Judge Denies Injunction Bid In Police Funding Lawsuit

By Bay City News Service and Berkeley Daily Planet Staff
Saturday July 19, 2008 - 03:53:00 PM

A judge on Friday denied a bid for a preliminary injunction to Oakland attorney-plaintiff Marleen Sacks, who says the city of Oakland should return $60 million to its taxpayers because it has failed to live up to its promise to hire more police officers under the Measure Y mandates. 

But Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch also denied the city's request to have the lawsuit dismissed, so it appears there will be a hearing on Sacks' case's merits in the fall. 

According to a release from the Oakland City Attorney's Office, the ruling agrees with an impartial analysis provided by the City Attorney's Office that was included in the ballot information given to every voter before the November 2004 election. The analysis said that the city could collect the tax so long as the money was an addition to the existing police budget. 

Measure Y was a parcel tax measure passed by Oakland voters in 2004 as a way, among other things, of adding 63 new uniformed police officers to the then-existing authorized strength of 740. 

Sacks, an attorney who lives and works in Oakland, alleges in her lawsuit that the city is in effect "robbing" its citizens by taking $7.7 million from Measure Y and using it for generalized police recruitment. At Mayor Ron Dellums' request earlier this year, the Oakland City Council approved that fund transfer both to fully staff both the 63 Measure Y positions and the 740 regular uniformed officer slots. Dellums’ administration and police department officials have been predicting for weeks that the city is on track to meet the goal of 803 uniformed officers by the end of the year. 

But in her lawsuit, Sacks charges that the city has illegally collected $60 million 

because it has failed to live up to the promise to have at least 739 officers in the years that it has collected funds for Measure Y. 

Sacks alleges that the city council's unanimous vote on March 4 to use $7.7 million in Measure Y funds to hire more officers is improper because she believes it's really a generalized recruiting drive that should be paid for out of the city's general fund. 

But in his ruling, Roesch said there's no basis for a preliminary injunction because Sacks didn't demonstrate that she and the city's taxpayers would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction isn't granted now. 

Roesch told lawyers for the city of Oakland that Sacks' petition 

"may be a hodgepodge of actions" and is "vaguely asserted" but he's inclined 

to let it proceed to a hearing on its merits. 

However, he allowed attorneys for the city to have 15 days to file 

a motion to request having Sacks' petition narrowed down. 

"The position of the City Attorney's Office has been the same from the beginning," City Attorney John Russo said in a prepared statement following the judge's decision. "Whether you agree with how Measure Y has been administered since its passage, the independent analysis our office gave to voters was unambiguous and correct." 

But after today's hearing, Sacks said she was disappointed but not surprised that Roesch didn't grant a preliminary injunction but she's "very pleased" that her suit can go forward. 

Sacks said "there must be accountability" because Oakland city officials and elected officials promised in 2004 that they would hire more police officers if Measure Y passed. 

Sacks alleged that, "The city wants to argue that all those lies and misrepresentations by city officials are irrelevant and that city officials and politicians can lie with impunity."