The administration of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sought to put a quick end to the controversy surrounding Oakland Administrator Deborah Edgerly this week by announcing that, based upon a longstanding agreement between the mayor and the administrator going back to January, Edgerly will retire effective July 31 of this year.
Until then, Edgerly said, she will continue in her job with full powers as city administrator.
However, Dellums may have raised more issues than he settled when he ended a packed Tuesday afternoon City Hall press conference by refusing to answer reporters’ follow-up questions about investigations into Edgerly’s June 7 actions surrounding a police towing incident involving her nephew and a later related police raid and arrest of several members of a West Oakland gang, saying that those answers were “self-evident” from the remarks he and Edgerly had just made.
The abrupt ending to the press conference left reporters and camera crews standing around, apparently stunned by Dellums and Edgerly’s quick departure from the mayor’s conference room.
After Dellums Chief of Staff David Chai was surrounded by reporters following the press conference and began answering a string of shouted questions, a second, unnamed City Hall staff member came behind him, told him “it’s time to leave, David,” and physically pulled him out of the conference room.
Edgerly was later swamped by reporters on her way to another City Hall meeting but refused to speak further on the matter.
The Edgerly controversy began with a June 7 West Oakland incident in which Edgerly is alleged to have intervened with Oakland police officers while the officers were towing a car that had been driven by the city administrator’s nephew, 27-year-old William Lovan. Police later recovered a pistol from the car. Lovan was one of 34 people arrested 10 days later in a police raid on West Oakland’s Acorn gang. A police spokesperson said that Lovan was charged with a weapons violation “possibly” stemming from the pistol found in the car in the June 7 towing.
On Friday afternoon, after stories on the June 7 incident were published in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle, Dellums sent a terse e-mail to all Oakland City staff members saying that “effective immediately, all departments and agencies are to report directly to me regarding city matters.”
A spokesperson for Dellums confirmed on Monday that an investigation was being conducted into allegations that Edgerly interfered with a police operation, but refused to comment on published reports that the mayor has given Edgerly an ultimatum to resign or be fired.
“These are very serious allegations and the mayor is looking into them,” Dellums Public Information Officer Paul Rose said by telephone earlier this week. “Beyond that, I can’t make any further comment because this is a personnel matter.”
Rose confirmed following the press conference that Dellums had completed his investigation into the June 7 incident.
Edgerly issued a statement on June 20 calling the “rumors and press stories” surrounding the June 7 incident “shocking” and “untrue and unfounded … I am being tried in the court of public opinion by rumor, innuendo and presumption of guilt.”
Edgerly added that she has “not been fired or asked to resign. I have had many gracious and warm conversations with Mayor Dellums over the past three days, as recently as this afternoon. No ultimatums were issued and no decisions have been made.”
While media reports described a tense City Hall atmosphere for several days surrounding the controversy, Dellums and Edgerly appeared relaxed and smiling at Tuesday’s press conference.
Edgerly joked to reporters that “I’m always amazed at how much star power I have” in being able to pack a press conference. Dellums introduced her as “my friend,” adding that he “thank[ed] her for her extraordinary efforts of support in my administration. I have learned a lot from her.”
Dellums said that Edgerly had initially approached him by letter on Jan. 28, telling him that she was planning on retiring later this year. Dellums said that he put a $150,000 item in his FY08-09 budget recommendation released several weeks ago that was earmarked to set up a consultant team to conduct a national search for a new administrator.
Edgerly was most adamant about her status during the remaining month in her position. “I am city administrator,” she said. “When I walk out of this door today it will be as city administrator, with all the duties and responsibilities of that position. The newspapers have reported that I have been stripped of power. That’s not true.”
Questioned by reporters on her way to her City Hall office, District 4 Councilmember and City Council Finance Committee Chair Jean Quan confirmed that plans for an Edgerly resignation this year had long been in place, but said that “they had been putting back” the mid-summer date prior to the current controversy.
In the police incident report, written by an OPD officer identified only as N. Miller, the officer said that while he and his partner were in the vicinity of 12th and Market streets as part of the Acorn bust project known as “Operation Nutcracker,” he received information that Lovan’s car was outside a liquor store at 12th and Market. The informant had overheard Lovan telling another individual about “a firearm being inside of the vehicle.”
Sometime before the auto was towed, Miller reports that Edgerly appeared on the scene. “Lovan was her nephew, and she wanted to know why … the vehicle was getting towed and that she was on the phone calling Chief Jordan.”
There is no indication in Miller’s report of what Sgt. Coleman later told Edgerly in their conversation, or what the city administrator did afterwards. In the report, Miller says that even Lovan himself was not told the real reason why the car was being towed.