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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alameda Citizens' Group Ask AG to Investigate Alleged Corruption; Wants To Disband Fire Dept.

ALAMEDA | Oct. 12, 2011 | An Alameda citizens' group has asked the state attorney general to investigate allegations of corruption between members of the City Council and Fire Department.

The group led by eight community members, including former council candidate Adam Gillett requested the investigation in a letter dated Aug. 15. As of yet, no response has been received from the attorney general's office.

"We urge you to immediately open an investigation. Corruption between the firefighters union and the new mayor and city council members is rife in the City of Alameda," the complaint reads.

"The firefighters union is governing our city and the agencies that are suppose to ensure, ethical and effective government are looking the other way. We are due for more of the same. As you can see from recent events, our very lives are at risk."

The range of complaints listed in the letter cover a host hot-button political controversies over the past year in Alameda. From cries of council coziness with the firefighters union, past skirmishes with land developer SunCal over the future of Alameda Point to the firing of the past city manager. But, the tragic death of Alameda resident Raymond Zack last Memorial Day at Crown Beach, to the group, epitomized local government ineffectiveness that lead directly to the drowning of Zack as public safety personnel appeared to simply watch from the beach.

Standing on the steps in front of City Hall Tuesday evening before the City Council discussed the report into the response to the incident, Gillett said the group considers Zack's demise "a case of negligent homicide."

"We believe there is corruption between the leadership of the Alameda Fire Department, the [International Association of Fire Fighters] IAFF Local 689 and Alameda City Hall, which led to the preventable death of Raymond Zack," said Gillett.

The report written by former state fire chief Ruben Grijalva is not compete and inaccurate and recommends offering more resources to police and fire, said Gillett. "While the report rightly points out the systematic failures in command and communication skills," Gillett said. "it blindly offers generous suggestions to spend more money on training and equipment while ignoring the crux of the problem: management failures and a total lack of accountability or performance requirements and metrics.

Gillett says repeated mentions of missing boats and a vanishing water rescue program in the report misses the point. "Firefighters could have just walked out to talk to him, used a bullhorn, or utilized the rescue long board that has been on display in fire station, number one for many years now."

The same group has begun circulating a petition urging City Manager John Russo to disband the city's fire department and align it with the Alameda County Fire Department. In a response on Twitter, the county fire department said it had no stance on the proposal, but in a response to the question and an unsolicited retweet of a comment by this reporter broadcasting the group's suggestion might be telling.

There is little doubt adding Alameda under the county's jurisdiction would save millions for the city and likely ingratiated it with other neighboring cities, who could further defray their costs with the addition of Alameda. The firefighters union, whose rising political power may have hit a tipping point, would likely oppose any merger since it would like result in a loss of jobs.

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