Alleged Union Hanky-Panky Probed in Oakland Trial

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The federal trial of a former Oakland city employee who claims she was wrongfully terminated has kicked off, and two of Wednesday’s witnesses were the city’s former police chief and current fire chief.
     In a lawsuit filed in March 2014, Daryelle Lawanna Preston alleged that Oakland city administrator Deanna Santana fired her from her post as the city’s employee relations director after Preston spoke up about what she believes to be systemic corruption.
     Preston was fired in October 2013.
     She claims that her firing was an act of whistleblower retaliation. Santana contends that Preston was fired because she was not performing her job duties properly and had exhibited insubordination.
     Wednesday morning’s proceedings focused on what Preston alleged was an under-the-table agreement between the Oakland Fire Department and a local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters Union.
     Preston testified that city policy requires any city representative who bargains with organized labor to obtain city council authorization, and she says she sent out a memo in 2012 noting that department managers had been negotiating with the union without authority.
     She said that in June 2013, the fire department met with the local firefighters’ union chapter, Local 55, about extending a paramedic support program for an additional 30 days. The department and the union agreed on the extension, but without the city council’s authorization.
     When Preston reported the unauthorized agreement to Santana, she said Santana told her that city council approval was a “waste of time.”
     After many “unpleasant conversations” with Santana on the subject, Preston said Santana disinvited her from the closed city council session where the agreement was ratified in July 2013.
     Gary Lafayette, who represents Santana, called former Oakland Police Department chief Howard Jordan to the stand on Wednesday.
     Jordan testified that during his tenure as chief from 2011 to 2013, he met every third Tuesday with Barry Donelan, the president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association.
     During some of their meetings, Jordan said Donelan expressed displeasure with how Preston handled labor negotiations.
     In his cross-examination of Jordan, Preston’s attorney Dan Siegel – who was an Oakland mayoral candidate last year – asked Howard whether it was “normal” for union leaders to be critical of management, citing Preston as an example of “management.”
     Howard agreed that it was so.
     Siegel then called to the stand Teresa Reed, the city’s fire chief who made the paramedic support program extension agreement with Local 55.
     Reed testified that the city’s role in labor negotiations was often unclear.
     “We found ourselves doing a lot of that work ourselves,” she said. “At any time, they could have said ‘You shouldn’t be having this conversation without our authority.'”
     When she was notified that her negotiations with Local 55 had been improper, Reed testified she was “confused and surprised.”
     The trial is expected to continue into next week.
     Lafayette is with Lafayette & Kumagai, in San Francisco.
     Siegel’s office is in Oakland.

%d bloggers like this: