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A local connection to Oaktown scandal

By Aaron Kinney
Thursday, August 21st, 2008 at 7:10 pm in Aaron Kinney, City Council, Corruption, Millbrae.

It turns out there’s a local angle to the case of Deborah Edgerly, the former administrator for the city of Oakland.

Edgerly (pictured below and to the right) was fired last month by Mayor Ron Dellums after she was suspected of tipping her nephew off to a gang investigation being conducted by Oakland police.

But that was just one of myriad improper things Edgerly is now accused of having done during her time at the top of Oakland’s bureaucratic pyramid. And many of those allegations are contained in a civil lawsuit filed against her by Millbrae’s finance director, LaRae Brown.

Brown served as Oakland’s controller until March 2007, when Edgerly fired her. In her suit, filed June 8 in Alameda County Superior Court, Brown said she was let go in retaliation after she uncovered all sorts unethical practices taking place on Edgerly’s watch.

Brown said she discovered in 2006 that the city’s payroll and accounting practices were completely out of whack and that Edgerly was overstating the city’s cash balance by $172 million.

But when she took her concerns to her supervisor, she was stonewalled, and Edgerly continued to provide misleading financial reports to the City Council, according to the suit, which surmises that Edgerly wanted to prevent the bad news from surfacing prior to her planned retirement in 2008.

Brown also said that Edgerly improperly cashed in all her sick, vacation and management leave, to the tune of $183,000; gave herself and loyal cronies $5,000 and $10,000 bonuses without council approval; and put relatives on the payroll who were compensated for work they didn’t perform.

Brown was fired, according to the suit, after she informed her supervisor that she planned to hire an outside firm to conduct an audit of the city’s payroll. Two days later, Brown’s supervisor told her she had to “pack up her things,” because Edgerly wanted her out immediately, according to the suit.

Brown’s suit seeks compensatory damages in excess of $25,000 as well as unspecified punitive damages against Edgerly and other unnamed city officials.

Brown’s attorney, John Burris, said it could be two years before the case goes to trial. In the meantime, Brown is doing fine in her position across the Bay.

“There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the case,” Burris said. “I’m glad she’s sort of removed from that.”

“She was stifled,” Burris said of his client’s experience in Oakland. “Some of the things that took place here were beyond the pale.”

Brown has not returned the Insider’s phone calls. Presumably, however, she’s enjoying her time serving under outgoing Millbrae City Manager Ralph Jaeck more than her unpleasant stint in Oakland.

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