Our Backyard: It’s Past Time for Censure

The $4.3 million judgments against the city of Oakland and Desley Brooks were the last straw.


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Desley Brooks

Photo by Steven Tavares

Desley Brooks has long been an embarrassment in Oakland City Hall. The city councilmember has routinely been rude to, dismissive of, and abusive toward her council colleagues and the public. And now her anger — and violence — threatens to cost the cash-strapped city millions of dollars at a time when it can barely afford to pave streets, fix broken sewer pipes, and keep libraries open.

In short, it’s past time for the council to censure Brooks for gross violations of the council’s official code of conduct.

The last straw for Brooks was the recent $4.3 million legal judgments against her and the city of Oakland for her 2015 assault of ex-Black Panther Elaine Brown. An Alameda County jury ruled unanimously that the city must pay $3.75 million of that total because Brooks was acting in her official capacity as councilmember when she attacked Brown at Everett & Jones BBQ restaurant. Witnesses said that just before the assault, Brooks threatened to use her position as councilmember to block Brown’s plan to build affordable housing in West Oakland.

The jury ordered Brooks to personally pay Brown $550,000. Two jurors told the East Bay Times that she has “anger-management issues,” and one called her a “bully.”

Unfortunately for Oaklanders, the city’s insurance policy will only pay $750,000 of the $3.75 million, so the city likely will have to slash programs and reduce services to pay the rest — if the judgments are upheld on appeal.

No elected official should ever act so irresponsibly as to lose $3 million in public funds. And no elected official should ever violently attack another person. Brown had to be hospitalized.

According to the council’s official code of conduct, “abusive conduct” is grounds for censure. One could argue that Brooks has repeatedly violated that standard. There’s no doubt she did so in the Brown case.

It’s also worth noting that the council adopted its censure policy after another case of misconduct by Brooks — for misusing public funds in her district. The council declined to censure Brooks in that case in part because it hadn’t yet adopted a censure policy.

It has one now. And Brooks clearly should be censured. It’s mostly a symbolic act, but it would send a strong message to her District 6 constituents to elect a new councilmember this November.  

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