OAKLAND -- Attorneys seeking a federal takeover of Oakland's police department are demanding the city investigate who leaked allegations that the monitor overseeing police made sexual advances toward City Administrator Deanna Santana and pledging to fight any effort to stall the takeover push.
"I believe that the way the city has handled this ... has been so completely inappropriate that it demonstrates the need for outside help," said Jim Chanin, one of two attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the Riders police misconduct case that placed the department under federal monitoring.
Late last Friday, city attorneys filed a motion in federal court disclosing that an investigation was underway into potentially damaging allegations against the monitor, Robert Warshaw.
While the city on Monday withdrew the motion, conceding that it contained confidential information that shouldn't have become public, sources alleged that Warshaw made inappropriate statements to Santana during several meetings beginning in May.
Warshaw allegedly proposed that Santana meet him at private locations and once took Santana's hand and told her that she looked "stunning." He also is alleged to have used profanities in questioning the will of Police Chief Howard Jordan and his top commanders to reform the department.
The accusations could complicate hearings scheduled for December to consider placing the department under a federal receiver because of its failure to fully implement reforms spelled out in the 2003 agreement that settled the Riders case.
As monitor, Warshaw is responsible for evaluating the department's progress. His most recent reports have faulted police for stagnating on several tasks, all of which were supposed to be completed four years ago.
If U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson moves forward with the hearing, attorneys with the city will be able to try to attack Warshaw's credibility, police union attorney Rocky Lucia said. "If there's a credibility finding, then I could see it being a problem."
Chanin and his co-counsel John Burris issued a statement Wednesday questioning the timing of the allegations and pledged to push forward with their motion to place the department under federal receivership. "We believe more innocent people will suffer if the process to hold the Oakland Police Department accountable is derailed at this time," they wrote.
Chanin also accused the city of disclosing the allegations immediately after Warshaw's attorney had left the country on vacation.
The allegations, if sustained by the independent investigator, wouldn't necessarily enable the city to stall the receivership hearings, said David Levine, a professor at Hastings School of the Law. Even if the city moves to remove Warshaw as monitor, Henderson could keep that issue separate from the receivership proceedings, Levine said. "The judge has lots of tools to keep this on track."
As for damaging Warshaw's credibility, Levine said the city would have to do more than show that he had a bias against Santana.
"That's not enough," he said. "The city would have to show that the bias was reflected in the reports."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.