Santana Quits, Blackwell Takes Reins as City Administrator

While Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana are publicly parting ways on the best of terms, Oakland Post sources at City Hall are painting a more stormy behind-the-scenes farewell.

Santana, 43, abruptly announced her resignation over the weekend. Quan appointed assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell to fill the position, effective noon on Tuesday of this week.

According to city sources, Santana was angry that Quan had been leaking to the press that Santana was job hunting. In effect, she quit because she felt that Quan was pressuring her to leave sooner than she had planned, making her a lame duck administrator.

She called Quan and told her she was quitting, effective immediately, according to sources.

Santana took the reins in Oakland two years ago, after a long career with the City of San Jose. She was hired in 2011 for a salary in excess of $270, 000 a year plus perks. She reportedly lives in Fremont.

Assistant Administrator Fred Blackwell

Assistant Administrator Fred Blackwell

The city administrator has a contact that runs through 2015, and she may be entitled to a severance package.

The disputes between Oakland’s two top leaders can be traced to Quan’s concerns that the city administrator was undermining the mayor’s chances at reelection.

While Quan rarely disagreed or took positions contrary to Santana’s, the mayor felt strongly that Santana was sabotaging her campaign, the sources said.

Quan and Santana were joined at the hip over a number of issues that damaged the mayor’s credibility. Santana was reportedly a key force in the city behind the decision to evict Occupy, which left the mayor with a reputation as a weak and vacillating leader.

There were also many residents who were angered that Santana, seemingly backed by the mayor, opposed reforms of the Oakland Police Department and repeatedly sided with the Oakland Police Officers Association against the interests of the community.

One such issue was Santana’s repeated refusal to implement a City Council decision on where to house civilians who do intake of complaints against the police. The council voted to house them outside of the police department, but Santana sided with OPOA, which wanted the civilians to be housed where they would be supervised directly by officers in OPD’s Internal Affairs Division.

In August 2012, Santana accused Federal Monitor Robert Warshaw, assigned to oversee the police department, of making inappropriate comments to her and calling her “stunning.” City attorneys filed a federal motion in court but withdrew it after these accusations became public.

Observers considered the accusation to be a stalling tactic on Santana’s part.

Besides her actions on police reform, Santana angered residents over her staff’s approval of a mega-crematorium in East Oakland without sufficient community input. In addition, her staff moved ahead with the Oakland Army Base project with no plan to keep big rig trucks out of West Oakland or to maintain existing small businesses that employed local residents.

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