|HOME||THE PURPOSE OF THIS WEBSITE||PERATA IN THE NEWS||THOUGHTS AND ANALYSES||WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING||THE FEDERAL CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION|
|THE OAKLAND SCHOOL TAKEOVER||PERATA AND THE POLICE LAYOFFS||BUYING THE OAKLAND MAYOR'S RACE||THE VIDEOS||POST-ELECTION COVERAGE||STATEMENT OF RESPONSIBILITY|
An independent website not affiliated with any political officeholder or candidate or political campaign
Oakland Police Union Says No To Reimbursement Request
By Kelly Rayburn
Originally published in the Oakland Tribune
April 1, 2010
OAKLAND — Police union officials said they won't reimburse the city for costs associated with a Nov. 5 community meet-and-greet with police Chief Anthony Batts that took a political turn when the union publicly endorsed former state Sen. Don Perata for mayor.
Batts already had left the Oakland Police Officers Association's headquarters, where the meeting was held, when Oakland police union President Sgt. Dom Arotzarena announced the union's support for Perata, drawing applause from some, angering others and prompting Oakland resident Pamela Drake, a supporter of Councilmember Jean Quan's bid for mayor, to file a complaint with Oakland's public ethics commission.
The commission subsequently requested that the union reimburse the city $709 for the staff time, fliers, postcards and postage that went toward promoting the event.
The union's response: No.
Dan Purnell, the ethics commission's executive director, wrote to Arotzarena on March 11, saying the commission believed the political endorsement "may have created a public perception of impropriety over the use of public funds."
Rocky Lucia, Arotzarena's attorney, wrote back March 19: "While the OPOA certainly appreciates the commission's sense that there may be a 'public perception of impropriety' concerning the use of public funds, the public perception, good or bad, has certainly been promoted and perpetuated by the ongoing controversy associated with unfounded and inappropriate allegations against the OPOA."
Arotzarena told Purnell he did not know until afterward that city resources were used in organizing the event and that the union did little planning other than to make the headquarters available as a meeting space, according to an ethics commission report. The report said Nick Vigilante, chairman of the city's Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee, proposed the event and asked Arotzarena about using the OPOA offices.
The endorsement, which Vigilante said was not on the meeting's agenda, elicited a response from City Hall the next day, when City Administrator Dan Lindheim released a statement saying, "While any group has the right to endorse whomever they choose for political office, the Oakland Police Officers Association decision to co-opt a city-sponsored community event and use it for political purposes raises serious concerns."
Lindheim said he would look into the matter to see if discipline was appropriate but subsequently passed it along to the ethics commission. The commission considered Drake's complaint March 1.
In his letter, Purnell acknowledged the commission had no authority to compel the union to provide the reimbursement. But he said such an action would "arguably strengthen public confidence" after what happened. Lucia's letter back said the union would continue reaching out to resident groups on public safety but would "respectfully decline" the request for reimbursement.
All of that frustrated Drake, who expressed unhappiness with the union and with the fact that the ethics commission has little authority to do anything about such situations.
Referring to the union, she said, "The fact they respectfully don't respect us to me is not helpful."
Drake said her support of Quan is not why the situation was problematic for her.
And she acknowledged $709 isn't a big chunk of change for a city facing a projected deficit topping $42 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
"It's disappointing," she said. "I think it would have been a nice gesture. If they really didn't know (it was a city-sponsored event), why wouldn't they just say, 'We didn't know, but we're sorry, and we're going to give the money back.' "
Return to top