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
January 10, 2001

If you missed the news, Senior-Advisor-to-the-Mayor-and-Parttime-Craft-and- Cultural-Arts-Department-Director Jacques Barzaghi has supposedly been suspended from his various jobs with the City and been ordered to undergo some sort of counseling because of allegations that he sexually harassed a number of female City employees.

I say "supposedly" because City officials won’t say for sure. The foundation for the City’s actions against Barzaghi are contained in a "smoking gun" document, a report on the Barzaghi allegations that is being tightly guarded in the offices of the City Attorney and the City Manager. The information about the suspension itself was leaked to a Chronicle reporter by an anonymous source. City Attorney John Russo wouldn’t confirm, only saying that the City has "taken actions we think are consistent" with the City’s sexual harassment policy. City Manger Robert Bobb would not answer any questions about the possible suspension, either, citing the "confidentiality and privacy rights of all persons involved in workplace complaints." Mayor Brown was even worse. During an appearance on Soulbeat Television, he said, "Under the rules the complaint is confidential and any action that is taken is confidential. … If we start discussing a complaint that was made, then we’re going to deter people–perhaps scare them from making a complaint–because then they’re going to get dragged into the media."

This last from Mayor Brown is pure bull, at least as far as this case is concerned. The name of the woman who filed the complaint against Barzaghi has been known by the Oakland press from the moment this story broke in early December. It took me all of fifteen minutes to find it out. And yet, until the Trib did so late last week, no newspaper had revealed her identity, and it did so then only after interviewing her attorney. Besides that, refusing to talk about the action taken against the accused isn’t designed to help the woman who complained…it’s designed to help Barzaghi…and, of course, Jerry Brown.

So right now Oakland citizens don’t know what Barzaghi is supposed to have done–don’t know whether or not he was actually suspended, and, if so, for how long, and if it was with or without pay–and don’t know what sort of counseling he’s supposed to undergo. Further, top City officials are telling us up front that they ain’t going to tell us anything else. This may not be a coverup, children, but it sure sounds and smells like one. And in politics, perception is all that counts.

The Barzaghi Problem may not hurt Mayor Brown too badly in his probable run for re-election in 2002, but that has more to do with the likely lack of heavyweight opposition in that race. But if Brown chooses to run in 2004 either for President or against U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, having a possible sexual harasser as his best buddy and advisor is going to hang around the Mayor’s neck like a noose. Sure, there’s always a chance that people might forget about this in four years. But after watching the Clinton-haters hound the President for the past two terms, would you want to bet on it? Sooner or later, unless they burn it, that "smoking gun" report is going to come out. And that could sink Brown’s political career.

So who can save Jerry Brown on this one? Well, hey–Jacques Barzaghi got him into this mess…Jacques Barzaghi can get him out. While Brown and Bobb and Russo can make the claim that they can’t talk, Barzaghi himself is under no such restriction. So why doesn’t he come clean? Tell us what he is accused of doing. Tell us what he actually did, if anything. Tell us if he plans on doing it again. Tell us the details of his punishment. And if he thinks he did anything wrong, tell us he’s sorry.

Now it’s Barzaghi’s play. This stonewalling thing ain’t going to cut it, jack.