City Must Fully Investigate City Manager’s Allegations

City Must Fully Investigate City Manager’s Allegations

 

Delay Tuesday’s closed session Item 3-B, City Manager’s evaluation

The agenda for Tuesday, Oct. 17, City Council meeting contains the following item to be heard in closed session: 3-B, 2017-4824, Public Employee Performance Evaluation, Pursuant to Government Code § 54957; Positions Evaluated: City Manager Jill Keimach; City Attorney Janet Kern; and City Clerk Lara Weisiger

Had the City Council evaluated City Manager Jill Keimach’s position at the appropriate time, it would have done so in March. Keimach questions the continued delay of her evaluation. The Alameda Sun received a copy of a letter that Keimach recently wrote to the City Council. In that letter Keimach states that the seven-month delay “appears to be an attempt to tie my quantitatively positive evaluation to my selection of a new fire chief.”

In her letter, Keimach informed the City Council that, over the last several months, she has been “approached by elected and appointed officials in Alameda and even at the state level, 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.” Keimach is referring to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 689, which represents the City of Alameda’s firefighters.

Keimach informed the City Council that various parties have asked her “to cast aside the requirement of a fair and transparent process and give no consideration to other candidates who present superior qualifications and experience (to the Alameda firefighters’ choice for fire chief).”

She told the City Council that the candidate she selected for the post of fire chief “has shown the ability to provide enhanced public safety service to our residents.”

“The selection of our new fire chief should not be driven by unseemly political pressure. This pressure is explicitly prohibited by Alameda’s Charter Section 7-3, as pointed out by the City Attorney,” Keimach reminded the City Council in her letter.

Section 7-3 reads:

“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. Except for purposes of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with that portion of the administrative service for which the City Manager is responsible solely through him or her.

“An attempt by a Councilmember to influence the City Manager in the making of any appointment or the purchase of any materials or supplies shall subject such Councilmember to removal from office for malfeasance.”

There have been attempts by two Councilmembers to pressure Keimach to select the Alameda firefighter’s choice for fire chief. In fact Keimach calls this pressure “intense and unrelenting.”

In her letter Keimach pointed to the existence of correspondence that urges the selection of the Alameda firefighter’s choice for fire chief. She went on to write that two City Councilmembers met with her to suggest that “the selection of their candidate would be in the interest of labor peace.”  

She also made the disturbing allegation that these Councilmembers informed her that the selection of the Alameda firefighter’s choice for fire chief “would avoid an incident similar to the one involving Raymond Zack. “This thinly veiled threat insults the very notion of good government,” she told the City Council in her letter.  

Recall that on Memorial Day 2011 Alameda firefighters remained ashore and looked on while Raymond Zack drowned in shallow waters. They offered Zack no assistance (“First Responders Watch Man Die,” June 2, 2011). Were the two City Councilmembers implying that if Keimach did not select the Alameda firefighters’ choice for fire chief, the firefighters might once again stand by and watch as someone’s house burns or someone dies?

Keimach also informed the City Council that she learned of verbal threats communicated to others insinuating that if she did not select the Alameda firefighters’ choice for fire chief there would be three (City Council) votes to fire her. Keimach informed the City Council the threats violate the Ralph M. Brown Act.  The Brown Act requires that City Councils conduct their deliberations openly and not in private, as seems to be the case here.

Keimach told the City Council that she had learned that potential candidates for the fire chief’s position were threatened “in an effort to convince them to withdraw their applications.”

“The City of Alameda and all its residents, business owners and visitors deserve nothing less than the best candidate for the position (of fire chief), as do all the employees in the (fire) department and the city. I would not be doing my job ethically if I didn’t select the best candidate for the position,” Kern wrote in her letter to the City Council.

“It is my fervent hope that the City Council will support my commitment to ethical hiring practices and my opposition to undue political influence in the selection of key employees charged with providing emergency services to our residents,” Keimach stated.

 “As City Manager, I have the responsibility to ensure that all responses to any current and future internal issues are reviewed and investigated, if necessary, from a non-biased point of view.”

The Alameda Sun could not agree more. The Sun urges City Attorney Janet Kern to advise the City Council to pull item 3-B from its Tuesday, Oct. 17, closed-session agenda and launch an immediate investigation into all of Keimach’s allegations at every level — city, state and the firefighters’ union IAFF Local 689.

In addition, the Alameda Sun urges Kern, or the appropriate party in our city’s government, to file a complaint about these alleged violations with the Alameda County Grand Jury. In fact anyone wishing to complain to the Grand Jury about these matters can start by filling out and filing the complaint form found here: www.acgov.org/grandjury/complaintform.pdf.

The Alameda Sun strongly urges Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley to pursue any violation of the Brown Act precipitated by the Alameda City Council in carrying out threats to fire Keimach should she not hire the fire chief “handpicked by the local union.” Individuals can also sue for Brown Act violations.

Alameda Sun readers can reach Kern at 747-4750 or jkern@alamedacityattorney.org.They can reach Keimach at 747-4700 or jkeimach@alamedaca.gov. O’Malley can be reached at 272-6222 or info@alcoda.org