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Alameda City Council Names John Russo City Manager

At a special closed meeting last night, Alameda City Council approved a contract naming John Russo as Alameda’s City Manager. Russo is currently the Oakland City Attorney. Russo will start with an annual salary of $215,000 that will rise on hitting performance targets, plus $15,000 per year in deferred compensation, and other benefits, such as a car allowance.

Russo’s contract is on the City’s “Bargaining Units” webpage. According to a statement released by the City of Alameda late last night, Russo received a law degree from New York University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Political Science from Yale. An extensive bio provided in the statement reveals no previous experience as a City Manager, but notes that Russo served on Oakland’s City Council from 1995 to 2000, and that he’s been Oakland’s city attorney for more than 10 years.

His five year contract with the City begins June 13th.

11 comments to Alameda City Council Names John Russo City Manager

  • Karen

    The city is broke and they are paying this clown $215,000 a year? Why didn’t they hire someone whose profession is actually city management?

    Oh, sorry, I forgot, that would make too much sense.

    Another clown for the posse.

  • Betty

    Karen, I am thinking the same thing. Mr. Russo has had no experience.
    I wonder if this whole thing was planned before the election.
    Get rid of the people they can’t work with…no matter what the cost to have employees sitting at home and still getting paid.
    It will be interesting how Mr. Russo and the City Council work with their friends in the unions.
    I have a bad feeling about this….Alameda maybe down the tubes.
    I hope not.

  • Vania

    Well, it sure looks like Oakland City Attorney John Russo has been asleep at the switch, ever since SunCal’s arch nemesis Lehman Brothers filed proposed Chapter 11 Plans in the 19 remaining Lehman/SunCal bankruptcies, which will be “heard” on May 13, 2011 in the Orange County based Bankruptcy Court.

    In the draft Chapter 11 Plans filed by Lehman to be heard, along with their Disclosure Statements, on that date, Lehman presumptuously seeks a broad permanent injunction against the State of California, and all of its local government agencies, specifically including the City of Oakland, exercising any of their police powers (e.g. planning, zoning, building code, weed abatement, abandoned building abatement, oak tree preservation ordinances, school fee ordinances, etc.) against Lehman and its affiliates or against anyone who buys any of the 19 Lehman/SunCal projects, including Oak Knoll.

    The obnoxious injunction text against the City of Oakland, the State and its other cities, counties, local school districts and East Bay MUD among others is cut and pasted below. (One can read it or not, depending on one’s tolerance for legalese.)

    However the point is that neither City Attorney John Russo or Oakland’s outside bankruptcy lawyer bothered to file an “Objection” to this latest round of duelling Chapter 11 Plans, by Lehman and by SunCal, to regain control of the 19 projects including Oak Knoll, and in particular to the obnoxious permanent injunction language Lehman wants against the City of Oakland, the State and all other governmental agencies relating to the Oak Knoll project. The deadline to file the objection appears to have been April 29th.

    Obviously, Mr. Russo has forgotten that starting in 2009 the principal reason the Oakland residents in the Oak Knoll neighborhood were frightened and outraged that Lehman had cut off the money to do the necessary, continual brush abatement at Oak Knoll, and that SunCal wouldn’t reach into its own pocketbook to pay for that life-saving brush abatement. As originally pointed out by the Oak Knoll residents, and in City Attorney Russo’s bankruptcy court filing cribbed from what the local residents wrote, in the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm, 1500 acres burned, 3,300 houses were destroyed, 150 people were injured and 25 people were killed in that firestorm, which started in ordinary grass and then rapidly spread through unattended brush.

    Oakland City Attorney Russo, when show boating in 2009-2010 filed a declaration with the bankruptcy court signed by a high level Oakland Fire Department officer saying that the overgrown brush at Oak Knoll, and the transients who continually lived there, could burn down all of the Oakland Hills again.

    Obviously, Oakland City Attorney Russo forgot about the continuing risks of the constantly growing brush at Oak Knoll, which won’t be developed for at least 1 more fire season, if not more. I guess his brain shut off about the same time the old concrete hospital was blown up, with city dignitaries standing by.

    Quite obviously, happy that he was going to get his new gig with the City of Alameda, City Attorney Russo “blew the deadline” in the bankruptcy court to avoid a permanent injunction against enforcing its brush abatement ordinance against anyone associated with Lehman who ends up owning Oak Knoll after the dust settles in the banrkuptcy court. Too bad for the people living around Oak Knoll. Their City Attorney let them down. City Attorney Russo didn’t even have Oakland’s outside bankruptcy lawyer file an objection to the obnoxious permanent injunction against the City of Oakland, quoted below.

    Better keep an eye on John Russo people of Alameda. No telling what ball he’ll drop, and in whose favor he’ll drop it.


    The latest pro-Lehman permanent injunction text to which City Attorney John Russo didn’t object (by 4/29/11) in the Lehman/SunCal bankruptcy, contained at page 88 of Lehman’s latest draft Chapter 11 Plan covering Oak Knoll:

    “all Persons who have held, currently hold, or may hold a Claim or Interest against a TD Plan Debtor [including the Ch. 11 Oak Knoll owner/debtor] (including but not limited to States and other governmental units, and any State official, employee or other entity acting in an official capacity on behalf of any State or other governmental units, other than as to matters excepted from the automatic stay by Bankruptcy Code Section 362(b)(4), including without limitation the commencement or continuation of an action or proceeding by a governmental unit to enforce such governmental unit’s police and regulatory power, including:

    (a) the enforcement of a monetary judgment, obtained in an action or proceeding by a governmental unit to enforce such governmental unit’s police or regulatory power and

    (b) certain remediation sought by the City of Oakland with respect to the Oak Knoll Project to the extent any subsequent owner thereof would be liable therefor under applicable non-bankruptcy law) shall be permanently enjoined from:

    (a) taking of the following actions on the account of any such debt, Claim or Interest:

    (i) Commencing or continuing any action or proceeding against the Liquidating Trustee or the Lehman Released Parties or the successors of either of them;”

  • Betty

    I’m feeling super discouraged about Alameda. I own a home, and therefore have a stake in the city’s future. They keep putting a stake through my heart!

  • Karen

    Sorry – that remark was from Karen to Betty!!!

  • alameda vigilante

    There is a parable about an unjust steward who lined the pockets of lesser debtors so he would have a safe harbor to welcome him after discharge from where he had performed dishonestly. Sound familiar? Vania, I guess you’re saying one only needs to step over a city limit line to abdicate some serious responsibilities. How depressing!

  • Vania

    Alameda Vigilante: I have no evidence that John Russo “intentionally” dropped the ball, recently, with respect to Oak Knoll, in the Lehman/SunCal case, because there it’s Lehman and its affiliates and lawyers, not SunCal, who are trying to harm the City of Oakland and its people. The fairer statement would be that Mr. Russo was negligent in discharging his duties in protecting the Oak Knoll neighborhood from Lehman in this latest round in the Lehman/SunCal bankruptcies. Notably, the City of Palmdale protected their residents, and the LA County and Alameda County Tax Collectors protected their interests, in this round just as they had in other rounds of the case.

    For lawyers, there is a big difference between negligently harming and intentionally harming a client. Probably 99% of the lawyers in California would never, ever intentionally harm a client, such as the City of Oakland. Not intentionally harming a client is a matter of honor, as well as compliance with the State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.

    However, the interesting question is whether a California lawyer, when acting as a local government official, such as a city council member or city manager, has that same fiduciary duty towards (1) the city as a body corporate and politic (i.e. a legal person) or (2) the general public in the city. I won’t hazard a guess on that one.

    However, wouldn’t it be “fun” for taxpayers in the City of Alameda to send letters separately addressed to each elected and appointed official who is a California lawyer, on active status or not, and tell them “I am putting you on notice that I consider you to be a fiduciary for the general public who are taxpayers, voters and residents of the city, as well as a fiduciary for the public purse, i.e. the city as a legal person.” An then just wait and see what happens.

  • If only that was the one time he dropped the ball for the citizens he represents… Just this week, instead of showing up at a long-planned community meeting to defend his unpopular gang injunction plan with Oakland Police Chief Batts, Russo skipped it.

  • Oh this is a tidy little coincidence:

    Ignacio De La Fuente, Patricia Kernighan and Larry Reid have previously expressed support for injunctions, though all three refrained from commenting last night. Last week, Kernighan was surprised to learn Russo had paid $20,000 to law firm Meyers Nave for legal work on an injunction in East Oakland that has not been filed in court.


    Meyers Nave is on everyone’s payroll: the election campaigns of Bonta and Tam, New Mayor Gilmore’s effort to justify breaking the City Charter while firing Ann Marie Gallant, and John Russo’s too.

  • Betty

    OMG…hang on it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  • Barb

    This is how he left Oakland: “Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) weighed in on the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction this week, arguing not that it’s good or bad policy but that City Attorney John Russo was violating the city charter by launching litigation without the council’s permission.

    So after spending a great deal of Oakland’s limited funds without authority on gang injunctions of questionable value, he moves on. Oh yeah, he has a history of not being able to get along well with others.

    He will be right at home here with the three Stooges. Just add Abbott and await Costello.

    In all fairness, Russo is not a stupid guy. He is however one of the most politically ambitious people around. With an ultra liberal background. Translate build more houses for developers to claim are for low income, violate our density limits, and line his own political fundraising committees. He has limited success to back up his ambitions. This may keep him in Alameda duping the council, (not too hard there) and the citizenry for long enough for him to find himself in hot water again. And abandon ship. Something to look forward to.