Angry community members packed into the City Council chambers to defend East Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks, while Council President Pat Kernighan could even not find the support on the council for a second to the motion to censure her.
Based on a recent report by the Alameda County Grand Jury, Brooks was accused of violating the City Charter for interfering with city staff to ensure the building of the Rainbow Teen Center at 58th and International Boulevard.
“I received numerous emails (asking) why we’re not saying this was wrongful behavior,” said Kernighan.
Audience members shouted in protest suggesting the motion to censure Brooks was a ”witch hunt” and that the council needed to “do the right thing.”
Others complained that those favoring censure were “putting the cart before the horse,” trying to pass a censure motion before the council had developed a policy for censure.
Nearly all of the 74 public speakers who signed up to speak at the meeting supported Brooks and opposed censure.
Brooks argued that the charges against her utilized documents that did not have any connection with her, and she gave examples of other councilmembers, such as Libby Schaff, who violated the City Charter by directing the actions of staff.
“Facts you’re sharing with the public are not true,” Brooks told Kernighan, addressing Kernighan’s explanation of the censure. “It would be helpful if Kernighan spent some time doing city business.”
“You have a pattern of misstating things to fit your argument,” Brooks said to Kernighan.
Brooks said the meeting was being improperly held because the council does not have a censure policy in place. Councilmember Larry Reid called the motion a racially motivated attack.
“…On this council that I am a part of racism is alive and well,” Reid said. “This action you’re taking today is a dog and pony show.”
“How can we trust you when you’re attacking your colleagues?” asked Jean Johnson-Fields, a native and resident of Oakland, speaking to the council.
Carol Williams Curtis, an Oakland resident who lives in Brooks’ district, said her son was killed in Brookfield Village in 2005. But another murder had not happened at that particular site because of the work Brooks does in the community.
“The stench of death is too high, [and] that’s the act that needs to be censured,” Curtis said. Let’s not make Desley the scapegoat.”
At press time, the council still had not considered motions to condemn the censure, begin work on a policy and procedures for handling future censures, and another motion criticizing all council members for having engaged in practices in violation of the City Charter.