By Steven Tavares.
Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri added another level of intrigue to the on-going controversy stemming from the hire of a new fire chief Tuesday night when he lead a group of city department heads in standing in support of City Manager Jill Keimach.
“We here to affirm there is stability within the city and that we all, individually and collectively, trust in Jill Keimach’s leadership and are working together to accomplish the city’s priorities,” Rolleri told the City Council, flanked by a number of top city administrators.
Last month, Rolleri alleged that Councilmember Jim Oddie made comments to him suggesting Keimach may be fired if she did not hire the candidate backed by the firefighers’ union as the city’s next fire chief. Keimach has made no specific assertion, but in a letter to City Council in early October, she described improper interference by the council.
Privately, Rolleri has expressed concern in the past over the allegations of political interference by some councilmembers is sending a chilling message to city directors wary of facing similar interference within their own departments.
The scene Tuesday evening was an extraordinary image of City Hall leaders standing in support of the city manager. However, the show of solidarity did not appear to be a response to any questions over Keimach’s leadership by councilmembers, but negative public comments made last month by Alameda school board member Gray Harris.
During a City Council meeting, Harris, serving as a member of the California Teachers Association, suggested Keimach hindered negotiations for the Moraga teachers union. In addition, she said Keimach’s allegations against the council were a ploy designed to save her job in Alameda.
“It’s obvious to me that this whole investigation is a bad management ploy to divert attention from the city manager, who hasn’t been doing a good job,” said Harris. “To me, it’s clear you thought you were going to get fired, and, therefore, you’re directing this onto the council so they won’t do your review.”
Speaking prior to Rolleri was a contingent of officials from Moraga who praised Keimach’s stewardship as its town manager. Moraga Mayor Teresa Onoda said she came to correct the record and praised Keimach for her intelligence, grace, and “spine of steel.”
Keimach was also never involved in any capacity with negotiations between the Moraga School District and its teachers, said Bruce Burns, superintendent of the Moraga School District. “Any commentary to the contrary is false and is a ridiculous attempt from a misguided person who appears to be using a title for personal and other benefit.”
Moraga Councilmember Dave Trotter said the assertion Keimach was on the verge of being fired by the Moraga Town Council is demonstrably false. “We came out here because we are outraged that those types of assertions could be made. Jill was a success and we miss her and I kind of wish she would come back.”
Keimach served as Moraga town manager for six years before taking the job of Alameda city manager in March 2016. In July, the Moraga City Council learned its finances were nearing bankruptcy levels, with several town officials expressing surprise over the development. The town ultimately declared a fiscal emergency.