Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oakland Council Must Revote on Port Board Appointments

File this under "Oops."

A recent Oakland City Council vote approving the appointment of Jakada Imani and Victor Uno to the Port of Oakland Harbor Commission will have to be retaken on the advice of the City Attorney for potentially violating the state's open meeting laws.

The vote, which occurred earlier this month, approved replacing commissioner Margaret Gordon with Imani and approved reappointing Uno to the port governing board.

However, the vote took place during a crowded and confusing council meeting, where more than 60 members of the public had signed up to speak. Council members, who had already given preliminary approval to the appointments during two previous public meetings, took the Imani/Uno vote before allowing the registered members of the public to speak – an apparent violation of the state's open meeting laws.

Following the meeting, a Council subcommittee asked City Attorney Barbara Parker to evaluate whether the process regarding the vote was properly handled by the council. Parker later notified Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in a memo that the council vote on the commissioners was invalid.

"Given the confusion in the chamber and timing of the vote, we conclude that public speakers on both sides of the issue were not given a clear opportunity to speak before the Council voted on the item as required by the Sunshine Ordinance and Brown Act," Parker said in the memo.

"It is of the utmost importance that citizens have a voice in the business conducted on their behalf by the Council. To fully comply with the requirement that the public has a meaningful opportunity to address the Council before it takes action, this item must be re-noticed to “cure and correct."

Mayor Quan has drawn heat from the public and many members of the city council over her plans to replace Gordon, a noted environmental and community activist, on the port board. In addition, Quan has taken criticism for the way she handled the appointment of Imani over Gordon – reportedly notifying Gordon of her decision via email and refusing to talk to Gordon supporters regarding the decision.

For her part, Quan has denied any improper treatment of Gordon.