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The Scandals of Oakland Politician Desley Brooks: A Timeline

Despite the seemingly never-ending imbroglios and accusations of conflicts of interest, the East Oakland councilwoman has proved remarkably politically durable.


Editor’s Note: This is part of a story about the reelection bid of Oakland’s most polarizing politician. Read it here.

November 2002

Brooks defeats incumbent Oakland councilman Moses Mayne to represent District 6. Mayne, the clear favorite in the race, was endorsed by former congressman Don Perata, Mayor Jerry Brown, and council president Ignacio De La Fuente.

August 2005
News outlets report that the Alameda County district attorney is investigating allegations that Brooks employed her boyfriend’s daughter as a $5,000-a-month aide while she was a full-time student at Syracuse University in upstate New York. No charges are brought by the DA or as a result of another investigation by the city’s ethics commission.

May 2006
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that since 2003, Brooks has awarded $160,000 in cash grants to various influential community groups—far more than any of her council colleagues. No formal investigation is launched.

July 2008
Brooks sues the Chronicle for libel over a column asserting that police investigating kickbacks found checks totaling $1,200 from the mother of a Brooks employee deposited in Brooks’s account. The case is dismissed.

March 2013
The Oakland city auditor issues a report, reviewed by a county grand jury, concluding that Brooks violated noninterference laws and misused city resources in managing two recreation centers. Citing the statute of limitations, the DA’s office does not pursue charges.

July 2013
In a 6–0 decision, Oakland’s city council votes not to censure Brooks over the auditor’s report, on the basis that the council has no formal censure policy. Instead, the council votes to censure itself.

October 2016
A meeting of the council’s rules and legislative committee is ended when Brooks—who is not a member of the committee—takes up a lengthy filibuster in support of censuring Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney over her role in a condo development. After the meeting, Mayor Libby Schaaf is quoted saying, “It’s incredibly important for this city’s leaders to model civility and decorum to solve this city’s problems and not distract one another through political stunts and childish behavior.”

May 2018
On appeal, Brooks and the city are found liable for $2.2 million in damages, and Brooks is ordered to pay an additional $75,000, after a jury rules that Brooks assaulted Elaine Brown. The DA’s office declines to bring charges, citing a lack of video evidence. After the civil trial, two jurors suggest that Brooks has “anger-management issues.”


Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco 

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