Oakland Public Ethics Commission Sues Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney for Failure to Turn Over Public Records

The PEC says she has stonewalled the agency since July.


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Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has sued Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney for her failure to turn over public records. The PEC—the city’s main political watchdog agency—states in court records that since July, Gibson McElhaney has stonewalled investigators who are probing whether she illegally used city resources to block a housing development next to her home.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Colwell has scheduled a hearing on the suit for Nov. 7—one day before Election Day. Gibson McElhaney is seeking reelection to her District 3 seat, Downtown-West Oakland.

According to a sworn declaration by PEC Chief Investigator Milad Dalju, the PEC began asking Gibson McElhaney for her office records on July 22. After Gibson McElhaney did not respond, PEC investigator Simon Russell sent a follow-up email on Juy 25. The council president then asked Russell to resend the subpoena for the documents. Russell did, and gave her an Aug. 10 deadline to comply.

But Gibson McElhaney failed to respond by Aug. 10, claiming she never received the email. On Aug. 11, Russell handed a copy of the subpoena to Gibson McElhaney’s aide, Alessia Brisbin, and extended the deadline to Aug. 25.

But Gibson McElhaney failed to turn over the documents by that deadline, too. On Sept. 1, she sent an email to the PEC, promising to comply with the subpoena by Sept. 2. However, she never did. And according to court records, she has still failed to turn over the records. The PEC filed its suit on Oct. 5. 

The PEC is examining whether Gibson McElhaney violated the law when she worked to block a multi-unit housing project at 530 32nd Street, nextdoor to her home. The agency has subpoenaed all of her correspondence regarding that issue. 

But because she has stonewalled the agency, it’s seems clear that the PEC will not be able to complete its investigation before the Nov. 8 election. Under city law, the PEC has the authority to fine and censure Gibson McElhaney. The council president's failure to comply with the PEC's subpoena is also illegal, and she could face sanctions by the court.

Gibson McElhaney did not immediately respond for comment for this report.

Dalju declined to comment on the case.

Published Oct. 28, 2016 at 1:10 p.m.     

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