A Bay Area Journalist's First-Hand Account Of How Mayor Jerry Brown Screwed Over Oakland On His Way To Sacramento



J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Oakland Unwrapped Column
UrbanView Newspaper
December 20, 2000

At the time this column is being written, the investigation has not been completed into charges of sexual harassment by Craft and Cultural Arts Department Director Jacques Barzaghi. Briefly, Barzaghi and Mayor Brown were part of a four-person city-sponsored delegation to the inauguration of Mexican President Vicente Fox. Two female City of Oakland staff members in the delegation complained that Barzaghi made improper and unwanted sexual advances to them in Mexico; one of the women filed a formal complaint with the city’s Equal Opportunity Programs Division. Erica Harrold, the Mayor’s media assistant, said that the matter was a "personnel issue" and therefore could not be commented on by the Mayor. Barzaghi himself has been unavailable since the allegations surfaced.

The City has hired a private attorney to look into the allegations, as well as a number of other reported alleged sexual improprieties by Barzaghi. Until that private attorney’s report is released and the formal charges are acted upon in some way by the City Manager’s office, the allegations remain just that…allegations. They ought to be taken seriously, but we ought to also reserve judgment until we learn more.
But the circumstances surrounding the Mexico trip raise a couple of other questions that can be answered even as the sexual misconduct investigation goes forward.

One of the female city staff members on the trip was the Mayor’s executive assistant and the other was the Manager of the City’s Office of International Affairs, so if you can make a case that the Mayor needed to be at the Mexican inauguration, it’s clear that these two staff members exercised an important City function at the event as well. But it seemed odd to be paying the way of our Director of Craft and Cultural Arts to a non-arts-and-crafts function in a foreign country.

When I asked, Erica Harrold told me that actually, Barzaghi had gone on the Mexico trip in his capacity as the Senior Advisor to the Mayor on diplomatic, business, and policy issues.

Fair enough. Except that after checking a couple of sources, including the 1999-2001 City of Oakland Budget, I could find no such city position as "Senior Advisor to the Mayor." Is that just something that somebody made up? That’s where the questions began to arise. If Barzaghi attended the Mexican Presidential inauguration in some unofficial capacity as the Mayor’s private advisor rather than his official capcity as Arts Director, then:

1) Did the City pay his way and if so, why? Is it the City’s policy to only pay for trips for city employees acting in their official capacity, or do we foot the bill for anybody the Mayor decides to bring with him when he leaves Oakland?

2) Can Barzaghi be charged with violating a City sexual harassment policy that only applies to employees acting in their official capacity?

3) If Barzaghi did something "wrong" while acting in an unofficial capacity, shouldn’t he be personally liable for his actions rather than the City?

I’m sure that good legal and government minds can come up with some others. I could be wrong, but I don’t think these are minor points. The differences in the law and the liability seem to be enormous.

By all accounts, Jacques Barzaghi plays an important role in Jerry Brown’s life as friend and confidant, and I don’t see anything wrong with public officials bringing such folk into their administrations. After all, President Kennedy hired his own brother as Attorney General. But in that instance, regardless of his private relationship with the President, Bobby Kennedy’s role in the government was strictly defined. So far, Barzaghi’s has not been. He seems to be all over the place, and that has brought us into a potential legal mess.

I think the Mayor ought to come before the press and answer some questions on this issue. For one, what is Jacques Barzaghi’s role in the government of the City of Oakland? Exactly.