On Friday, a state appeals court panel in San Francisco ruled that Oakland did not misspend millions of dollars generated from a 2004 police staffing parcel tax.
Passed by voters in 2004, Measure Y imposed a $90-a-year parcel tax to pay for problem solving officers, or PSOs, and violence-prevention programs.
In 2008, Oakland attorney and resident Marleen Sacks charged that the city had violated the requirements of the measure by failing to maintain a level of 802 officers. Sacks demanded that the city repay $15 million in funds that she said were misspent. Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that neither Sacks nor other Oakland taxpayers were owed refunds by the city.
Later in 2009, in response to a second suit filed by Sacks, Roesch ruled that the city had illegally used the funds in 2008 to hire new patrol officers, and that the city and would have to repay about $10 million into the Measure Y fund for expenses used to train officers who were not placed into Measure Y-funded positions.
Friday’s appellate court decision reversed that part of Roesch’s ruling. In the 3-0 ruling, Justice Robert Dondero stated, “We conclude that the city did not make an impermissible use of Measure Y funds by indirectly hiring and training new officers to replace veteran officers who were assigned to the neighborhood beat positions added by the ordinance.”
In a press release sent out today, Oakland City Attorney John Russo said the city complied with Measure Y requirements by using the funds to hire new officers for the patrol division, which allowed senior officers to be transferred to community policing positions.
Russo’s press release said the court’s decision saves Oakland from having to cut $10 milion from its general fund. “This is a huge decision for a city in Oakland’s financial condition,” he said.
In November, voters passed Measure BB, which allows the city to keep collecting the $90-a-year parcel tax and eliminates the minimum police staffing requirement. But this amendment also means that the Oakland Police Department will have to pull 57 officers and six sergeants from other units and assign them to community policing positions.
Oakland laid off 80 officers in July to help balance its budget, but as a result of retirements and officers leaving for other cities, its force is expected to decrease significantly in the next year.
Correction: Marleen Sacks’ first lawsuit was filed in 2008.