City to Look into Fire Union

 

SoCal lawyers hired to investigate city manager’s recent accusations

Alameda city officials have hired a Southern California law firm to conduct an investigation to determine whether members of the City Council wrongly interfered with the Alameda fire chief hiring process.

City Attorney Janet Kern confirmed the hiring of Jenkins & Hogin, LLP to conduct the investigation. The investigation is underway and the firm has no deadline. Once the investigation is finished a report will be presented to the Council.

The investigation stems from an Oct. 2 letter from City Manager Jill Keimach to the City Council. In the letter, Keimach said she felt “intense and unrelenting” political pressure during the hiring process of the new fire chief for the Alameda Fire Department (AFD) from two members of the City Council. She wrote the two Councilmembers told her that “the selection of their candidate would be in the interest of labor peace.” 

Keimach described in the letter feeling uneasy by the city officials “requesting that I put aside the best interests of the city and select the fire chief that has been handpicked by the local IAFF union.” 

The alleged interference would be a violation of Alameda City Charter Section 7-3. “Neither the Council nor any of the members thereof shall interfere with the execution by the City Manager of his or her powers and duties,” the charter section reads. “An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment … shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance.”

Keimach did not identify the Councilmembers in the letter, but it has been revealed that she was describing Vice-Mayor Malia Vella and Councilman Jim Oddie. According to reports, Vella and Oddie wanted Keimach to pick Domenick Weaver, an Alameda fire captain and union leader, as the next AFD fire chief. Keimach would go on to hire Edmond Rodriguez, the chief of the Salinas Fire Department on Oct. 2. Rodriguez will start Nov. 13. He will take over from Fire Chief Doug Long who retired in September.

The letter caused City Council to hold a losed session meeting on Oct. 17 pursuant to Govt. Code Section 54956.9 to consider potential litigation relating to the allegations. The Council voted unanimously, including Vella and Oddie, in favor of Kern’s advice to conduct an independent investigation to look into the allegations.

Vella released a statement, through her attorney, saying she is eager to clear her name of any misconduct.

“I whole-heartedly support the hiring of an independent investigator,” wrote Vella in an Oct. 18 letter. “I am absolutely confident that the investigator will find the allegations that have been made against me to lack any basis in reality and that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Jenkins & Hogin, LLP is located in Manhattan Beach and was formed in 2001. The firm specializes in the practice of municipal law.

 

Clarification
In last week’s story “City to Look into Fire Union,” Nov. 2, the Alameda Sun misidentified Vice-Mayor Malia Vella’s campaign consultant as her attorney.