Follow the Money! Vella, Oddie, and the Firefighters Union
Jim Oddie raised over $74,000 for his 2018 election. More than $32,000 came from labor unions, including $5,704 from the Alameda Firefighters Union. That same union expended approximately an additional $8,500 in non-monetary independent expenditures on his behalf. Thus, of a total of $82,500 spent on the campaign, $40,500 came from unions (49%). Less than $20,000 was contributed by individuals and many of them as well as most of the unions were non-residents! The remaining $40,000 was contributed by businesses, many of whom were non-residents.
Malia Vella raised over $52,000 for her 2016 election with $32,150 coming from unions. Of 65 non-union contributions, 38 were not residents of Alameda. None of these cash contributions came from the firefighters but $19,000 in independent expenditures were made to support her under the banner Alamedans United PAC, which was the proxy for the Firefighter’s Union, with the lion’s share of its funds contributed by unions. So, actually she had $71,000 spent on the campaign, of which $51,000 came primarily from unions, 72%!
So, What Does This Have to Do with the 2020 Election? A new collective bargaining agreement for police and fire will be presented for Council approval soon. Police and Fire costs constitute 69%of our general fund. Voters need to decide if they believe Oddie and Vella can objectively evaluate those agreements.
In 2017 Oddie and Vella were experienced attorneys, the latter of which teaches a college course on ethics. They were both aware of the Charter provision prohibiting interference in the City Manager’s hiring of a new Fire Chief. However, they felt so pressured by the Firefighter’s Union leadership’s seeking selection of one member as Fire Chief that they determined to try to influence the hiring decision of the City Manager. This resulted in both of them to be found in violation of the Charter by the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury which cost the City over a million dollars to resolve litigation stemming from their actions. 1 To add insult to injury they filed claims against the City for reimbursement of tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and in Vella’s case, she also filed a claim for damage to her reputation in an unspecified amount. (All of these claims have now been abandoned in favor of running for re-election!)
The Fire Chief selection scandal is only the tip of the iceberg! In 2017 Oddie and Vella voted to hire highly compensated firemen for the City Inspectors’ positions which could have been easily filled by less expensive and highly qualified civilian candidates. In 2019 they joined with John Knox White, another Firefighters supported Councilmember to create a new “fire marshal” position that will cost at least $355,000 per year in salary and benefits. 2 What lies beneath the surface is two candidates who owe their political lives to our public safety unions. (The Police Union makes substantial contributions to the Firefighters PAC.) Do you trust Oddie and Vella to act as responsible fiduciaries of our tax dollars and in best interest for the future of our city when they vote on these collective bargaining agreements, or do you want to pick two of the three candidates we have endorsed, Trish Spencer, Amos White or Gig Codiga, all of whom owe the Police and Fire Unions nothing other than a fair and objective review of the agreements?
FPPC ID # 1408726