Former Oakland Councilwoman Brooks says city’s ‘failed’ defense cost re-election
Former Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks is seeking more than $79,000 from the city, claiming its “failed” legal defense against an ex-Black Panther leader’s assault allegation cost her a re-election bid.
Brooks’ complaint, filed in Alameda Superior Court on Friday, calls on the city to reimburse her $79,623, the amount she was ordered to pay by a judge in the 2015 case involving Elaine Brown, plus interest. Brooks also wants the city to cover additional costs the court has said she owes Brown.
The complaint comes nearly seven months after Brooks filed an initial claim in October alleging that City Attorney Barbara Parker and her staff failed to present evidence at trial that would have been favorable to Brooks and detrimental to Brown. The claim stemmed from a fight in 2015 between Brooks and Brown in a Jack London Square restaurant over an affordable housing project that Brown wanted the city to fund.
“The lawsuit really damaged her reputation,” said Dan Siegel, her attorney. “She was portrayed as victimizing a revered political leader who is also a senior citizen. And I believe that is the reason she lost the election to be re-elected to the Oakland City Council, because her reputation was so tarnished by this whole episode.”
Brooks served on the City Council for 16 years. Last November, Loren Taylor, a nonprofit leader and businessman, defeated Brooks in the election, securing 61.5% of the vote, while 38.5% went to Brooks.
The city settled the claim by Brown for $2.2 million last July. The payout consisted of $1.2 million in damages for Brown and $1 million for her attorneys’ fees.
On April 26, the court issued an order awarding Brown an additional $96,077.15 for interest, costs and fees, according to the complaint. That order and a “deficiency in the amount paid by the city of Oakland” resulted in Brooks owing a payment of $138,644.79 to Brown on top of what she has already paid.
In the complaint, Brooks alleged that Brown was intoxicated and “poked her several times in the chest,” which resulted in her pushing Brown over a stack of folding chairs. She said it was an act of self-defense, according to the complaint. The complaint also alleged that Brown used racial epithets and homophobic slurs when speaking to Brooks. Last April, a judge concluded that Brooks repeatedly lied under oath.
Brooks is suing to have the city pay out the remaining balance and reimburse her for the nearly $80,000 that she has already paid to Brown, Siegel said.
“It’s a case to restore her reputation and to hopefully make her whole for the financial loss,” Siegel said.
The complaint also calls for an unspecified amount in general damages for “shame, embarrassment, emotional distress, pain, suffering,” citing that the legal battle cost Brooks her re-election.
Alex Katz, the city attorney’s office spokesman, said the city acted professionally.
“We have not been served and therefore cannot comment on the specifics of the lawsuit. However, the City Attorney’s Office handled this case in a professional and diligent manner.”