Yesterday, attorney Edward Swanson filed his report on what he referred to as a “broken” police disciplinary process to Judge Thelton Henderson. The report is available here, and media reports are here (East Bay Express), here (Oakland Tribune) and here (San Francisco Chronicle). In this post, we will talk about the background leading up to the investigation and report, where Swanson points his finger (and where he doesn’t), his recommendations, and what they mean for Oakland.
Oakland and its police department have been under Court supervision under the “Negotiated Settlement Agreement” (or “NSA”) in the case of Delphine Allen, et al. v. City of Oakland since January, 2003. For twelve years, the City has struggled to bring itself into compliance and end Court supervision. Meanwhile, the Court-appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw, has continued to expand his reach, recommending many departmental changes that go far beyond the language of the NSA. The process of arbitrating police discipline matters arises both out of Section 9.10 of the City Charter (something Swanson did not mention) and the Memorandum of Understanding (or contract) between the City and the Oakland Police Officers Association. The results, although not the process itself, have been under Judge Henderson’s scrutiny for several years. The first time was in September of 2011, when Judge Henderson expressed the belief that something was not right with the arbitration process. An arbitrator had reinstated Officer Hector Jimenez, whom OPD terminated after he shot and killed an unarmed civilian. In response to the judge’s expressed concern, the City assured the Court that it was going to improve its representation and performance in arbitration proceedings. Three years later, an arbitrator ordered reinstatement of Officer Robert Roche, terminated for alleged wrongful use of force during the October, 2011 Occupy Oakland demonstrations. In response, the judge first ordered Warshaw to conduct an investigation, then ordered the City to contract with attorney (and former Judge Henderson law clerk) Edward Swanson. The Court stated that failure of the arbitration / discipline process “undermines the very objectives of the NSA: to promote police integrity … and to enhance the ability of the Oakland Police Department … [to] protect the lives, rights, dignity and property of the community it serves.” Continue reading
The MOBN! board is proud to endorse City Attorney Barbara Parker. We strongly encourage Oaklanders to vote for her in November. The factors that contribute to our endorsement include her record both as City Attorney and Chief Deputy City Attorney, her broad range of experience in the practice of law and in law office management, and her strong performance in the past year in reducing outside counsel costs by millions of dollars. We were also strongly influenced by the candidate’s responses to the MOBN! questionnaire, which we reviewed and compared to some of our own observations of the two candidates.
In her approximately ten years as Chief Deputy City Attorney during John Russo’s years as City Attorney, and in her first year as City Attorney after her appointment to complete Russo’s term, Barbara Parker has demonstrated unwavering professionalism, integrity and competence. While she was Chief Deputy, she was the most frequent representative of the City Attorney’s office at City Council meetings, where we often had cause to observe her even-handedness and professionalism in advising Council on both procedural and substantive matters.
Barbara Parker is a Harvard Law School graduate and a lawyer with experience in a broad range of public and private sector practices for more than thirty years. She has the depth of experience it takes to lead the City’s representation in these challenging times. The City Attorney’s office provides a broad range of legal representation to a municipal corporation with nearly a one billion dollar budget. The City Attorney is essentially the managing attorney of this mid-sized law office. Someone with Barbara Parker’s experience can best serve in this role.
In her first year in office, City Attorney Parker’s fiscal management of her department has been impressive. In the previous nine years, the City Attorney’s Office lost more than a third of its staff (19 attorneys and 14 support staff) to City budget cuts. As the need for legal services increased and the number of in-house lawyers declined, the cost of outside law firms had increased every year because of the loss of in-house resources.
But that pattern reversed when Barbara Parker became City Attorney. In the fiscal year that just ended (FY11/12), the cost of outside counsel is down almost 40 percent from the prior year, from about $6.4 million to about $4 million. This may be the most significant recent cost reduction by any still-operating department in City government.
We carefully reviewed the questionnaire responses we received from both candidates, and appreciate the time and effort they devoted to these. Some of the key responses and our reactions to them appear after the jump.
City attorney candidates Barbara Parker and Jane Brunner have responded to MOBN!’s questionnaire, answering critical questions for our city involving the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, functioning and funding of the city attorneys’ office, ethics, public records, non-interference and lobbying regulation. All of the questions and answers are posted at the MOBN! web site. We urge Oaklanders to take the time to:
On July 24, the MOBN! board will consider whether to make an endorsement for this race, so please give us your thoughts by commenting on this post or on our page on facebook or by sending us an e-mail, Oaklanders@makeoaklandbetternow.org. MOBN! will announce the board’s decision no later than Friday, July 27.
Nothing empowers Oakland voters more than information—we hope Oaklanders will find these questions and answers a good first step toward empowerment.
MOBN! is beginning the early endorsement process for the 2012 City Attorney’s race. To view our official announcement, click here to be directed to our website. To read about MOBN!’s endorsement process and protocol, click here.
In 2010, MOBN! solicited written questionnaires from all of the mayoral candidates. Their responses were posted on makeoaklandbetternow.org, making MOBN! the only organization to publicly post questionnaires submitted to the mayoral candidates (these questionnaire responses can still be viewed, here). In 2012, we will continue this practice, but extend the questionnaires to include candidates for City Attorney as well as City Council.
To begin this early endorsement process for the City Attorney race, we have sent questionnaires to City Attorney Barbara Parker and Council Member Jane Brunner, the two known candidates. Any other declared City Attorney candidates are welcome to participate in this process (please contact Lisa Radigonda). Questionnaire responses are due July 6.
When endorsing candidates, MOBN!, as always, focuses on three main issues impacting Oaklanders:
1.) Public safety
2.) Public works, including public streets, parks, lighting, and libraries
3.) Ensuring city government transparency and accountability
With this early endorsement process, MOBN! hopes to empower independent voters in Oakland.