Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday’s Briefing: Oakland Police Union Fights Discipline of Three Cops; Oakland Teachers and Students Stage Protest March

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 18, 2019:

1. The Oakland police officer’s union has gone to court to challenge the discipline meted out against three cops who are accused of misconduct, alleging that the city’s new police commission violated the officers’ rights, reports Megan Cassidy of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The union alleges that the Community Police Review Agency, which reports to the police commission, unlawfully interrogated the officers “by declining to first provide the officers with records of allegations against them.”

2. Oakland teachers are holding a sickout today and many of them marched down Broadway with students to protest low pay and stalled negotiations with the district, reports Lisa Fernandez of KTVU. The one-day action has not been authorized by the teachers’ union. The union has been demanding 12-percent raises for teachers over three years, but the cash-strapped district says it can’t afford them due to a $30 million budget shortfall.

3. The city of Berkeley, which has a history of burying new housing proposals in bureaucratic red tape, has quickly approved two affordable housing projects under a new state law, SB 35, which streamlines the creation of new housing, reports Tony Hicks of Berkeleyside. One of the projects is a six-story complex “composed of two separate buildings: One will feature 89 rental units affordable at 50-60% of the area median income. The other will offer 53 permanent supportive housing units for people who were previously homeless and 44 short-term shelter beds, 12 of which will be for veterans.”

4. The town of Kensington has settled a lawsuit involving its scandal-plagued police force, agreeing to pay $90,000 to a couple for falsely arresting one of them and for retaliating against them for making complaints, the East Bay Times$ reports.

5. California’s powerful bail bonds industry has successfully blocked the state’s sweeping bail reform law by gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2020 ballot, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. The new law, Senate Bill 10, “would have abolished California’s cash bail system effective Oct. 1. In its place, the state would adopt a risk assessment-based bail system, which would determine an individual’s likelihood of returning for court appearances.”

6. Tesla founder Elon Musk announced that he’s slashing the Fremont electric carmaker’s workforce by 7 percent, warning “that the ‘road ahead is very difficult’ as he tries to make electric cars more affordable for the mass market,” Bloomberg News reports (via

7. Hog Island Oyster Co. will resume operations soon in Tomales Bay in West Marin County, after it was forced to halt harvests when people reported getting ill after eating Hog Island oysters over the holidays, reports Erin Allday of the Francisco Chronicle$.

8. And in an explosive new report, BuzzFeed News is reporting that President Trump directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his Russian dealings. BuzzFeed also reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has documented evidence to prove that Trump suborned perjury — which is a felony.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Thursday’s Briefing: At Least Five Deaths in Big Storm; Another Quake Rattles the East Bay

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 10:03 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 17, 2019:

1. At least five people died during the big storm that plowed through Northern California yesterday and last night, including a homeless man in Oakland who was killed by a falling tree, SFGate reports. Anthony Rippee, 42, was killed Wednesday at a homeless encampment near Ardley Avenue and Interstate 580. The major storm dumped about an inch of rain in Oakland and large amounts of rain and wet snow in the Sierra Nevada.

2. Another earthquake — this time 3.5 magnitude — struck the Oakland-Berkeley border this morning at 6:11 in virtually the same spot as Wednesday morning, reports Natalie Ornstein of Berkeleyside. Early reports that today’s quake was centered in Piedmont were incorrect. Today’s and yesterday’s 3.4 quake were near Tunnel Road and State Route 24.

3. California’s monarch butterfly population, which used to blanket forests along the Central Coast during winter, has plummeted dramatically and the majestic species is on the brink of total collapse, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle$. Not long ago, millions of monarchs used to traverse California, but the annual Thanksgiving count recorded just 28,429 — an 86 percent drop from last year and a 99.4 percent decline since the 1980s. Scientists blame the mass die off on climate change, suburban sprawl, “the spraying of pesticides and herbicides on corn and soybean crops, and the plowing under of the monarch’s milkweed habitat along their migratory route.”

4. Even though California has loosened restrictions on the creation of backyard cottages — also known as granny flats and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — many property owners report being stymied by local bureaucratic rules, reports Louis Hansen of the Bay Area News Group$. State lawmakers plan to address the problems this year in the Legislature because of California’s extreme housing shortage.

5. And many Oakland teachers are planning a wildcat walkout on Friday to protest low wages and a bargaining stalemate with the district, reports Ashley McBride of the San Francisco Chronicle. The walkout is not sanctioned by the Oakland teachers’ union.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday’s Briefing: PG&E’s Woes Threaten Climate Change Fight; Big Storm Could Dump 6.5 Feet of Snow in Sierra

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 16, 2019 at 10:22 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 16, 2018:

1. PG&E’s bankruptcy likely will hamstring California’s battle against climate change because the embattled utility will not be able to afford to make needed investments in clean energy, reports Sammy Roth of the LA Times$. State lawmakers have established a goal of 100-percent clean electricity in the state by 2045, but that will take billions of investment from utilities in renewable energy production. PG&E is facing $30 billion in potential losses from the 2018 wildfires.

2. The massive storm that’s rolling into Northern California today could dump as much as 5 feet of snow at Donner Pass and 6.5 feet at Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada, reports Amy Graff of SFGate. The blizzard is expected to create whiteout conditions with wind gusts reaching 110 mph. The National Weather Service “has issued a winter storm warning for elevations between 5,500 feet and 6,500 and a blizzard warning for elevations above 7,000 feet, where conditions will be ‘potentially life-threatening.’”

3. Gov. Gavin Newsom is asking tech companies to provide $500 million in low-interest loans to housing developers “to build housing for teachers, nurses, and other middle-class Californians,” reports Liam Dillon of the LA Times$. “Newsom said he’s had conversations over the past six months with tech companies about ponying up more money for middle-income housing and his budget plan was designed to complement what the companies chip in.”

4. Kaiser Permanente announced that “it spent $5.2 million to help acquire a 41-unit apartment complex in East Oakland” as part of the health care giant’s new “effort to keep and expand affordable housing,” reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The Oakland company said “it also plans to house more than 500 homeless people in the city and create a $100 million loan fund to preserve affordable housing projects in places across the country” where it operates.

5. The city of Berkeley held another contentious discussion on allowing new housing to be built on the North Berkeley BART parking lot, reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. It remains to be seen exactly what will be constructed on the spot.

6. The Oakland City Council is asking BART to rename a strip of roadway underneath the Fruitvale BART station, Oscar Grant Way, in honor of the young man who was killed by a BART cop 10 years ago, reports Rachel Swan of the Chronicle.

7. The Alameda County Board of Supervisor may ban “mutton-busting,” in which children ride sheep similar to bull riding, at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Castro Valley, following outcries from animal rights activists who have called the practice cruel, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen.

8. And a 3.4 magnitude earthquake, centered on the Oakland-Berkeley border, jolted many East Bay residents awake this morning at 4:42, reports Robert Salonga of the Bay Area News Group$.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday’s Briefing: PG&E to Declare Bankruptcy, CEO Quits; No End in Sight for Federal Government Shutdown

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 9:50 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 14, 2019:

1. PG&E said on Monday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as the cost of wildfires in the state could exceed $30 billion, Bloomberg reports (via On Sunday, the utility’s CEO Geisha Williams resigned her post. “The company has seen two-thirds of its market value wiped out since November’s Camp Fire,” and its “debt has been downgraded to junk.”

2. There is no end in sight for the federal government shutdown as President Trump continues to demand that U.S. taxpayers pay for his controversial border wall. CNN reports that there are currently no meetings scheduled between the White House and Congressional leaders. According to a new Washington Post/ABC poll, 53 percent of Americans blame Trump and Republicans for the shutdown.

3. A major storm that could bring blizzard conditions to the Sierra Nevada is expected to slam into Northern California on Wednesday afternoon, reports Ashley McBride of SFGate. The storm could dump up to 2 inches of rain in Oakland, and is expected to be accompanied by strong winds of up to 50 mph in the hills.

4. Tens of thousands of teachers went on strike in Los Angeles today, demanding better pay and smaller class sizes, the LA Times$ reports. It’s the first teachers’ strike in LA public schools in 30 years.

5. And University of California employees are continuing to report missed or reduced paychecks due to the university system’s troubled payroll program, reports Andrew Sheeler of the Sacramento Bee$.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Express Lays Off Six Employees, But the Paper Continues On

The newspaper is changing to a freelance-reporting model.

by Robert Gammon
Sun, Jan 13, 2019 at 12:50 PM

In a cost-cutting move, the Express laid off six employees on Friday, including most of its editorial staff. The layoffs were the result of a series of unfortunate events for the publication, including a recent appellate court decision against the newspaper. The Express, however, intends to continue publishing weekly under a different editorial model and is committed to continuing its long tradition of investigative journalism; political and environmental news; and music, arts and culture, and food coverage.

The people laid off were great employees and journalists, and they will be sorely missed. Four of them have made their layoff status public: managing editor Janelle Bitker, staff writer Darwin BondGraham, associate editor Azucena Rasilla, and calendar editor Beatrice Kilat. Bitker and Kilat were part-time employees. In addition, one other full-time and one other part-time employee were laid off. In all, the layoffs represented about 4.5 full-time equivalents.

For the past five months, the owners of the Express and Telegraph Media, which produces Oakland and Alameda magazines, The East Bay Monthly, and Bay Woof, have been attempting to sell the publications. The owners received interest from numerous potential buyers, and in the past two months, majority owners Stephen Buel and Judy Gallman were optimistic that a sale would go through.

However, the Express recently suffered an unexpected loss in an appellate court case involving a former employee, Terry Furry. The court ruled that the Express, under its former ownership and management, had illegally denied overtime pay to Furry, a longtime employee who had served for years as the paper’s sales and marketing director. The appellate court also ruled that the Express must pay Furry’s attorneys fees. The appellate court overturned a lower court ruling in favor of the Express. For more on the case, see my post from last Wednesday.

Furry and his lawyers are now demanding a payment of $750,000, of which $450,000 would go to the attorneys. Furry is represented by attorney Tanya Gomerman. The Express is represented by Oakland attorney Dan Siegel.

Although there is not yet an official financial judgment lodged against the Express in the case, the adverse court ruling will make it virtually impossible for the current ownership to sell the publication until the case is resolved.

The Express has been struggling financially during the past three-plus years, and the paper’s owners were hoping to sell it to buyers who would infuse the publication with much-needed capital. The magazines and The Monthly, by contrast, are healthy financially, although they do not produce enough excess revenue to prop up the Express as it was. The current owners, who are longtime print journalists, have also been subsidizing the paper with their personal funds for the past 18 months, but can no longer do so.

The Express has the potential to thrive again and even grow – but it needs financial investment. Other alternative newsweeklies have made up for declining print advertising revenue by pursuing other revenue streams, including putting on events and creating ancillary publications. But launching such endeavors requires capital.

Under the reorganization, I will be returning to my role as editor of the Express, and Buel will return on Monday as publisher (his old position). I had been serving as both editor and publisher in recent months.

The Express will also be moving to a freelance model for nearly all of its ongoing coverage. Throughout its 40 years, the paper has relied heavily on freelance journalists in its pages. Before the recent layoffs, more than half the content in the paper each week was produced by freelance writers. In addition, several of the people laid off have agreed to freelance for the paper.

The paper is fortunate in the fact that the Bay Area is also home to numerous excellent freelance writers. The magazines and The Monthly, which have prospered for years using almost all freelance material, have a group of regular freelancers who consistently produce great journalism. The Express will now be relying on many of those folks as well.

In addition, the Express, the magazines, and The Monthly will be sharing more content in the weeks and months ahead. We have tried to keep the publications separate editorially, but we can no longer afford to do so.

The paper is also committed to pursuing other possibilities for new revenue streams, including a community-based funding model similar to the one Berkeleyside recently launched. We’ve been heartened by the outpouring of support the paper has received in the past few days and readers’ stated willingness to pitch in to help. We likely will take you up on that. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Fremont Withholds Records of Fatal Police Shooting of Pregnant Teenager, Despite New Transparency Laws

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 6:28 PM

Elena Mondragon was killed on March 14, 2017. - PHOTO FROM THE MONDRAGON FAMILY'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Photo from the Mondragon family's Facebook page
  • Elena Mondragon was killed on March 14, 2017.
The city of Fremont issued a blanket denial today to a Public Records Act request seeking records of a controversial 2017 police shooting, despite two new laws that were intended to provide greater transparency.

Elena "Ebbie" Mondragon was shot and killed by two Fremont detectives during a chaotic attempted arrest on March 14, 2017 in Hayward.

SB 1421 and AB 748, both signed into law last year, were intended to allow the public to inspect investigative records and videos of police shootings. But Fremont's attorneys cited what they believe are several exemptions to the laws to justify withholding records.

Mondragon was killed when two Fremont police officers fired into a moving vehicle that she was a passenger in. The police had been pursuing several robbery suspects and eventually tracked them down at an apartment complex near Cal State East Bay where they were swimming. The suspects, who were accompanied by Mondragon and her cousin, left the pool and got into a stolen BMW to leave. The police attempted to box them in with several vehicles and held them at gunpoint, but Rico Tiger, one of the suspects who was behind the wheel of the car, sped through a police roadblock.

Detective Joel Hernandez and Sgt. Jeremy Miskella opened fire on the moving vehicle with rifles. They missed Tiger and instead struck Mondragon. She died shortly after while Tiger and another suspect fled the scene on foot.

The Fremont Police Department's use of force policy states that firing at a moving vehicle is "rarely effective," and that officers should move out of the path of cars instead of shooting.

The only details about the incident that have been made public to date are contained in a report written by several district attorney's inspectors in February 2018, and charging documents later filed in Alameda County Superior Court after Tiger was apprehended.

The DA's inspectors determined that the shooting was justified because Tiger almost ran over the police officers.

The district attorney is charging Tiger with vehicular manslaughter in Mondragon's death. Tiger is also being charged with the attempted murder of Miskella and Hernandez, as well other crimes.

Immediately following the shooting, Mondragon's family called for the police to release more information about the incident. They criticized the officer's actions and questioned whether it was necessary to shoot into the car. Mostly, however, they asked for transparency in the investigation.

Fremont and Hayward police declined to make information available to the family, citing ongoing investigations and the confidentiality of police personnel records.

The Fremont police conducted their own investigation of the incident to determine if any officers violated city policies during the stakeout and shooting. This internal report, regardless of its findings, would include a comprehensive analysis of the stakeout, and the attempted arrest and shooting of Mondragon. It would also include surveillance videos of the area that may have captured parts of the incident. It's unclear if any of the officers at the scene of the shooting had body cameras turned on at the time. Hayward's police chief said in 2017 that there were no videos of the shooting, however. Nevertheless, Fremont's internal investigation could answer many questions about the incident.

SB 1421 and AB 748 were written by State Sen. Nancy Skinner and Assemblymember Phil Ting in response to public demands that police disclose more information about officer-involved shootings. Then Gov. Jerry Brown signed both bills into law last year.

But in a response to a Public Records Act request filed on Jan. 1 by the Express, Fremont officials declined to hand over the internal affairs files as well as any other records related to the shooting.

Fremont City Attorney Harvey Levine wrote that the internal affairs investigation of Mondragon's shooting will continue to be withheld because her family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city. That lawsuit is being paused until the criminal prosecution of Tiger and other suspects is completed.

Fremont also declined to make public any records of possible discipline against the officers who were at the scene of the shooting. The city's denial letter stated that they have "no records which are not exempt from disclosure as public records," therefore it's unclear if any officers were found to have violated any policies.

Read the full letter from Fremont below.

Fremont: Complying with New Police Records Laws Requires More Staff and Money

According to Fremont officials, preparing to release records of 13 incidents of ‘sustained’ police misconduct and shootings will consume 1,268 hours of staff time.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jan 11, 2019 at 12:48 PM

  • City of Fremont
The city of Fremont plans to spend as much as an additional quarter million per year to comply with two new laws requiring police departments to disclose previously confidential records.

The new laws, SB 1421 and AB 748, mandate that police agencies make investigative records of police shootings and uses of force resulting in great bodily harm, including videos of these incidents, available to the public on request. SB 1421, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. also requires the disclosure of records of police misconduct in cases where an officer was found to have sexually assaulted someone or behaved dishonestly.

Cities and counties across the state have been preparing for months to comply with the new rules, which mark a dramatic shift in how police records are treated. For decades, police personnel files have been kept secret in compliance with state law.

Few departments have voluntarily adopted policies to release videos of officer-involved shootings and other uses of force.

Fremont, for example, has always held that videos of shootings and other "critical incidents" resulting in serious injury or death are exempt from the Public Records Act because they are evidence. AB 748 overturns this policy.

But according to internal city records, Fremont officials believe the new transparency laws will cost them up to a quarter million or more a year and thousands of hours in staff time.

According to an analysis done by city staff last year, AB 748 will require the city to expend as much as $232,018 per year just to process videos of police shootings and other incidents. The cost includes hiring new staff to redact confidential information and review videos before disclosing them.

The city provided the cost estimates to the Express in response to a public records request.

A similar cost estimate wasn’t prepared for SB 1421, but the law’s expansive requirements mean that in addition to videos, many other types of investigative files are now also open to public inspection. Some information in these files such as home addresses, or medical and financial information, can still be redacted. So too can the names of police officers who weren’t found to have committed misconduct.

In 2017, the year in which Fremont staff analyzed the possible impacts of the new laws, the city had eight incidents of proven police misconduct. A summary table released by the city this week doesn’t describe the exact nature of the allegations, but staff assumed in their analysis video records from these incidents could be subject to disclosure now, meaning they could have involved sexual misconduct or dishonesty.

In 2017, there were 8 sustained complaints of misconduct made against Fremont police officers.
  • In 2017, there were 8 sustained complaints of misconduct made against Fremont police officers.

Also in 2017, the city had five use of force incidents that resulted in a death or great bodily injury. This included four officer-involved shootings and the use of a K9 dog to arrest a suspect.

The city defines great bodily injury using the same definition that the state Department of Justice uses for serious bodily injury: "a substantial risk of death, unconsciousness, protracted, and obvious disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ."

Just to review videos of these 13 incidents and make information available to the public, Fremont officials believe that their police chief will have to spend 78 hours. A captain will also have to work 78 hours on reviewing records of these incidents. A deputy city attorney will need to spend 233 hours reviewing the videos. In total, the city’s analysis found that it will require 10 city staff to work for 1,268 hours.

Other Bay Area cities are also anticipating that the new police records transparency laws will require increased staffing. But none of the seven other cities and counties that responded to a request for records have produced a detailed breakdown of how the new laws might financially impact them.

However, Richmond Police Chief Allwyn Brown wrote in a memo to Richmond’s mayor and city council last month that “given the volume of production likely to be generated, and given the highly technical and limited nature of the conditions for withholding or redacting such records/recordings, additional staff whose sole function would be the processing of such Public Records Act requests and manage associated production are required.”

The Richmond police are exploring software that can automate redacting within records, potentially saving staff time.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office plans to spend $3.9 million on body-worn cameras for deputies and jail guards under a new contract with Axon. According to a memo sent by Sheriff Carlos Bolanos to the board of supervisors last month, part of the reason for the purchase is that Axon’s cameras and software include features that make it easier to redact videos. “In order to comply with AB 748 and SB 1421, the SO will need a solution like,” the sheriff wrote.

Fremont police visited Las Vegas last year to watch how that city’s police redact videos for release to the public. Nevada laws are not as strict and police there routinely share videos and other information regarding officer-involved shootings with media and the public.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Federal Agents Go Unpaid While Helping Oakland Cops Make Arrests in Major Firearms Trafficking Case

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and command staff at today's press conference.
  • Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and command staff at today's press conference.

Over the past 24 hours, dozens of federal agents and Oakland police officers brought a major firearms and drug trafficking case to its culmination by tracking down and arresting suspects in at least seven Bay Area cities. The police also served search warrants at various undisclosed locations.

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick called it all "a very large operation."

But none of the federal agents working on the case are being paid due to the government shutdown caused by Donald Trump's insistence that a border wall be funded.

According to a law enforcement source who worked on the case, between five and 10 suspects were arrested today in coordinated raids in seven Bay Area cities. Over 50 federal agents from the U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms participated in the raids, despite the federal government's paralysis in Washington, D.C.

Oakland police officials said they couldn't provide details about exactly how many arrests were made, and where search warrants were executed, because the case is ongoing. Federal authorities are also insisting on keeping the details quiet, and indictments haven't been unsealed yet.

At a press conference this afternoon, Kirkpatrick described the case as a major intervention. It was initiated over a year ago by ATF agents and it was greatly advanced through the use of a ballistics tracing database called NIBIN which can link shell casings, bullets, and firearms across jurisdictions. Kirkpatrick said OPD has been able to recover more than four dozen firearms over the past year linked to the suspects in this case. An OPD press release described the weapons as including "fully automatic high-powered rifles and high capacity magazines."

Some of the weapons were trafficked into the city from outlying areas and states, while others were stolen in burglaries, a law enforcement source told the Express.

Kirkpatrick said some of the guns have been used in shootings and homicides.

Oakland Police Captain Ersie Joyner said OPD officers are "actively looking for other individuals."

No federal agency sent a representative to the press conference due to the government shutdown, which bars them from speaking to the media.

Today's operation follows an usually violent period in Oakland. Last Friday, three men were shot and killed in a triple homicide in West Oakland. Another man died early Saturday morning of gunshot wounds from a different shooting.

Five more individuals were shot and wounded on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

But last year, Oakland saw a significant drop in violent crime.

Thursday’s Briefing: Judge May Order PG&E to Inspect 106K Miles of Lines; Disgraced Contractor Lands $250M Camp Fire Cleanup Deal

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 10:18 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 10, 2019:

1. A federal judge may order PG&E to inspect 106,000 miles of electrical lines — its entire distribution grid — for safety reasons by June 21, because of its falsification of gas line inspections, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup may also require the beleaguered utility, which is facing tens of billions of dollars in losses due to the state’s devastating wildfires in the past few years, to shut off power during windy conditions in order to limit the risk of more fires.

2. The state has handed a $250 million contract to an environmental engineering firm that falsified soil tests in San Francisco’s shipyard superfund scandal and is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The contract given to Tetra Tech, which had two of its supervisors sentenced to prison last year for falsifying records, is for cleanup of the horrific Camp Fire. State officias said Tetra Tech is a “reliable” contractor, despite its falsification of records.

3. Routine food inspections have halted nationwide because of the federal government shutdown, the AP reports. The Food and Drug Administration said its working to bring back about 150 inspectors to examine “riskier foods such as cheese, infant formula, and produce.”

4. Another series of storms could bring seven straight days of rain to the Bay Area, reports Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle. The region needs the rain — Oakland, for example, has received just 72 percent of its normal rainfall so far this winter.

5. And San Leandro is finally getting its first cannabis dispensary — Blum San Leandro is planning to open tomorrow, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. San Leandro has awarded three cannabis dispensary permits, but Blum is the first to open.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Express Loses Overtime Wage Lawsuit

An appellate court overturned a lower court decision, ruling that the newspaper must pay overtime to its former sales and marketing director.

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 10:49 AM

The Express has lost a lawsuit filed by its ex-sales and marketing director who claimed that he was illegally denied overtime by the newspaper under its former ownership and its former publisher, Jody Colley. The First District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision in favor of the Express, ruling that the newspaper should have paid overtime to Terry Furry before he left the newspaper four years ago. The state appellate court also ruled that the Express must pay Furry’s legal bills.

Furry, a longtime employee of the Express, filed the lawsuit in 2014, after he was terminated by Colley, who at the time was publisher of the newspaper. Furry alleged that Colley misclassified him as a managerial employee exempt from overtime pay. (He also alleged sexual orientation and age discrimination but those claims were dismissed.)

After a trial, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in 2017 that Furry was misclassified, but declined to award monetary damages on the grounds that neither Furry nor the Express had kept records of his overtime work. Furry managed Express events in the evenings and on weekends and created original artwork for events. (Furry also alleged that he was due pay for working through meal and rest breaks, but the trial court denied that claim.)

In July 2017 after the trial court ruled in the Express’ favor, Youngdahl sold the newspaper to Telegraph Media, which subsequently laid off Colley. Furry then appealed.

The appellate court ruled in December 2018 that the trial court erred in not ordering the Express to pay Furry for his overtime work. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court to determine how much Furry is owed. The court also ruled that the Express must pay his legal bills.

The Express is being represented in the case by Oakland attorney Dan Siegel.

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