Investigation Leaves Unresolved Issues
Now that details have been released to the public, the next question is how City Council should proceed as to City Charter violation allegations concerning Vice Mayor Malia Vella and Councilmember Jim Oddie. I am assuming that Council has taken no action. This assumption is based on the fact that there is no identifiable agenda item listed for any open or closed Council meeting and this issue does not appear to come within any of the Brown Act exceptions to the open meeting requirement.
The investigation report makes an unequivocal determination that Oddie’s communications with City Manager Jill Keimach concerning the hiring of a fire chief were in violation of Sec. 7-3 of the Charter. Oddie’s attempt to water down this conclusion by grasping at the suggestion that the Charter needs amendment is not supported by an objective reading of the report.
Pages 11 through 13 of the March 7 report state that the Charter provision was too broad because it does not differentiate advocating for a particular hiring process (which is any councilmember’s proper role) and advocating for a particular job applicant which would be violation of the Charter.
Thus, the report suggests amending the Charter to clarify that only advocating for a particular person would violate the Charter. However, he determined that Oddie’s letter was advocating for a particular person and was a violation of the Charter.
Moreover, pages 59 and 60 of the Jan. 30 report reveal that the report’s determination was not limited to the letter. It also based its conclusion on three other factors
- Oddie’s Aug. 1, 2017, remarks to Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri that he had votes to fire Keimach if she did not make the right appointment.
- City consultant Rod Gould’s impressions from his conversation with Oddie that Oddie did not feel constrained by the Charter from advocating for Dominick Weaver, who was also a candidate for the job.
- Oddie’s raising of the Raymond Zack incident and general advocacy for Weaver in his Aug. 16, 2017, conversation with Keimach.
This matter involves a very serious issue of alleged malfeasance in office by a Councilmember with a consequence of removal from office. It is essential to the lawful rights of both the residents of Alameda and Oddie himself, that this matter be fully aired before the Grand Jury and a final determination made. Even if this matter has already been brought before the Grand Jury, Council needs to direct staff to urge the Grand Jury to make a determination in this matter.
It also concerns me that no Councilmember has come forward with a referral to consider a Council censure of Oddie. The lack of any public action of any kind on this matter exacerbates an already significant lack of public trust in the entire body of Council.
The report finds that Vella’s Aug. 16 conversation with Keimach did not violate the Charter. However this conclusion is based on the report’s decision to give credibility to Vella’s recollection of her role in the Aug. 16, 2018 conversation between her, Oddie and Keimach and to reject Keimach’s version.
The report explains this conclusion on page 9 of the report, stating that Keimach saw the meeting as a “component of an orchestrated campaign to persuade her to select Weaver; in view of all of the events and communications that preceded it, her view was not irrational” the report then concludes that “…apparently meeting with Oddie and Vella together left Keimach with the impression that the two were acting as a team.
Further, Keimach conflated their intentions, attributing improper motives to both of them. Finally, Keimach’s heightened level of anxiety seems to have interfered with her ability to consider legitimate concerns being raised about the process that were not meant to influence her choice of candidate.”
The report appears to partially base this conclusion on the fact that Vella was much more concerned with a possible Charter violation than Oddie. She wisely refused to meet with Weaver or write to Keimach on his behalf. However, there is other evidence that could lead one to conclude that she might not have been so circumspect in what she thought was a private conversation between her, Oddie and Keimach.
- Vella was under strong pressure from union leadership to press for the hiring of Weaver.
- Gould’s impression of his conversation with Vella was that she was just as motivated as Oddie to have Weaver hired.
- Oddie and Vella told Keimach at the outset of the Aug. 16, 2017, conversation that they had carpooled to a wedding and had discussed what they were going to say to her. Thus, they were acting as a team.
- While Vella claims she was just concerned with process, she does not specify those concerns.
- Keimach gives a detailed account of specific separate statements made to her by Oddie and Vella, all of which were directed to expressing their desire that she hire Weaver.
I do not conclude from the above that Vella violated the Charter. However I do conclude that the issue is not resolved; and that the only piece of hard evidence to determine the issue is Keimach’s recording of the conversation. Council should ask the District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley (who also advises the Grand Jury) to make a determination as to whether the recording was lawful or not. If she finds it to be unlawful, no further inquiry should be made into Vella’s role in this matter.
However, if the tape was lawful it needs to be referred to the Grand Jury to determine if Vella violated the Charter.