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Oakland mayor "in over her head," says former city council president

Former city council president calls out Sheng Thao's handling of Oakland government
Former city council president calls out Sheng Thao's handling of Oakland government 02:51

OAKLAND -- In the wake of Thursday's FBI search of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao's residence, a longtime city council president and former candidate for mayor is speaking out.

Ignacio De La Fuente has been an Oakland resident for more than 50 years and he says he's never seen anything like this. He was frank about how the mayor has handled her first year in office and how she's handling this situation now.

Fuente ran for mayor and lost to Thao in 2022. He was the first council president in Oakland as the city switched to a "strong mayor" form of government in 1999. He, along with many Oaklanders, has been carefully watching the FBI investigation unfold at the mayor's home.

"Just like anybody else. It's incredible," he said.

Fuente came in third behind Thao and councilmember Loren Taylor in the 2022 election. He still has questions about how much money she raised for her campaign. Fuente says she at least owes residents answers on why her home was the target of an FBI raid.

"I think for the mayor to not be available to even answer the questions -- even explain -- to me is totally unacceptable," he said. "It comes with the territory. You're the mayor. You're the highest-ranking elected official in the city."

As for city business, the mayor has already submitted her budget proposal. Now the city council has the power to approve budgets and allocate resources. While Mayor Thao says she is working from a remote location, the rest will be handled by Oakland's city administrator.

"This city is run by the city administrator," said Dan Lindheim, former Oakland city administrator. "So is that a real difference if she's not around? No, it's not a real difference."

Fuente says that, until this situation is settled or the recall happens, he would like to see the council leadership take charge and focus on issues plaguing the city. That's something he feels the mayor hasn't done well in her first year in office.

"To be candid, she's in over her head," Fuente said. "The reality is people elected a person that had no background, no experience running a city and we're playing the price of that."

When asked if Fuente will consider running for mayor?

"I care about the city," he said. "So if I don't see somebody with experience or with the ability to really get the city back on track -- probably. May be my last contribution to the city of Oakland."

Thao, who was already facing a recall vote, has been criticized by some parties since the raids. The Oakland chapter of the NAACP has called on the mayor to step down. Renia Webb, a former chief of staff for Thao has also said the mayor should resign, repeating allegations she has made since February of last year that Thao's administration is mired in pay-to-play schemes

Thao has retained a top criminal defense attorney Tony Brass, who on Friday said the investigation is not focused on his client.

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