OAKLAND (CBS SF)—The Oakland City Council voted to not censure Councilwoman Desley Brooks Thursday night for allegedly interfering with the construction and operation of two city recreation centers in her district in East Oakland.
Dozens of speakers spoke in favor of Brooks before the vote, cementing a reluctance by many of the council-members to commit to a censure vote, with arguments over whether procedures were properly followed to bring the vote dominating much of the discussion.
Oakland City Council Votes Not To Censure Desley Brooks Over Improper Hiring Allegations
Two councilmembers -- Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney -- even recommended votes that would censure the entire council for any ethical failings but there was confusion over whether council rules would allow such a vote.
In the end, six councilmembers voted not to censure Brooks with council President Patricia Kernighan and McElhaney abstaining.
Brooks said after the vote that she hopes that it puts the contentious issue to rest so that the council can move on with other business.
"There are critical issues facing this city and we need to take care of them," she said.
A letter that Kernighan wrote to the council recommending that Brooks be censured cites a recent Alameda County civil grand jury report that found that city contracting, purchasing and hiring rules were circumvented for the teen center projects.
Kernighan said Brooks personally hired staff to work in the centers and paid them from her City Council office budget for many months before another source of funding was found.
"Her hiring of staff was in violation of the city charter, which requires that city staff for city operated recreation centers, and almost all other city jobs, must be hired through the civil service system," Kernighan said.
In addition, Kernighan said, the staff started working for the teen centers before they had been fingerprinted and had background checks completed, as is required by law.
"In order to maintain public trust in the integrity of city government, I believe it is incumbent upon the City Council to publicly take a position on council member misconduct that violates the city charter and council code of conduct when that misconduct has become known and has been well-documented," Kernighan wrote.
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