Matthew Artz, 08/20/12
Potentially just months away from becoming the first U.S. city to lose control of its police department, Oakland has opened an investigation into accusations that the department’s federal monitor recently made inappropriate statements to city leaders.
Attorneys for the city did not detail the accusations or reveal which city officials leveled them against the monitor, Robert Warshaw, in a motion filed late Friday in federal court.
Deputy City Attorney Jamilah Jefferson wrote that the city is “duty-bound” to review the “potentially damaging” allegations concerning “communications between the court monitor and city officers” and asked U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson to seal all documents in connection with the investigation.
On Monday, the city filed a revised motion and asked that Friday’s motion be withdrawn and sealed because it contained “confidential and sensitive information that … should not be part of the court’s public record.”
Speculation is that the accusations stem from one or more meetings that included Warshaw, a former deputy drug czar in the Clinton Administration, and City Administrator Deanna Santana. Santana said she couldn’t comment on what happened because it is part of a personnel investigation. Warshaw could not be reached for comment Monday.
Henderson has tentatively scheduled hearings for December to consider stripping the city control of the police department because of its failure to fully comply with reform measures spelled out in a 2003 agreement that settled the Riders police misconduct case.
As monitor, Warshaw is responsible for evaluating the department’s progress in achieving the reforms. His most recent reports have faulted police for stagnating on several tasks, all of which were supposed to be completed four years ago.
The city still has not disclosed details of the allegations against Warshaw to attorneys for the police union or the plaintiffs in the Riders case.
“Obviously, something serious happened that people are concerned about,” said the union’s attorney, Rocky Lucia. “I’m hopeful that it is not something that will impair implementation of the (settlement agreement) and the progress that the city has made, but I don’t know.”
Jim Chanin, one of two attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the Riders case, said the city was required to provide them with the allegations against Warshaw at the same time it filed the court motion.
“I know of no character issue involving the monitor that I’ve ever seen other than the fact that (city officials) don’t like his reports,” Chanin said.
The city pays Warshaw’s New Hampshire-based firm, Police Performance Solutions, $1.78 million a year, to monitor its progress in implementing the reforms. However, it lacks the power to fire Warshaw, who is an agent of the court.
Earlier this year, Henderson granted Warshaw new powers and required Chief Howard Jordan to consult with the monitor before making many major decisions.
City and leaders are concerned that if Henderson puts a federal receiver in charge of police, the receiver could force the city to increase spending on its undermanned department to the detriment of other already hard-hit services. A coalition of Oakland community organizations called Coalition for a Safe Oakland recently formed seeking to intervene in the settlement agreement in hopes of preventing a federal takeover of the department.