Russo rumored to be leaving Oakland for position in Alameda
on March 1, 2011
According to several local news reports, Oakland City Attorney John Russo may be hoping to leave his post and step into new shoes as Alameda’s city manager. Last Friday, The Oakland Tribune reported that Russo is one of three finalists for the position, although Russo has denied he is looking for another job.
Russo’s office declined to comment to Oakland North about the reports or about his future role as Oakland’s City Attorney.
According to the Alameda officials, more than 65 people applied for Alameda’s city manager position. The Alameda City Council interviewed six candidates and unanimously selected three finalists during a closed-door session on February 19. The council will make a final decision after the candidates are reviewed by three advisory boards said Jill Kolvac, management analyst for Alameda’s human resources department.
Alameda newspaper The Island has reported that in addition to Russo the other finalists for the job are Alameda’s former assistant city attorney, David Brandt, and Millbrae City Manager Marcia Raines.
In order to maintain the confidentiality of their process, Alameda city officials would not confirm the names or backgrounds of the finalists. Russo’s office also would not confirm whether he is a candidate for the job.
If the news reports are correct, Russo would be the second high-ranking Oakland city official to seek another job this year. In January, news leaked that Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts was one of two finalists seeking the position of San Jose’s police chief. When he was not awarded the position, Batts initially made public statements that he might not stay on in his current position because of police funding problems, but after further discussions with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan he recommitted himself to staying in Oakland.
Rumors of Russo’s departure have been circulating for weeks, and within the last several months initiatives supported by his office have put him in conflict with some city leaders.
Russo’s office has pushed for the establishment of two Oakland gang injunctions, one in North Oakland and one in the Fruitvale neighborhood, that would seek to reduce violence by restricting the behavior of alleged gang members. But it’s been a controversial issue that not all Oakland city officials have supported.
Quan chose former Oakland school board member Dan Siegel, a lawyer who opposes the Fruitvale gang injunction, as her unpaid advisor. Russo’s office also sought to bar lawyers from Siegel’s law firm from representing those named in the injunction, saying it would create a conflict of interest for council president Jane Brunner, who also works there. An Alameda County Judge ruled that the law firm would be able to represent injunction defendants as long they placed a “firewall” between their work and the city’s actions.
Then last month, Russo surprised the city council when he announced that his office would not provide legal advice on the city’s proposal to permit and tax large-scale marijuana farms. After receiving warnings from county and federal officials that the farms might violate state and federal drug laws, Russo explained in a letter to the council that an attorney can recuse himself from representing a client if that client “seeks to pursue an illegal course of conduct.”
Quan, Brunner and Siegel’s offices declined to comment about Russo’s rumored departure.
Russo’s term does not expire for two years. If he leaves, under Oakland’s city charter the council would pick a replacement to serve until the next election. If a replacement is not chosen within 60 days, the council must set a special election date.
The Alameda job became available last December when the Alameda city council decided against renewing the contract of Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, which expires next month. Gallant earns $250,000 in base salary, or about $286,000 with benefits. Not including benefits, Russo earns $213,949 in base salary with a car allowance, according to Alameda and Oakland city public reports.
The three selection advisory panels that will help chose Alameda’s next city manager will be made up of community representatives, city department heads and representatives from bargaining groups within the city. The community panel is expected to include representatives from the Alameda Unified School District, the Chamber of Commerce and other groups, plus one representative for the mayor and each council member.
The final selection will be made by the council, but a decision is not expected until the end of March.
By that time, the court should have decided whether to approve the City Attorney’s Office’s request for a preliminary Fruitvale gang injunction, which faces another hearing this Wednesday. It’s uncertain what would become of the injunctions or other legal matters Oakland is currently facing if a new city attorney were to replace Russo.
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