Alameda County to adopt anti-nepotism policy

Alameda County plans to adopt an anti-nepotism policy this year after the county government was criticized by a grand jury for not having one.

The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury began investigating the county more than a year ago after fielding complaints that two county supervisors -- not named in the grand jury report -- had helped their own family members get county jobs.

The grand jury was unable to substantiate any impropriety but in a report published last year said the county ought to implement written rules regarding the hiring of relatives to "avoid the appearance of favoritism and bias" and "remind officials that old-fashioned cronyism is unacceptable."

The report found that the county government was one of only three municipalities in the county lacking a formal anti-nepotism policy -- rules the jury said can "eliminate the perception of patronage." The others lacking such rules were the cities of Fremont and Alameda, though the latter was working on one. Berkeley's policy is the best model, the report said, because it requires written approval before the hiring of a relative. Even Berkeley, however, exempts elected officials from the scrutiny.

Responding to the grand jury in a letter late last month, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors said it planned to adopt a policy by the end of the fiscal year after it confers with employee unions. And the new rules will apply to elected officials, not just county workers.

Oakland approves sending police cadets to county academy

In its latest effort to beef up police staffing, the City Council this week unanimously approved sending 25 recruits to an Alameda County police academy scheduled to begin in March.

Oakland will pay the county $177,000 for the training, which does not include the cadets' salaries. Total cost for the academy will be somewhat higher than doing it in-house, but the city is eager to quickly bolster the ranks of a police force where officers are working mandatory overtime to keep beats filled.

The department is on track to exceed its annual overtime budget by $14 million this fiscal year, according to a city report.

Oakland entered the year with 624 officers -- far fewer than the 665 authorized in the city's budget.

Reaching that number has been a challenge. The department has been losing five officers per month to retirements and resignations, and recent academies have not produced the anticipated 40-officer graduating classes.