Sunday, March 1, 2009

You Can Help Defeat Nepotism in Oakland City Government

The Oakland City Auditor needs your help to ensure transparency and control nepotism in City Government.

The Deborah Edgerly mess left no room to doubt that nepotism was a huge problem in this city. Fortunately, it spawned efforts to reign it in. Unfortunately, those efforts are being stymied from the highest levels. There was an Chip Johnson piece in the Chronicle last week about how Oakland city employees are resisting a legal request from the City Auditor’s office for information, apparently with the complicity of City Manager Dan Lindheim and, by extension, the mayor and her husband.

From what I've seen so far from her, city auditor Courtney Ruby has one goal: transparency in government. Consequently, having to confront this kind of bald-faced resistance to a basic good government effort to de-opacify the goings-on in City Hall, she has put out what HarriOak News referred to as "an unprecedented plea for help":

Dear Concerned Oaklanders,

You have likely seen the article in today's Chronicle. It is accurate - the Administration is trying to withhold key documents essential to my audit of the City's hiring practices.

There is no question that these documents should be released to my office. As City Attorney Russo states, "I issued an (legal) opinion in 2007...under the charter, the auditor has unlimited review power."

I am your eyes and ears inside City Hall. These anti-nepotism documents, as part of my Hiring Practices Audit, are critical to restoring transparency and accountability in Oakland's government.

My office will be pursuing legal avenues, but nothing is as effective as the power of a concerned electorate. I encourage you to contact the Mayor's office today and let them know that you expect the Administration to fulfill the City Auditor's request.

Committed to serving you and Oakland with the utmost integrity,

Courtney A. Ruby, CPA
City Auditor

Office of the City Auditor
City of Oakland
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 4th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 238-3378

So get on email and let the Mayor know, and spread this so-far very quiet news far and wide. The City Attorney has ruled clearly and we're getting into basic questions about respecting the rule of law. According to one commenter at HarriOak, when s/he called the Mayor's office, s/he was told that comments must be faxed or emailed. So I've already emailed my comment to Full contact information for the mayor can be found here.

Update: Happy ending. After another Chip Johnson column (mentioning 40 emails to City Hall, of which I was one) the situation is resolved. Below is an email sent out by Ms. Ruby today. See, they do listen to citizens:

Dear Oaklanders,

Early this morning, the Administration fulfilled my request for hiring practices documentation.

Your voice, joined with scores of other concerned and committed Oakland citizens, triggered another key step toward establishing transparency and accountability at Oakland city hall. I am especially grateful for and honored by your willingness to respond immediately when the cause of good government calls.

Today I have fresh confidence that the new City Administrator shares the goals and aspirations demonstrated this past week by you, Oakland’s concerned citizens.

Together we can have the city we all want - one that is managed with transparency, accountability and enlightened, ethical leadership.

Committed to serving you and Oakland with the utmost integrity,
Courtney A. Ruby, CPA
City Auditor


  1. How much do you know about Ruby? She is a politician, worse a hungry politician. Her audits are a joke. She has yet to save the City a dime for all the costly, consultant audits she has ordered. Yes! nearly $500,000 worth. She has complete access to all documents, waht she wants is to abuse her power by trying to copy personnel files instead of viewing them like every other auditor.

  2. I know nothing about Ruby except what I've seen in the last week or two with respect to this audit. It has every appearance of being an effort to make Oakland city government more transparent. It's difficult at this point in Oakland's history to argue against increased transparency. Ruby must be in cahoots with the City Attorney then because he agrees with her. Lindheim's recent comments have only convinced me that what Ruby is doing is necessary.