Jury Report Reveals Much

After receiving more than 40 complaints that Councilmember Jim Oddie and then-Vice Mayor Malia Vella had “wrongfully interfered with the duties of the city manager” in 2017, the Alameda County Grand Jury decided on a two-fold inquiry into the complaints. First, examine the role that elected officials play in Alameda’s system of government. Second, determine whether Oddie and/or Vella violated the City Charter by interfering with or attempting to influence City Manager Jill Keimach during the hiring of a new fire chief. 

The Grand Jury decided that, if its investigation uncovered any violations, it would determine whether it could make any recommendations for “structural change that would help prevent such conduct in the future.” The Grand Jury did find “a pattern of conduct by two Councilmembers that, taken together, amounted to inappropriate interference in the fire chief hiring process.”

In making its findings, the Grand Jury investigated the process for hiring a fire chief. It found the process “rife with uncomfortable and unhealthy interactions between all parties.” These interactions led to Keimach “calling out” Oddie and Vella’s conduct, among others, the Grand Jury reported. 

The Grand Jury spelled out the “key events” that led to its conclusions. These included: an alleged threat to fire Keimach, the meeting that Keimach secretly recorded, a letter of recommendation that Oddie wrote on city letterhead and signed in his official capacity as a City Council member. The Grand Jury also investigated the hiring of a “governance consultant” to assist with performance reviews and that consultant’s resignation.

“It is quite telling that an outside consultant with years of city management experience terminated his contract with the city, forgoing full payment for his future services, because he did not want to participate in an unethical misuse of the performance review process,” the Grand Jury stated in its report. 

The Grand Jury also mentioned that Rolleri stood before the City Council with department heads standing behind him and read a letter supporting Keimach. 

“While they did not attack CM1 (Oddie) or CM2 (Vella) in any way, CM2 felt it was inappropriate for the management team to defend the city manager and step into the controversy,” the report stated. 

“Two members of the City Council violated the City Charter,” the Grand Jury concluded. “CM1 committed more significant violations.” 

However, the Grand Jury did not believe that any of the conduct it investigated warranted “moving forward with formal accusation proceedings.” The grand jury brings formal accusations when misdemeanors are involved and formal charges when the alleged crime rises to the level of a felony. 

“I am pleased that the Grand Jury has concluded its deliberations and happy that the Jury determined that no further accusation proceedings are warranted,” Oddie stated. 

“I am glad this report is now public and that another investigation finds nothing new. While this has been a distraction, I continue to work hard for and serve the people of Alameda,” Vella stated. 

Note that the Grand Jury report did not name any individuals, saying “CM1” instead of Jim Oddie, “CM2” instead of then-Vice Mayor Malia Vella, “city manager” instead of Jill Keimach, “police chief” instead of Paul Rolleri, “labor-backed candidate” instead of Domenick Weaver and “fire labor leader” instead of Jeff DelBono. 

Read the report online at https://tinyurl.com/y64slznl.

The report begins on page 13. Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations are on pages 30 and 31.