Oakland hired PI to investigate police commissioner

Documents obtained by KTVU show the city of Oakland spent $50,000 in 2018 to hire a private investigator to look into allegations of misconduct by Police Commissioner Ginale Harris.

"I think the effect of it is intimidating," Harris' attorney Dan Siegel said Friday.

Siegel is questioning why the city is investigating Harris when she's a volunteer commissioner and not a city employee.

"It's an absurd waste of $50,000," Siegel said.

Harris had a tense relationship with Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick - but not anymore. Two weeks ago, the commission voted unanimously to fire the chief without cause, with Mayor Libby Schaaf's blessing.

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In 2018, private investigator Keith Rohman was hired by the city to investigate several allegations of wrongdoing by Harris, inculding reports that Harris demanded to have her towing fees reimbursed by the police department.

Kirkpatrick refused and said she feared retaliation.

Harris was also accused of asking for police officer personnel information, demanding that police-community liaisons focus their attention on her neighborhood, and engaging in rude, disrespectful behavior toward city staff at meetings.

"Those are recorded interactions, right?" Siegel said. "You don't need an investigator to listen to the tape or look at the tape as to what was said.

In fact, Rohman charged the city $2,400 to review more than eight hours of video of commission meetings. He billed the city at a rate of $300 per hour for a year's work. He charged $100 per hour for travel time and turned in receipts for flights from Burbank to Oakland and Seattle, as well as hotel stays and Lyft rides.

 "I know Mr. Rohman. He does high-priced, high-status investigations," Siegel said.

Rohman declined to comment Friday. But his investigation is far from over, after months of inactivity. Just days after Kirkpatrick was fired, the private investigator interviewed former police commissioner Maureen Benson, telling her he was, "under a time crunch."

Benson told KTVU, "I have only observed Ginale Harris to be direct and honest and committed to accountability - and I reject any of the accusations against her."

Despite all the turmoil, the commission is standing by its decision to fire Kirkpatrick.

"The chief should have been fired if she couldn't bring that department in compliance," said Cathy Leonard  of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

Rohman said he's reporting to City Adminstrator Sabrina Landreth, who is stepping down next week.

KTVU caught up to Landreth at a farewell gathering for her Friday at City Hall. She declined to comment. Among those wishing her well was Fire Chief Darin White, who is leaving to become San Rafael's fire chief. 

The city will now have to fill three vacancies with the departures of Kirkpatrick, White and Landreth.