Oakland’s Coalition for Police Accounatability Says City Must Stop Negotiating Oversight Legislation behind Closed Doors

                                                      PRESS STATEMENT                              

July 7, 2020

Oakland, Ca. The Coalition for Police Accountability has put the Oakland City Administration and City Council on notice today that it must stop closed-door bargaining of civilian oversight of the Oakland Police Department with the police union, the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA). Should the City refuse this request to follow the law, the Coalition will go to court immediately to seek redress.

On June 9, the City Council voted on a draft revision to Measure LL, intending to fix problems encountered by the Police Commission since it was enacted as Section 604 of the City Charter by the voters in 2016.  Then, following customary but unlawful procedure, it sent the entire draft into a “meet and confer” process with the police union. This is a secret process that can give the police veto power over what goes on the ballot.

This process violates the Brown Act, California Government Code §§54950 et seq. which requires that all meetings of a legislative body, except in certain limited circumstances, must be open to the public.  Cal. Gov. Code §54953(a).  This includes any meetings undertaken by the Oakland City Administrator at the behest of the Council with the OPOA concerning the proposed ballot measure amending Section 604.  While there does exist the right of the City to “meet and confer” with OPOA privately where such discussions relate to the “scope of representation” of Oakland police officers, nothing in the proposed ballot measure amending Measure LL qualifies as a matter pertaining to “scope of representation” justifying secret discussions between the City Administrator and OPOA at the behest of the Council.

Further, Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance, Oakland City Ordinance §§2.20.010 et seq., also requires that any discussions between the City and OPOA at the behest of the Council be conducted in an open and public manner.  The Oakland City Administrator must conduct his business as delegated by the Council pursuant to the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act.  The Council’s directive to the City Administrator to conduct secret “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA concerning the ballot measure to amend Measure LL therefore violates Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance.

The Coalition for Police Accountability is not breaking new ground. In 2001 the City of Oakland entered into a Consent Decree with PUEBLO (People United for a Better Oakland) and the ACLU, agreeing that discussions regarding civilian oversight of the police that have no bearing on the “scope of representation” would have to be conducted in public based on the Brown Act and the Sunshine Ordinance.

This Consent Decree has been repeatedly ignored by the City of Oakland. If the City chooses once again to ignore it, the Coalition will go to court and ask a judge to require the City of Oakland, the Oakland City Council, and the OPOA to abide by the terms of the Consent Decree and California’s open meeting laws.

The Coalition is represented by the law firm of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP and its San Francisco-based partners, Jennifer Mathis and Marcus T. Hall. The firm will consider seeking an injunction against the City administration to prohibit it from conducting closed-door meetings with the OPOA concerning issues not subject to collective bargaining to make sure that such discussions are done in open session. The City has until July 9​th​ to respond before legal action will commence. CPA is awaiting a response from the Administrator and City Attorney. Rashidah Grinage who is named as a concerned citizen in CPA’s letter said, “We want this measure on the ballot this November. But secret meetings between the City and the OPOA to decide what the voters get is unacceptable. It’s time to restore transparency to the legislation of police oversight policy.”

See the full demand letter here:

Council President Kaplan,
My firm, Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP, represents the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability (“the Coalition”), a 501(c)(4) organization that spun off from People United for a Better Oakland (“PUEBLO”) in 2016. We also represent Ms. Rashidah Grinage, a concerned citizen and Oakland resident. All future correspondence concerning the issues identified in this
letter should be sent directly to my attention.

Currently, the Oakland City Council (“Council”) is deliberating about whether to put forward a ballot measure proposing to amend the City Charter, Section 604, as adopted through Measure LL, “to strengthen the independence of the Oakland Police Commission.” As you know,
Coalition members, including Ms. Grinage, have been working closely with the Council and the citizens of Oakland to ensure that any amendments to Measure LL actually serve to strengthen the independence of the Oakland Police Commission (“Commission”) and ensure that their work, done in conjunction with the Oakland Community Policy Review Agency (“Agency”),
provides the appropriate oversight to the Oakland Police Department for the benefit of the citizens of Oakland and the community at large.

The Council’s proposed ballot measure to strengthen the independent oversight of the Oakland Police Department, aided by the Coalition’s work in crafting the language of the ballot measure, is a timely and crucial step toward advancing social and racial equality in our communities. The
civil unrest of the last month as a result of the callous murder of George Floyd at the hands of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has caused our nation to urgently scrutinize community policing activities with the manifest realization that the historic and systemic abuses of police authority disproportionately fall on minority and at-risk communities. As a glaring statistic evidencing this point, Black and Latinx individuals make up a combined 25% of the United States population but comprise over 75% of the victims of fatal police shootings in the past 5 years, such as the recent killing of Sean Monterrosa by the Vallejo Police Department and of Erik Salgado by the California Highway Patrol. It is more important, now than ever, that decisions concerning community policing occur in the full light of day, and without the undue influence of police unions, so that our communities can understand precisely the scope of the systemic problem of abusive police tactics and what our local governments are doing to
eliminate those abuses. It is therefore extremely disappointing to see that, rather than move the Council resolution concerning the proposed amendments to Measure LL forward in public session, on June 9, 2020,
the Council unanimously voted to withdraw the matter from the Council agenda and directed Oakland City Administrator Edward Reiskin to enter into secret, closed “meet and confer” sessions with unidentified Oakland public “employee organizations” concerning the scope and content of the proposed ballot measure. It is clear that the employee organization to which this direction refers is the Oakland Police Officers’ Association (“OPOA”) – the very organization whose members are the subject of the oversight of the Commission and Agency. For the reasons set forth below, the Council’s directive to move discussions with the OPOA concerning the proposed ballot amendment to secret, closed “meet and confer” sessions unlawfully violates the Brown Act and Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance.

Specifically, the Brown Act, California Government Code §§54950 et seq. (a direct result of the secret, deliberative meetings rampant in local Bay Area government during the time leading to its initial passage in 1953) requires that all meetings of a legislative body, except in certain limited circumstances, must be open to the public. Cal. Gov. Code §54953(a). This includes any meetings undertaken by the Oakland City Administrator at the behest of the Council with the OPOA concerning the proposed ballot easure amending Section 604. While there does exist the right of the City to “meet and confer” with OPOA privately where such discussions relate to the “scope of representation” of Oakland police officers, nothing in the proposed ballot measure amending Measure LL qualifies as a matter pertaining to “scope of representation” justifying non-public discussion between the City Administrator and OPOA at the behest of the Council.

Further, Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance, Oakland City Ordinance §§2.20.010 et seq., likewise requires that any discussions between the City and OPOA at the behest of the Council be conducted in an open and public manner. This is the case even if the local body was not governed by the provisions of the Brown Act. Oakland City Ord. §2.20.050. Further, designees of the Council, such as the Oakland City Administrator, must conduct their business as delegated by the Council pursuant to the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act. Oakland City Ord. §2.20.040(A). The Council’s directive to the City Administrator to conduct secret “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA concerning the ballot measure to amend Measure LL therefore
violates Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance.

The Council’s directive to conduct secret, closed “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA is also a breach of the Consent Decree entered into by the Council, the City, and the OPOA in 2001 to resolve a series of lawsuits concerning prior, unlawful secret “meet and confer” sessions amongst those bodies. As you may be aware, in 1999, PUEBLO filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland (“City”) and the Council regarding its unlawful actions in engaging in secret “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA concerning the Oakland Citizens Police Review Board (“CPRB”) – PUEBLO et al. v. City of Oakland et al., Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. 805369-1. During that litigation, the OPOA intervened and thereafter became a party to that
case. After PUEBLO was granted summary judgment, the matter was resolved by a Consent Decree entered January 25, 2001, and executed by the City of Oakland, the Oakland City Council, and the OPOA. Pursuant to its terms, that Consent Decree remains in effect. A copy of that Consent Decree is attached for your convenience.

A review of that Consent Decree shows that the City and the Council are not permitted to conduct closed “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA regarding “legislation . . . concerning the organization, management or policies” of the CPRB unless such topics relate to the “scope of
representation” of the OPOA, exemptions to the Brown Act and Sunshine Ordinance notwithstanding. As stated above, nothing in the language of the proposed ballot measure seeking to amend Measure LL implicates the OPOA, or its members, “scope of representation.”

Further, since the Commission, along with the Agency, is the successor to the business of the CPRB pursuant to the language of Measure LL, the Consent Decree applies to those bodies. The Council’s June 9, 2020 directive to the Oakland City Administrator to hold closed “meet and
confer” sessions violates the Consent Decree.

Accordingly, demand is hereby made that the Council immediately withdraw and rescind its directive to the City Administrator to conduct closed “meet and confer” sessions with the OPOA, and that any future meetings between the City, the Council, and OPOA be conducted in an open
and public fashion as required by law and pursuant to the terms of the Consent Decree. Additionally, demand is hereby made that a list identifying the date and time of any closed “meet and confer” sessions which have occurred to-date, as well as the identity of all attendees or participants to such meetings, be provided to my office. Further, we hereby demand that all notes, memoranda, recordings, or other documents related to any closed “meet and confer” sessions which may have occurred to date be likewise immediately provided to my office.

By this letter, my clients and I do not want to cause a delay in the Council’s deliberations that would make it impossible to place the ballot measure before the Oakland voters this November. Rather, our intent is to ensure full transparency, as required by law, in the finalization of the
provisions that will result in the ballot measure to be placed before the voters promptly. Instead, we would very much like the City and the Council to voluntarily comply with their open meeting obligations under the Brown Act, Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance, and the Consent Decree. If,
however, compliance with the law and th
e demands set forth herein is not immediately forthcoming, we will have no choice but to pursue litigation, including seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunction against the City, the Council, and the
OPOA to ensure full compliance with the law.

Please respond to this letter no later than July 9, 2020. Should we not receive a response by that date, we will proceed with litigation to enforce our clients’ rights in this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Very truly yours,
Marcus T. Hall

1 Comment on "Oakland’s Coalition for Police Accounatability Says City Must Stop Negotiating Oversight Legislation behind Closed Doors"

  1. About time.

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