, De la Fuente held a press conference last week, in which he called for an audit of the city's hiring practices during Edgerly's tenure as city administrator. In addition, he called for a new "anti-nepotism" law that would ban city department heads from hiring any family members by blood or marriage. Because apparently, Oakland doesn't have one of those already. Can't wait for the city council to get around to banning homicide while they're at it.
De la Fuente's pointedly ostentatious press conference, as well as the unending stream of negative press, apparently prompted Dellums to hold a presser of his own, in which he defended his handling of the Edgerly affair. Not only did he insist that he did everything properly, he got a little purple about it: "I will repeat for the purposes of emphasis and to the point of redundancy." Boy, you get under the mayor's skin, and out pops Cicero.
Safeway Gets Bad Press, Worse Lawsuit
Despite its unexpectedly improved performance, East Bay grocery giant Safeway got hit with a nasty one-two combo last week. First, the trade journal Store Magazine dropped Safeway from its list of the top ten retailers in the country. And then one Edward Urzada, a former Safeway employee, hit the chain with a lawsuit that contains some pretty shocking allegations. Urzada, who filed a wrongful termination suit in a Canadian court last week, was a Safeway employee for 28 years. While working in a warehouse, he alleged, he was repeatedly exposed to anhydrous ammonia, and his supervisors sent him back to the aisles whenever he complained. Eventually, Urzada's lungs were so damaged that he had to undergo surgery to replace them, which we imagine is never a pleasant affair. While recuperating from said surgery, he alleged, Safeway fired him. Urzada is now suing for a million smackeroos; the company has yet to respond to the lawsuit.
Don't Call It a Recession!
Gosh, where should we start first? How about with the Bay Area News Group East Bay, which is usually known as the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, and every other daily that isn't the Chron? Publisher John Armstrong declared in a memo that the unit lost 17 percent of its revenue last fiscal year, and projected another 10 percent loss for the next twelve months. As a result, he was distressed to report, the company laid off 29 editorial employees, slashing what was already a bare-bones (but recently closed shop!) operation.
Then it's on to Children's Hospital Oakland, where administrators unexpectedly axed 84 doctors, nurses, and hospital workers; some employees were even escorted off the premises, a tactic one doesn't often encounter in pediatric medicine. Fortunately, not all of our hospitals are dying on the vine. Last week, President George Bush signed a bill, courtesy of the Democratic Congress, that restored Medicaid funding cuts around the country. Here in the East Bay, that means the Alameda County Medical Center won't take an annual $100 million hit after all. Which is great news, since there's a lot of reporters and nurses who suddenly don't have health insurance.
Three Dot Roundup
Everyone's favorite state Senate President Don Perata has been ratcheting up his fight with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger over who gets to sit on the state parole board. Perata claims that the guv has been stacking the board with law-and-order types who overwhelmingly vote to deny parole, regardless of the merits of each case. As a result, he has led a legislative effort to pull four of Schwarzenegger's appointees from the board. The governor's representatives didn't exactly deny his taste for hardasses on the board. ... Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff told a local legal newspaper that he won't be pressing charges against Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, despite strong evidence linking him to the murder of Chauncey Bailey. Apparently, Orloff thinks he's got enough evidence in an unrelated kidnapping case to put Bey IV away for a long, long time, and he doesn't want to roll to dice on the Bailey case. At least, not yet. ... A KCBS airplane was forced to make an emergency landing on a staging area for the new Bay Bridge last week, entertaining commuters on their way to San Francisco. Neither the pilot nor the reporter were seriously injured.
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