Edgerly Fired After Postponing Retirement

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sought to put an end to the City Hall phase of the Deborah Edgerly controversy this week, firing the Oakland city administrator in a terse letter delivered late Tuesday. 

“I have elected to terminate you, effective immediately,” the mayor told Edgerly in his letter, giving no reason for the firing. 

What appeared to have set Dellums off, however, was a letter released by Edgerly on Monday saying that instead of retiring on July 31, as planned, she intended to stay on as city administrator until cleared of allegations that she interfered with a police action against West Oakland’s Acorn Gang. 

A city spokesperson said that city employees are reporting to acting City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who was appointed to that position by Dellums last week. Oakland will begin a national search for a new city administrator to replace Edgerly sometime later this year. 

Edgerly has been under fire following her June 7 intervention in an Oakland police towing of a vehicle that had been driven by her nephew, William Lovan. Ten days later, Lovan was one of 54 persons arrested in an Oakland Police Department (OPD) crackdown on the Acorn Gang. 

The mayor’s decision came one week after Dellums stood next to the embattled Edgerly at an Oakland City Hall press conference, calling her his “good friend” and resisting calls to suspend her immediately while law enforcement officials investigated charges that Edgerly may have tipped off her nephew in advance of the June 17 Acorn Gang arrests. Instead, Dellums announced last Tuesday that the city administrator would remain in her position until a long-planned July 31 retirement. 

In the days following that Tuesday press conference, Dellums came under criticism from the press, some members of the public, and some Oakland city councilmembers for refusing to suspend Edgerly immediately. 

On Thursday of last week, with pressure mounting, Dellums and Edgerly reportedly met and agreed that Edgerly would go on administrative leave until her retirement. The mayor and the city administrator agreed to talk again on Monday of this week on the matter, but on Friday Dellums moved forward unilaterally with Edgerly’s suspension, informing her by letter that “the last two weeks have been extremely difficult for you, for me, and for the entire city of Oakland. My discussions with you have been guided by three principles: (1) to not be judgmental of you; (2) to be respectful of you in your tenure as an employee of the city of Oakland; and (3) to balance all of that against the best interest of the city of Oakland. I exercise my authority in this regard without judgment and with the true belief that it is in yours and the city’s best interest that my decision take effect immediately. … I did not want to have to exercise this option knowing that given the present environment people would interpret this as a judgment of guilt. ... 

“While I understand you wanted to get back to me by Monday,” Dellums concluded in a second letter to Edgerly, “these matters are too significant to the well-being of Oakland going forward, as a result I feel compelled to bring closure to this matter.” 

Closure did not come. By Tuesday morning, the Oakland Tribune was reporting that Edgerly was circulating a letter around City Hall, saying that she was rescinding her agreement to retire effective July 31. “I simply want to be given due process,” the Tribune quoted Edgerly’s letter to selected members of the Oakland City Council. “I have sent a letter to the mayor indicating that I will postpone my retirement until I’ve had the opportunity to know and answer the allegations and repair my reputation.” 

Though Dellums’ staff members would give no comment concerning the mayor’s decision to immediately fire Edgerly, the city administrator’s decision to postpone her July 31 retirement indefinitely was clearly the catalyst. 

Sources at City Hall said that there is no evidence that Edgerly ever submitted formal resignation papers to the City of Oakland officials. Such resignation papers are necessary for the state pension system-CalPERS-to begin the process of activating an employee’s pension benefits. 

In a January letter to Dellums, the city administrator only told the mayor of her intention to retire this year. 

A city spokesperson said Edgerly’s January letter “put the mayor on notice, gave him the reasons for her resignation, and gave the rationale for the July 31 timing.”  

Included by Edgerly in her rationale was that the 2008-2009 budget would have been completed and submitted, negotiations with the city’s various unions would be finished, and the City Council would be on summer break, making a transition to a new administrator easier.