Ex-Oakland employee says she lost job for refusing to lie
Updated 6:20 am, Wednesday, March 19, 2014
A former Oakland employee claims in a lawsuit that she was fired because she refused to falsify documents to aid the city administration's case against a member of the City Council accused of circumventing city hiring rules.
Daryelle LaWanna Preston said in a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday that then-City Administrator Deanna Santana fired her because she refused "to falsify oral and written reports" that accused Councilwoman Desley Brooks of abusing her authority and ignoring city rules to build a teen center in her East Oakland council district.
Preston said that in February 2012, as Santana was investigating Brooks' activity, Santana asked Preston to "falsify a report" and "state that (Brooks) intentionally and knowingly engaged in hiring practices and purchasing ... that violated the City Charter."
Preston refused because she believed the allegations against Brooks were not true, according to the suit.
"This was part of an effort to essentially demonize Desley Brooks, and Ms. Preston would have no part of it," said Dan Siegel, Preston's attorney.
The allegations against Brooks were later the focus of a raucous July City Council meeting where Brooks faced censure over her close involvement in the city's hiring of a contractor and its purchase of music equipment to open the Rainbow Teen Center at 58th Avenue and International Boulevard.
The council eventually voted to censure itself, not just Brooks.
Brooks also came under scrutiny for allegedly interfering with city staff, as detailed in a March 2013 report by City Auditor Courtney Ruby.
Preston, who was hired as the city's human resources manager in 2007 and promoted to employee relations director in 2012, was fired by Santana in October, according to the suit. Santana, who left her post this month, declined to comment.
Alex Katz, a spokesman for City Attorney Barbara Parker, said the city is reviewing the case.
Preston, who served as the city's chief employment negotiator from 2008 to 2012, also alleged that Teresa Deloach Reed, Oakland's fire chief, had improperly represented the city in negotiations with the city firefighters union, and that the city hadn't properly addressed a claim that part-time city employees were not paying union dues.
Reed declined to comment because she hadn't read the suit.
Preston claimed in the suit that she was fired as punishment for her actions and that the city deprived her of her free speech rights by firing her for speaking out.
She is asking for lost wages and punitive damages.
Will Kane is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @WillKane