I've known Roland Smith for over 10 years and going back to my days with The Montclarion. I first met him at the annual Christmas party of a mutual friend. As to the matter of how Roland treats his staff, this has been old news. But I didn't realize it had escalated to this level. Roland needs the staffers, if only to take a look at how the City's spending its money.
Embattled auditor sues Oakland
Mayor, council named in filing that asks a judge to restore staff
By Heather MacDonald, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE
OAKLAND — City Auditor Roland Smith has sued the mayor, city administrator and City Council, claiming they improperly stripped his office of the staff needed to effectively execute its duties.
Filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, the lawsuit asks a judge to order the city to immediately hire three permanent deputy city auditors and to increase the number of positions in the office to nine beginning July 1.
"Principles of independence and accountability demand that the city's auditing powers be guarded against political interference," according to the suit. In addition, the suit asks the judge to hold a hearing to determine precisely how many staff members are necessary to meet the requirements laid out by the City Charter.
In January, an internal investigation that determined Smith created a hostile work environment prompted City Administrator Deborah Edgerly to reassign all but two members of his office.
Smith, who dismisses those allegations as "distortions and fabrications," has long battled the council and city administration over staffing and his budget. Smith will face three challengers on June 6 in his bid for a third term.
Scott Kivel, Smith's Petaluma-based attorney, acknowledged it was unusual for an elected official to sue other elected officials in the same municipal government.
Kivel said Smith filed suit after exhausting all of his "viable" solutions. Smith scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. today to discuss the lawsuit.
The City Attorney's Office has recused itself, said Erica Harrold, a spokeswoman for City Attorney John Russo. The firm of Ruiz & Sperow has been retained to represent the city, she added.
Edgerly did not return a phone message Wednesday afternoon.
The inquiry, conducted by a private law firm, found Smith verbally abused his staff, retaliated against them when they complained and made derogatory remarks about women and Asian employees.
In March, Edgerly agreed to recommend to the council that three new staff members be hired, with three more hired after the start of the fiscal year on July 1. In return, Smith agreed to allow Edgerly to assign an employee to keep tabs on the day-to-day operations of the office and have final say over any personnel decisions.
That agreement was mediated by Judge Richard Hodge, the former presiding judge of the Alameda County Superior Courts.
However, on April 4, the council agreed to hire three new employees in the auditor's office — but only on a temporary basis, and made no final decision regarding staffing for the 2006-07 fiscal year.
Several council members said they were concerned that the problems in the office would reoccur and prove costly for the city.
Smith's suit accuses Edgerly of failing to live up to the agreement, and contends the City Charter gives the council no choice but to adequately fund the independent office of the auditor. That position is supported by an opinion issued by Russo.
In a statement, Russo said the ultimate resolution of the suit should preserve "the independence of the office rather than one that subjects it to inappropriate council control."
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