Because of technicality, Oakland Police Commission must re-vote on termination of 5 officers involved in homeless man's death

Joshua Pawlik was killed March 2018 by Oakland police.

A subcommittee of the Oakland Police Commission must vote again on whether they agree with a recommendation to fire five police officers involved in the shooting of a homeless man because they failed to properly put the matter on the agenda the first time, their attorney acknowledged.

In an interview Friday, Nitasha Kaur Sawney told KTVU that the three commission members who make up the Disciplinary Committee failed to post the agenda item 24 hours in advance of the April 10 meeting, which is a technical violation of the Brown Act.

Because of that violation, the members, Regina Jackson, Edwin Prather and Jose Dorado, will vote again on the same issue on Monday. The meeting has been properly noticed this time. The meeting is at 5 p.m.

What they will be voting on, Sawney said, is whether to accept the recommendations of Skelly Review Officer Michael Gennaco, a third-party who approved the termination of the officers who shot and killed Joshua Pawlick in March 2018. Pawlik was a homeless man sleeping with a gun in front of an Oakland home. 

Gennaco also recommended that the officers be fired. The officers are: William Berger, Brandon Hraiz, Craig Tanaka, Josef Phillips and Francisco Negrete.

But attorneys for the officers insist that because of the Brown Act violation, the officers have been restored to "their prior paid status." 

"The officers have been reinstated," Stern told KTVU in an email. "The hearing was postponed because the commission botched properly notifying the officers."

Stern acknowledged, however, that they haven't been re-assigned to active patrol duty.  

He added in a statement:  "Not surprisingly, the mad dash to fire officers turned out to be completely illegal. Ironically, the group continuously parroting the word 'transparency' violated the Brown Act, California's vulnerable open meeting law."

Mike Rains, the lead administrative counsel for the officers, said in a statement that he is insisting that the Police Commission start the entire process over again given what he described as incurable flaws in its procedures.

Rains said, "By upholding the terminations based on these facts and this record, the credibility of this recently-convened committee has evaporated."

He said, "These compounding series of mistakes clearly show both their misunderstandings of basic due process rights and the hasty manner in which the firings were handled."

However, in an interview Friday, Sawney countered that these statements are not true.

"There has been no action to reinstate anyone," she said. 

The Oakland City Council recently voted in closed session to approve a tentative settlement calling for the city to pay $1.4 million in damages to the family of Pawlik, who grew up in Virginia and had a history of mental health problems.

Even though the officers lost their Skelly hearing, the officers now may proceed to arbitration to fight to keep their jobs. That date has not been set. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez