Oakland in Crisis As Mayor Maintains Her Innocence After FBI Raid on Her House

Oakland, Calif., Mayor Sheng Thao is in a heap of trouble.

First, the good citizens of Oakland (and yes, there are a few), banded together and less than nine months after Thao was elected, got 44,000 signatures on a recall petition.

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And then things got worse.

The very next day, around 8 a.m., the FBI came a-knockin’. The bureau was keeping mum about the raid, but at the same time agents hit Thao’s residence, they also hit the home of Andy Duong, whose family owns and runs Cal Waste Solutions. A city council ethics panel was looking into possible illegal contributions to several Oakland candidates from Duong, including Thao.

Then, Thao called an impromptu press conference. It was wild. She accused the FBI of working with the recall effort and swore she was innocent.

That’s when her former chief of staff Renia Webb dropped a bomb on the scandal.

CBS News:

Webb accuses Thao’s boyfriend Andre Jones of being the mastermind and running pay-to-play schemes during Thao’s campaign for mayor and after she won.

“I had found out that Andre, her boyfriend, was promising people jobs in our administration, promising people appointments on different commissions and boards.” said Webb.  ”I definitely believe that, out of the mouth of the people that told me, they were promised positions, they were promised board positions. And [they would always say] Andre, you know? That’s who they would say, ‘Andre promised me this.'”

Webb claimed Jones was controlling and calling the shots. She said Thao went along with him.

“It’s sad. He’s making her do things, pushing her to do things that I don’t believe she would do otherwise. I just really don’t,” said Webb.

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Thao has indeed everything. But the press conference blindsided her personal attorney, Tony Brass, and he resigned.

“She contacted me, and she was in a fair amount of crisis over the search warrant. I followed my procedure. I have a certain way of processing cases. Our attorney-client relationship was short-lived,” Brass told The Times. “I have an approach, and it appeared as though she had a different approach. I did not feel like I was the right guy to follow hers.”

Immediately after Brass resigned, the mayor’s head of communications, Francis Zamora, also abandoned the sinking ship.

“I resigned my position as Chief of Communications. I thank my colleagues for their professionalism and dedication. It was an honor to serve the City of Oakland beside them,” Zamora said in a statement.

No word of thanks to the person who hired him? Yikes.

“It says a lot when you have people of this caliber abandoning you,” Bay Area public relations specialist Sam Singer said. “The city of Oakland is in full crisis mode and on the verge of collapse. The instability of Sheng Thao’s administration and the inaction of the City Council is of deep concern.”

As for Renia Webb, she tried in the immediate aftermath of the transition, when Andre Jones was giving out jobs like candy, to get the attention of Oakland’s city council. They weren’t interested.

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Webb said Thao at the time denied all the accusations, telling others Webb was disgruntled, had mental health issues and made up lies.

“What sense would it make that I would help her win an election, run her transition team, and then all of a sudden I’d just lose my mind?” asked Webb.

The FBI contacted Webb and interviewed her for two and a half hours on February 3, 2023.  She said agents asked a lot of questions about Thao’s campaign funding.

“It was about campaign contributions, about some of the appointments, like to the [Port of Oakland],” recalled Webb.

Ordinarily, I’d say that Thao is toast and that they’re measuring the curtains for the next occupant of the mayor’s office. But this is Oakland. And malfeasance and apathy are doled out in equal measure.

Put your money on Thao staying put.

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