Friday, October 28, 2016

New Lawsuit Alleges Oakland Police Conspiracy to Cover Up Home Invasion by Drunk Cops

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 4:19 PM

ss_sevendays_3718.jpg
A lawsuit filed today in federal court accuses top-level officers at the Oakland Police Department of orchestrating a conspiracy to cover up a bizarre and drunken Oakland hills home invasion committed by a rookie cop last year.

The incident in question took place on December 7,  2015 after Oakland cops reportedly spent an afternoon drinking at Monaghan’s Bar in Montclair. When they left, rookie officer Cullen Faeth wandered off and ended up at the home of Olga and Nemesio Cortez.

According to a claim filed by the Cortez family in February against the city, Faeth pounded on their front door and demanded entry, yelling "Open the fucking door."

When Mr. Cortez cracked it, Faeth allegedly tried to force his way inside. The homeowner also says he was kicked in the stomach by Faeth when he went outside.

Ms. Cortez called the police, not knowing the the man attacking her husband was an off-duty cop.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Cortez also saw a second man running near her house. He allegedly flashed a gun at her before disappearing. A neighbor’s security camera recorded a man fleeing the scene on foot.

Faeth also allegedly tackled Ms. Cortez — but, with the help of neighbors, they were able to pin the drunken officer to the ground until on-duty Oakland police arrived. Faeth reportedly smelled of alcohol and, according to the lawsuit, had a "glassy eyed, wild stare." He was arrested at the scene.

The newly filed civil-rights suit offers more details about what allegedly happened later that night. It also claims there was a conspiracy among on-duty Oakland cops, including supervising officers, to withhold from the Cortez family that Faeth and the unidentified man were Oakland cops. OPD tried to downplay the seriousness of the incident, and to avoid having to charge Faeth, and possibly other officers.

For instance, attorneys for the Cortez family say that at 12:30 a.m., hours after Faeth was arrested, several OPD officers knocked on their door. The cops identified themselves as a captain, sergeant, and officer, but attorneys for the Cortez family haven't been able to identify them yet. The lawsuit reads:
"The supervisors and officers separated the couple and attempted to convince Mr. and Mrs. Cortez that no crime had occurred. That same night, at around 3:00 a.m., another round of Supervisors and officers arrived to again try and convince the family that no criminal activity had occurred earlier. At no point during the two separate, late night visits to the Cortez house did anyone notify the family that their assailants were police officers."
During the second visit at 3 a.m., five more Oakland cops again separated the husband and wife and asked them to recount and re-enact the events. According to the lawsuit:
"During Olga Cortez’s interview, officers were trying to get her to change her statement and relay the events in a way that would be more favorable to the man who was arrested. An officer tried to convince Olga Cortez to change her story and relay that the first man was simply knocking on the front door, instead of the reality that he was banging, rattling the door, pushing the door and demanding entry. The officer was also trying to get Olga Cortez to say that the first man simply knocked her over while falling down, instead of the reality that the man put both arms around her in a bear hug and knocked her to the ground."
Also according to the suit, a neighbor who was parked outside the Cortez home witnessed an unidentified man run away from the scene. Neighbors speculated that this was the second officer who flashed the gun. Later that night, several OPD officers asked this same neighbor to identify a possible suspect. They drove him several blocks away and showed him a man who appeared to be "Middle Eastern," and "did not even remotely resemble either of the men involved or described" in the home invasion, according to the lawsuit.

Days after the attack, Ms. Cortez claims that OPD Lt. Roland Holmgren told her that Faeth and the unidentified man were "only being silly and posed no threat to the family."

Weeks later, Ms. Cortez heard rumors that her assailants were Oakland police officers. Holmgren eventually admitted to her the two men were police officers, claim attorneys for the Cortez family. The lieutenant reportedly told Ms. Cortez that Faeth and other cops mistakenly went to her house while looking for a party.

The couple claims that they were forced to hire attorney John Burris’ law firm to obtain a police report of the incident. When OPD finally produced one, it was mostly redacted, with only Faeth's name disclosed. The identity of the second officer who brandished the gun was redacted, but he is believed to Sgt. Joseph Turner.

The lawsuit also names OPD police officers Trevor Stratton and Bryan Budgin, and claims that several cops drove a "getaway car" to take Turner away from the scene.

OPD has yet to identify any additional officers involved in the incident, but the department acknowledged to the Cortez attorneys that it placed Turner, Budgin, and Stratton on administrative leave after the incident.

The Alameda County district attorney filed misdemeanor battery, trespassing, and drunk-in-public charges against Faeth on April 7. The rookie officer, whose father is a sergeant in the department, pleaded not guilty to all charges. No other officers have been criminally charged for their roles.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Coal Industry Attorneys Threaten to Sue Oakland Over Records

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 9:51 AM

ILLUSTRATION BY HIEDIE SIOTECO
  • Illustration by Hiedie Sioteco
The City of Oakland voted to ban coal last summer, but that hasn't stopped coal industry attorneys from continuing to dig for information they can use for a lawsuit, possibly to revive plans for a massive coal export terminal on the city's waterfront. But the coal attorneys are now accusing Oakland of withholding records, and they're threatening to sue the city over what they describe as non-compliance with the state Public Records Act.

In July and August, attorneys with the Holland & Hart law firm requested emails, documents, and even text messages and voicemail recordings from councilmembers, the mayor, and city staff regarding the coal controversy. The city responded by posting thousands of pages of documents online.

But in an October 24 letter sent by Kristin Nichols, a Holland & Hart attorney, to the Oakland City Attorney's Office, Nichols wrote that "the City of Oakland has failed to comply with its statutory obligation to 'make the records promptly available' in accordance with the California Public Records Act." Her letter concludes by referencing the section of the law that allows private parties to sue to force their production.

As the Express reported last year, the Holland & Hart law firm counts coal, oil, and gas companies among its major clients. According to Nichols' website, she specializes in representing coal companies.

Nichols did not return a phone call seeking comment about who she is representing in her efforts to uncover records related to the Oakland coal controversy. But according to news reports, Holland & Hart attorneys represented the Kentucky-based company Bowie Resource Partners last year when it was trying to acquire coal mines from the Peabody Energy Corporation. Bowie was the company quietly backing a plan last year to invest $53 million of Utah taxpayer funds in the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal in order to dedicate the facility as a coal export hub. The plan involved Bowie mining and shipping coal to California from Utah, and possibly other western states, and exporting the coal to overseas markets.

Bowie's Senior Vice President Brian Settles did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story.

In March, Bowie's CEO John Siegel told the Salt Lake City Tribune that his company owned part of TLS, the Oakland-based firm run by former Port of Oakland Executive Director Jerry Bridges that has the exclusive rights to develop the bulk commodity terminal.

Activists with the No Coal In Oakland Coalition said the attorneys are on a "fishing expedition." In a statement released yesterday, the coalition wrote:

"The city council relied on thousands of pages of evidence and three teams of scientists working independently to find that there was substantial evidence that failure to act to ban coal would lead to substantial danger to the health and safety of Oakland residents.  Courts give cities great deference in cases like this and will not second guess their findings. So Bowie is taking another tack –a legal attack on the process by which the city adopted the ban coal ordinance. They’re not going to get anywhere with that approach either. Evidence is evidence and the city had way more than it needed to support its ban on coal."

Correction: the original version of this story incorrectly stated that the proposed Utah taxpayer subsidy to build a coal port in Oakland was $43 million. It was $53 million.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Town Business: Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center to Become Private Offices

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 7:28 AM

Kaiser Convention Center: According to two feasibility studies conducted by Orton Development and an independent consultant, the city-owned Kaiser Convention Center's auditorium is no longer economically viable as a concert venue. Orton wants to convert the entire auditorium side of the Beaux Arts civic building into offices.

One-third of this new office space will be made up of a glass "building within a building" and rented to arts and cultural organizations, especially groups affiliated with the Calvin Simmons Theater, which is located in the western end of the Kaiser Convention Center building. The Calvin Simmons Theater would be reduced in size from 1,900 seats to 1,500, but kept as a performing arts space.

The other two-thirds of new office space built in the converted Kaiser Center auditorium side of the building will be rented at market rates as general commercial office space. Likely tenants include tech companies, attorneys, and similar professional firms.

Conversion of the Kaiser Convention Center from a 6,000 person capacity auditorium into offices would permanently close out the possibility of resurrecting its status as one of the premier indoor concert halls of Northern California. During its heyday, the Kaiser Convention Center hosted performances by the Grateful Dead in the 1970s and 1980s, and MC Hammer filled the arena in 1987 for a legendary hometown show.

History making political speeches were commonly booked in the Kaiser Convention Center too. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed 7,000 East Bay residents from the auditorium's stage in 1962 on the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Orton Development, the company that won the rights to redevelop the Kaiser Convention Center last year, will be unveiling more of their plans at this week's Community and Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday.

It's been a contentious process so far. Orton had to fight a competing developer to win the right to redevelop the Kaiser Convention Center. That competitor was proposing to keep the arena in-tact and bring it back into use as a concert space.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cop Facing Felony Charges in Oakland PD Sex-Abuse Case Says He 'Never Met' Celeste Guap

by Ali Winston
Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 5:54 PM

Cop Giovanni LoVerde, left, with his attorney, Michael Cardoza. - ALI WINSTON
  • Ali Winston
  • Cop Giovanni LoVerde, left, with his attorney, Michael Cardoza.
This afternoon, the attorney representing two Oakland cops accused of sexual misconduct introduced what might be described as unconventional defense strategies.

In the case of Oakland Officer Giovanni LoVerde, who is charged with receiving oral sex from a minor, Celeste Guap, his attorney flat-out claimed that he “never met" the victim at the center of the department’s misconduct scandal.

And in the case of Officer Ryan Walterhouse, who was arrested earlier this week for soliciting a sex worker and alerting her to sting operations, the same attorney says that his client was simply "doing his job" cultivating an undercover source.

These developments took place this afternoon at the Hayward Hall of Justice, where Walterhouse and LoVerde entered not guilty pleas to prostitution-related felony and misdemeanor charges.

Michael Cardoza, their defense attorney who worked as a prosecutor in Alameda, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, alleged that both men are innocent, and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is pursuing their cases for political gain.

LoVerde, a 33-year-old father of two who joined OPD in 2013, and Walterhouse, a 26-year-old Oakland native and former baseball standout at Bishop O'Dowd High School who signed on with the department in 2014, were both released on bail. Neither officer spoke to the press. Both are on paid leave from the department.
Officer Ryan Walterhouse (left) and attorney Cardoza. - ALI WINSTON
  • Ali Winston
  • Officer Ryan Walterhouse (left) and attorney Cardoza.
Cardoza has come forward with the most aggressive defense of any of the six East Bay officers charged with crimes against Guap.

The attorney described his clients as “targets” and their cases as “political.” Cardoza also claimed that LoVerde never encountered Guap or received oral sex from her, for which he is facing a felony charge.

“I will tell you here and now, he never met her — he did not do what he's accused of,” Cardoza said. “You will hear the truth of what happened, how political this is, and why the DA is bringing charges against an innocent police officer.”

In a bail motion reviewed by the Express, Cardoza claimed that Guap repeatedly told OPD investigators that she and LoVerde never had sex. “In June of 2016, Jane Doe claimed for the first time that she had performed oral sex on Mr. LoVerde,” Cardoza's motion reads. “In July 2016 when Jane Doe was confronted about her contradicting statements, she refused to answer any questions about Mr. LoVerde. In August 2016, Jane Doe was interviewed again by the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the OPD Internal Affairs Division. In both the subsequent interviews, Jane Doe denied having oral sex with Mr. LoVerde.”

LoVerde was identified by the Express earlier this year as one of the officers who slept with the young woman known as Guap, a 19-year-old Richmond resident who dozens of Bay Area police officers and sheriff's deputies allegedly exploited.

Current Oakland Police Officer Luis Roman told the Express that LoVerde had a sexual relationship with Guap. Other officers who spoke to the Express on the condition of anonymity confirmed that LoVerde frequently showed revealing photos of Guap to officers he joined on patrol, and bragged about having sex with her. Guap also told the Express in a telephone interview that she had sexual relations with LoVerde.

On Wednesday, Walterhouse was arrested and charged with soliciting a sex worker and tipping her off to multiple sting operations, months after the Celeste Guap scandal made international headlines. Per the statement of probable cause filed in Alameda County Superior Court, a fellow Oakland cop reported Walterhouse's behavior to the department.

He was placed under surveillance, and allegedly paid the sex worker for sexual intercourse at a Castro Valley motel on October 1. Two days later, Walterhouse told the same sex worker over the phone that she “might want to call it an early night tonight ... you might want to stick to the online thing right now ... because they're all over the lower numbers right now,” referring to an area of East Oakland along International Boulevard known for prostitution. The next day, Walterhouse texted the same woman and warned her not to be on the street.

In his remarks to the press, Cardoza claimed that Walterhouse was cultivating the sex worker he is accused of sleeping with and tipping off as an informant. “He was doing his job, I will explain that in trial, but he was in the course of doing his job in what they're accusing him of doing. I will explain all that to the jury,” Cardoza said of Walterhouse's alleged solicitation of a sex worker, who he then tipped off to multiple sting operations.

Cardoza's defense may be complicated by Walterhouse's admission of guilt when he was taken into custody on Wednesday, October 19. “Walterhouse confessed to providing Doe with information about the cover prostitution operations to keep her from going to charges,” reads the probable cause declaration for the rookie's arrest.

This morning, OPD Officer Brian Bunton also appeared in court for the continuance of his felony and misdemeanor charges for sleeping with Guap and passing her information about prostitution stings. His case was continued to December 9. Both LoVerde and Walterhouse have court dates in early December.

Former Oakland Police Officer Terryl Smith and current Oakland Police Officer Warit Uttapa were named last month by O'Malley as individuals she intends to charge with criminal conduct for their involvement with Guap, but neither man has been charged to date. The Contra Costa District Attorney is investigating potential criminal conduct by both Smith and Uttapa that took place in their jurisdiction.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Popular Fremont Hiking Spot for Selfies Prompts Parking Lot on Sacred Land

Native Americans say the Mission Peak vehicle lot is on cultural and burial sites.

by Will Parrish
Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Hikers line up to take photos and selfies at the ever popular Mission Peak Regional Preserve summit in Fremont. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIGUEL VIEIRA/FLICKR
  • Photo Courtesy Of Miguel Vieira/Flickr
  • Hikers line up to take photos and selfies at the ever popular Mission Peak Regional Preserve summit in Fremont.

In Fremont, the East Bay Regional Parks District is seeking to increase access to a trendy hiking trail by constructing a parking lot atop land sacred to the region's indigenous people.

At a tense meeting late last month, some 75 Ohlone people and supporters filled the EBRPD’s chambers in south Oakland to decry plans for a 300-space parking lot at Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont.

The activists argue that numerous cultural and burial sites of the Chochenyo and Tamyen Ohlone are located at Mission Peak. They say Regional Parks staff has repeatedly dismissed objections to the location of the planned parking lot.

“I and my family do not want anything built there,” Ohlone elder Ruth Orta, 82, of Newark told the Parks District directors at the meeting. “This is our sacred place in this part of the world.”

Nevertheless, the district’s directors voted seven-to-zero in favor of the new parking lot. Several referred to the decision as “difficult.”

Spurred by a fad of selfie-snapping atop Mission Peak — which offers a world-at-your feet view of Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay — usage of the three-mile trail to the summit has grown exponentially in recent years.

Residents near the Stanford Avenue access point have complained to EBRPD staff about the resulting parking glut in the streets in front of their homes.

And while the Preserve already features a parking lot, some park users complain that the lack of available weekend parking has made access to their preferred trails too onerous.

But the location slated for parking-lot construction, dubbed Option A in the project Environmental Impact Report, is a known archeological site that is eligible for the California Register of Historic Places. According to the EIR, construction could disturb cultural resources and "adversely affect Native American skeletal or cremated remains."

Many speakers at the September 20 meeting questioned both the legality of the Regional Parks decision. They noted that the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People requires governments of signatory nations to obtain “free, prior, and informed consent” from tribal leadership for projects that impact indigenous cultural heritage.

Parks District Public Information Supervisor Carolyn Jones said staff abided by state and federal laws, however. She also noted that Coyote Hills Regional Park features a re-creation of an Ohlone village, and that the District employs a staff person to serve as a liaison to the region's indigenous people.

“Generally speaking, we work very closely with Ohlone people,” she said.

Chochenyo Ohlone community leader Corrina Gould of Oakland said Ohlone leaders proposed several alternatives that the Parks District failed to consider.

“East Bay Regional Parks needs to listen to the first stewards of this land, the Ohlone people,” Gould says. “Inviting us to a meeting where we say no, and they say, we're going to do it anyway — that's not OK.”

Gould and other native people say the Regional Parks District has a history of failing to take their concerns seriously. They also strongly opposed a 2012 decision to turn Brushy Peak near Livermore, the site of the Ohlone, Miwok, and Yokut origin stories, into a recreational facility. The District went ahead with the plan, anyway.

In the past, the Ohlone people sought amendments to the EBRPD’s general plan to give them greater influence in the District's decision-making. Currently, the EBRPD offers them no more say than more standard interest groups, such as mountain bikers. .

Though the parking lot EIR is now certified, construction is not slated until 2019. Ohlone descendants and their allies have vowed to continue fighting it.

Elder Orta had regularly participated in the EBRPD’s annual Gathering of Ohlone Peoples — one of the District's most popular annual events — since its 1993 inception. She typically leads a demonstration of the traditional method to processing acorns into mush. Her daughter, granddaughter, and two of her great-granddaughters also typically lead demonstrations on Ohlone traditions.

This year, Orta's entire 66-member family boycotted the gathering, because of the parking lot. Dozens of other indigenous people refused to participate, as well.

“I feel so bad about the parks district's treating us this way,” Orta said. “They just need us when they need us, and the rest of the time, they don't listen.”

Oakland Police Officer Ryan Walterhouse Arrested on Conspiracy Charges

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 9:31 AM

Another rookie Oakland police officer has been arrested for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy. Officer Ryan Walterhouse was detained by members of his own department yesterday when he showed up to work. He was booked at 1:21 a.m. today at the Alameda County Jail, but made bail.

Walterhouse allegedly slept with a sex worker, and then traded confidential law enforcement information about police vice operations to see the sex worker again. He is being charged with felony conspiracy and a misdemeanor prostitution-related offense.

Deputy Chief John Lois said at a press conference this afternoon that an unnamed police officer informed the department about Walterhouse’s alleged crimes on October 1.

Lois said that the District Attorney’s office was immediately notified of the department's suspicions about Walterhouse. In previous cases, OPD failed to notify the District Attorney about potential criminal conduct of its own officers, seemingly in violation of the department's consent decree.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy.
  • Chief Assistant District Attorney Kevin Dunleavy.
According to Kevin Dunleavy, chief assistant district attorney for Alameda County, Walterhouse was tipping off at least one sex worker about police vice operations as late as the middle of this month.

Dunleavy read out a transcript of a phone call and a separate text message between Walterhouse and an unnamed sex worker from earlier this month. "You may want to stick to the online thing right now," Walterhouse told to the woman. "They’re all over the lower numbers tonight," he texted, referring to a section of East Oakland known for street prostitution.

According to the Oakland police, Walterhouse's case is unrelated to the recent sex crime scandal involving multiple Oakland cops who exploited a teenager who used the alias Celeste Guap.

Charging papers for Ryan Walterhouse.
  • Charging papers for Ryan Walterhouse.
Walterhouse was hired by the Oakland police in 2014 after he graduated from the Alameda County Sheriff's 151st academy. According to public records, Walterhouse is 26-years-old and grew up in the East Bay, attending Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland. He graduated in 2012 from Indiana State University where he played varsity baseball.

He was a patrol officer who worked OPD Area 3, a part of the city that includes the San Antonio and Fruitvale neighborhoods which are known as "the tracks," because they are concentrated areas of sex work activity.

Jim Chanin, an attorney who is involved in efforts to reform the Oakland Police Department, said Walterhouse’s arrest is “further indication that while some of these newer officers are a credit to department, there were serious flaws in the hiring process in the last two-to-four years.”

Chanin thinks the department needs to take a careful look at all officers who are about to pass through probation to ensure that the city hires cops who will follow the law.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said at today’s press conference she is "reassured this misconduct came to light from the rank and file," and that OPD officers are holding one another accountable.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Is Oakland Council President McElhaney Faking Sick, Canceling Meetings to Avoid Hearings on Ethics Violations?

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 2:19 PM

Did Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney fake sick last night to push back a city response to damning Grand Jury accusations?

At last night's city council meeting, a McElhaney staffer told the Express that McElhaney had bronchitis and could not attend. Councilmember Larry Reid chaired it in her place.

But Oakland Post publisher Paul Cobb said during public comment that he'd spotted McElhaney moments earlier, at a party being held at the Oakland Marriott Hotel, just three blocks from City Hall.

The Express left the council meeting at approximately 9:20 p.m. and went to the Marriott. There, McElhaney was mingling with guests at a party being hosted by Assemblyman Rob Bonta and U.S. Sen Cory Booker, in honor of Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

After the party, McElhaney finally showed up at the council meeting and took her seat shortly before 10 p.m. Conveniently, she arrived four hours late — and after an agenda item to discuss and respond to her alleged ethics violations.
The councilwoman is facing possible censure by colleagues due to a recent Alameda County Grand Jury report, which accuses McElhaney of abusing her position of power by interfering with a planned townhouse development next to her home. The city's long-overdue response to the Grand Jury was scheduled to be heard last night.

According to the report, and an earlier investigation by the Express, McElhaney used her office staff to appeal against the project, and also had the city's planning director intervene. The project's developer eventually gave up, and the townhouses were never built.

The city council, mayor, and public-ethics commission are all legally required to respond to the Grand Jury within ninety days of receiving the report. Per state law, their responses must include detailed explanations of whether or not they agree with the Grand Jury's findings, and how they plan to fix any problems.

But Oakland's deadline was September 21, and so far, only the public ethics commission has responded.

In addition to last night, McElhaney also canceled rules and legislation committee meetings on October 6 and 13.  She also skipped a council meeting on October 4. 

On the agenda for both of those rules meetings was an item discussing the Grand Jury's findings, specifically that McElhaney had violated Oakland's ethics rules by sabotaging the town house development, and another item brought by members of the public and Councilmember Desley Brooks, seeking to schedule a censure hearing to have the full council decide whether or not to admonish McElhaney.

Last night, several members of the public accused McElhaney of hiding from the Grand Jury's charges and canceling meetings to prevent her ethics violations from being publicly discussed and ruled on by council.

Noni Session, who is running against McElhaney for the District Three council seat, said the Grand Jury report was correct and the council should take action to hold McElhaney accountable for ethics violations.
  • Noni Session, who is running against McElhaney for the District Three council seat, said the Grand Jury report was correct and the council should take action to hold McElhaney accountable for ethics violations.
"The Grand Jury got it right," said Noni Session, who is running against McElhaney for the District Three seat. "This sick-out is known to not be real."

Before McElhaney arrived last night, Reid attempted to have his colleagues approve a five-sentence letter as the council's official response to the Grand Jury. The letter stated only that the council was aware of the Grand Jury's report, and that they are waiting on the city's public ethics commission to complete its investigation of the allegations against McElhaney before taking any action.

Brooks accused other members of the council of "hiding behind the public ethics commission," rather than weighing the evidence themselves and deciding whether or not to censure McElhaney.

According to Brooks, the city council's rules of procedure do not require the public ethics commission to investigate anything before the council considers whether or not to censure one of its own members. Brooks filed a motion to censure McElhaney, including a copy of the Grand Jury's report and other evidence, with the Oakland City Clerk on October 4. That same day, the clerk delivered physical copies of the censure papers to McElhaney. Later that afternoon, McElhaney claimed to be feeling sick and was absent at the evening council meeting.

Last night, Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington attempted to bring the city closer to providing the Grand Jury with a response by making a motion to tell it that Oakland will follow its censure process and hold a hearing.

As a result, a motion to schedule a censure hearing of McElhaney is now set for the rules and legislation committee meeting this Thursday.

After the meeting, McElhaney posted a long note on Facebook, saying she acted "contrary to doctors advice" by attending the party for Lee.

"After the ceremony, since I was already out of the house, I decided to head to the Council meeting in progress," she wrote.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Town Business: Police Union Attacks Kalb and Gallo; Oakland Claims Garbage Contracts No Problem

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Police Union Attacks Kalb and Gallo: As the Express reported last week, the Oakland Police Officers Association is spending tens of thousands of dollars to try to unseat councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo because the two of them sponsored Measure LL, the police commission ballot measure.

Several North and East Oakland residents sent us copies of the police union mailers that are saturating their neighborhoods. OPOA has spent $34,776 on the ads so far.

The cops call Gallo "the least effective politician in Oakland," and blame him for everything from abandoned vehicles to potholes and illegal dumping.

screen_shot_2016-10-17_at_8.50.44_am.png
The police union describes Kalb as "the least responsive politician in Oakland," and imply that he ignores the needs of his constituents.

Only about 8 percent of the Oakland Police Officers Association's members actually live in Oakland. Most Oakland cops live in the suburbs of Contra Costa County, or over the hill in towns like Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, and Livermore.

OPOA didn't return emails seeking comment about the elections mailers.

In addition to their independent expenditure campaign against Kalb and Gallo, the police union has also contributed to several East Bay politicians this year. OPOA gave Nancy Skinner $4,000 for her run for the state Senate District 9 seat, and the union contributed $3,400 to Rob Bonta, the incumbent 18th District assemblymember who is running for reelection. The police union also gave Noel Gallo's opponent Viola Gonzales $1,400.

Garbage Contracts No Problem: Several years ago Oakland negotiated its biggest, most expensive city contracts. They were for garbage, food waste, and recycling collection and disposal. No sooner did the city sign the contracts than rates shot up for landlords and businesses. The city was widely criticized for locking in expensive, long-term franchises.

The Alameda County Grand Jury conducted an investigation of the city's waste contracts this year and found that Oakland failed to create a competitive bidding environment, did not perform necessary financial analyses to understand how the contracts would harm ratepayers, and rigged the contract competition to favor the incumbent companies, Waste Management and California Waste Solutions. The Grand Jury also found that Oakland improperly engaged in closed-door negotiations with the two companies that ultimately won the contracts, and that all this resulted in Oakland residents and businesses paying higher collection rates and a higher franchise fee than surrounding communities.

So how did the city respond to the Grand Jury report?

"Disagree."

Oakland's Department of Public Works claims in their official response to the Grand Jury that they in fact solicited competitive bids, and that the big rate and franchise increases were publicly discussed on multiple occasions, and furthermore that the new rates and fees are higher than other places only because they're new. To sum up Oakland's response, everything is cool, more or less.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Windstorm Disrupts Treasure Island Music Festival, But Show Goes On (And Kamaiyah Saves the Day)

by Nick Miller
Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 11:42 PM

Kamaiyah in rain gear during her second perfomance at today's Treasure Island fest. - PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER
  • Photo By Mike Miller
  • Kamaiyah in rain gear during her second perfomance at today's Treasure Island fest.

Pummeling rain and heavy winds caused multi-hour delays — and more than a little bit of confusion — at today's Treasure Island Music Festival. But the skies eventually cleared and the show did go on.

Festival promoters reported that bad weather forced several performers' flights to arrive late, which pushed set times back by more than two hours. 

The rain and 20-plus MPH winds arrived just before 4 p.m. This delayed Atlanta rapper Young Thug's performance from 4:15 p.m. to after 7 p.m. Flight Facilities also canceled its set. And headliner Ice Cube was rescheduled from 9:25 p.m. to 11.

Concert-goers grew frustrated during the storm. There were lots of complaints on Twitter about lack of updates, and many left the festival altogether. TIMF did allow re-entry into the grounds for those who decided to seek shelter.

Oakland's Kamaiyah took one for the team and came out for a second performance of the day during the epic downpour.

Kamaiyah's set during the downpour. - PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER
  • Photo By Mike Miller
  • Kamaiyah's set during the downpour.

Puddles and mud ruled the grounds after the rain, but organizers extended the festival until midnight, and nearly all scheduled acts were able to perform.

The festival continues tomorrow — and bring a poncho if you're attending, because the forecast is for even more rain.

Look for more thoughts on TIMF in this week's Express.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Oakland Police Union Spending Thousands on Effort to Unseat Councilmembers Kalb and Gallo

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 2:27 PM

The Oakland Police Officers Association is paying for an expensive ad campaign against councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo. The police union disclosed in campaign finance statements last week that they have already spent $12,800 on a mailer opposing Kalb, the incumbent District One councilmember, and the police union has spent even more on a mailer targeting District Five Councilmember Noel Gallo — $16,800.

No one has seen contents of the mailers yet, but in the past OPOA has been known to spend large sums on attack-style ads aimed at Oakland politicians who are critical of the police.

Kalb and Gallo co-sponsored Measure LL which, if approved by voters on November 8, will create a powerful police oversight commission. The Oakland police union vigorously opposed the police commission legislation, but the police sex crime scandal which came to light earlier this year caused the city council to vote to put the measure on the ballot.

Kalb said, however, that he's baffled by the police union's independent expenditures against him.

"I’ve generally been pro-police in terms of building up size of the force, wanting to pay them good wages and give them a good benefits package, and I took lead trying to get more crime investigators," Kalb told the Express

But he said he can't turn a blind eye to the police department's problems. "I want to see a civilian oversight commission as part of the solution," Kalb said.

Noel Gallo is actively campaigning for Measure LL.
  • Noel Gallo is actively campaigning for Measure LL.
Gallo also has a record of supporting the police department and law-and-order legislation. For example, in 2013 Gallo supported a youth curfew as a crime fighting tactic. He has supported increasing the department's budget to add more officers and give cops more resources. But Gallo played a leading role in supporting the police commission ballot measure and placing it on the ballot.

The police officers' union appears intent on punishing Gallo for this.

His opponent, Viola Gonzales, has been endorsed by the Oakland Police Officers Association. The police union also made a direct $1,400 contribution to her campaign. Gonzales opposes Measure LL.

Kalb's challenger, Kevin Corbett, also opposes the police commission. The police union hasn't funded his campaign, however.

The Oakland Police Officers Association has $100,000 in cash to spend before the election, according to city records, but the union hasn't come out directly against Measure LL, only against its sponsors.

On the pro-Measure LL side, the Coalition for Police Accountability has raised $16,000 so far this year, including a $5,000 contribution from the Service Employees International Union last Friday.

Rashindah Grinage, a member of the Coalition for Police Accountability, said Kalb and Gallo's campaigns pose a "test" for Oakland voters.

"Do the councilmembers represent us," she asked, "or do they represent bargaining units like the police union, most of who don't live in Oakland, and who have their own interests in mind rather than the community’s?"

The Oakland Police Officers Association didn't respond to a request for comment for this report.

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