Oakland City Attorney 
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Recent Comments

Re: “Why Oakland Can't Fire Bad Cops

Dear Editor,

There are still significant problems with the story “Why Oakland Can’t Fire Bad Cops,” and reporter Ali Winston’s inaccurate response to our letter requesting corrections. We need to reiterate a few points:

(1) The accusation that the City Attorney “withheld” exculpatory information from an officer – and from the police department itself – is nonsensical and totally inaccurate. The City Attorney doesn’t conduct the Skelly process or provide evidence to officers who are subjects of discipline or Skelly hearings. It’s an administrative process – the Police Department produces evidence that is relevant to the hearing as part of its process. In this case, the Police Department identified and requested that the City Attorney’s Office retain the expert who wrote the report. The report was produced for OPD and provided to OPD. How did we withhold an OPD document in OPD’s possession from OPD? The accusation doesn’t even make sense on its face.

By any journalistic standard, EBX should have at least included our response that this is a categorically false accusation, and that we asked OPD to send the document to Mr. Rains when he complained to us about it (and that OPD in fact provided the document to him). One of the corrections you already published says that Mr. Winston “misstated when the City of Oakland had withheld exculpatory evidence.” That’s still not factual. Your story accuses the City Attorney’s Office of “withholding” evidence in the discipline process. This is demonstrably false. Again, we request that you correct the actual error in the story.

(2) The claim that the City Attorney’s Office changed attorneys just before the Roche arbitration hearing is based on a misunderstanding of the facts by Mr. Winston.

First, the City Administration hired several firms and a private investigator to help the Police Department investigate Occupy-related complaints because of the volume of complaints at the time. The City hired these firms – including Renne Sloan, the firm that handled the Roche investigation – because it would have been impossible for Internal Affairs alone to handle the large volume of complaints in the time period required by the NSA. Second, the firms and the private investigator were hired as investigators, not as attorneys. They never represented the City or officers as legal counsel. That’s just a misunderstanding of how this worked. In fact, there are reasons why we did not hire the same firms as legal counsel to represent the City in arbitrations. It’s a conflict for the same attorney to act as a witness and an attorney in a legal proceeding, to name one. The investigator has a duty to conduct an impartial inquiry into the facts and evidence, the attorney is an advocate for the City.

Again, there was no change of attorney on this case. You report that the City Attorney “switch(ed) attorneys at the last minute,” and this is presented throughout the story as evidence that this arbitration was mishandled. However, it’s 100% inaccurate, and we again ask that you correct it so your readers know it was in error.

Alex Katz
Chief of Staff
Oakland City Attorney's Office

7 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by Oakland City Attorney on 09/24/2014 at 2:51 PM

Re: “Why Oakland Can't Fire Bad Cops

Dear Editor,

After speaking to your reporter and responding to all of his questions, I was disappointed to see that the story “Why Oakland Can’t Fire Bad Cops” contains numerous factual errors. I request that you correct or clarify a number of points in the online version of the story and in next week’s paper, and that you post this letter online and publish it in your next week’s paper.

This is a list of some errors and other problems regarding information about the City Attorney’s Office; it is not a comprehensive list of errors in the story.

1. You report that in the Roche arbitration case, an outside attorney was assigned sometime after March 19 to handle a hearing on April 7. Your reporter included this in the story without asking me whether it was correct. The attorney, Stephen Roberts, actually was assigned in February, about a month and a half before the hearing. As I told your reporter, timing of the assignment was not a factor in the outcome of this case. Please correct this point in your story.

2. You report that we “switched attorneys at the last minute” and “changed lawyers just before the arbitration hearing” in the Roche case. Again, it is not true that the attorney was assigned at the “last minute.” And there was no change of attorneys on the case. Nossaman, a highly qualified firm that went through a public RFQ process, was hired to handle the case. The case was not “reassigned” from a different attorney, it was assigned to Nossaman, and they worked closely with the head of the City Attorney’s Labor and Employment Unit on the case. This is standard practice when we use outside counsel on any matter. Again, the reporter never asked me whether the case was reassigned. Please correct this in your story.

3. To be clear, Mr. Roberts, the outside counsel who handled the Roche case, is not a “new” attorney. As we told your reporter, he is a partner at Nossaman, has been a litigator for three decades and has handled dozens of arbitrations, including police arbitrations.

4. The story states: “In an interview, Olsen questioned Parker's decision to switch attorneys at the last minute, and believes it likely played a role in the arbitrator's ruling in Roche's favor.” The quote from Mr. Olsen is based on incorrect information given to him by the reporter. It should be clarified.

5. The Franks case never went to arbitration. The reporter calls it “another arbitration case” and uses it as evidence to support his theory about arbitrations not being handled correctly, so this should be corrected.

6. The City Attorney never withheld any evidence or anything else in the Franks case. The story states “Franks' attorney Michael Rains uncovered an expert analysis of video footage from Franks' chest-mounted camera that had been withheld from Franks and OPD investigators by the Oakland City Attorney's Office.” In fact, we gave the reporter a copy of a letter including a timeline of that case that clearly shows we did not withhold the report in question, or anything else, period. In fact, as I wrote in the letter, the City Attorney’s Office advised Internal Affairs to produce the report when Mr. Rains brought it to our attention that he had not yet received it from IA as part of the administrative process. This is a serious accusation, and our explanation that it was totally baseless should have been included in the story.

7. Likewise, the story did not include our response to Mr. Rains' claim that he filed a bar complaint against a member of the City Attorney’s Office. In the letter provided to the reporter, I wrote that Mr. Rains’ bar complaint was “baseless and seemingly malicious” for the above reasons. That response should have been included in the story.

8. You quote me in the story as saying that budget cuts have “hindered (our) ability to handle cases.” At no point in my conversation with your reporter did I say anything like that. I pointed out the loss of in-house staff to explain why my Office has relied more on outside counsel for arbitrations. The quote about layoffs hindering our ability to handle arbitrations is completely out of context and should not have been attributed to me. This absolutely warrants a correction.

9. I began the interview with a caveat that because arbitrations are personnel/disciplinary matters, I cannot discuss or reveal facts or evidence in particular cases. I want to repeat that point so readers understand why we can’t comment on these matters, even when opposing counsel is saying something inaccurate or misleading in the newspaper. I told the reporter that many factors determine the outcome of arbitration proceedings, and that arbitrators have the power to substitute their judgment for the City’s, even when they agree with the City’s facts and evidence, and agree that the officer was not subject to disparate treatment. This is not a correction, but I think it’s an important point for readers to know.

Very truly yours,
Barbara Parker
Oakland City Attorney

12 likes, 14 dislikes
Posted by Oakland City Attorney on 09/17/2014 at 4:24 PM

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