Lindheim Choice as Administrator Result of Cronyism, Hypocrisy, and Low Expectations at City Hall

Earlier today, I wrote that Dan Lindheim is not qualified to be City Administrator. dto510 told us that the Appointment puts Oakland on the brink. Becks urged readers to Take Action: Ensure Top-Rate Management for Oakland. As it turns out, the Oakland Builders Alliance was thinking almost the exact same thing, and has penned an open letter to Oakland residents about the Mayor’s announcement. I have reprinted the letter below. – V Smoothe.

Dear Neighbor:

Last night, the board of the Oakland Builders Alliance took an emergency vote and unanimously decided to send an open letter to Oakland residents condemning the appointment of Dan Lindheim as the new permanent City Administrator of Oakland. It also voted to file a formal complaint against the mayor for Cronyism, which will be submitted Monday per the Enforcement Section of the Anti-Cronyism Ordinance.

Dan Lindheim’s appointment as City Administrator stands in stark contrast to the appointment of two highly qualified individuals, Marianna Marysheva-Martinez and Walter Cohen, both of whom come with substantial experience and proven leadership in their field. Unfortunately, they’ll be managed by someone with almost no experience. And Oakland deserves better.

Lindheim may be a “smart guy” – certainly he’s someone that Mr. Dellums has learned to rely on over the last 30 years. But this is not the time for a band-aid, learn-on-the-job solution. Oakland is hemorrhaging and we need someone with skills and experience who can stop the bleeding and inject new life into the city.

Mayor wastes $150,000 in taxpayer funds on “nation-wide” search, and then appoints friend.

Mayor Dellums stated that he spent $150,000 in tax payer funds to conduct a nationwide search for a City Administrator, only to appoint his long time friend and ally, Lindheim. Meanwhile, no one knows who else was interviewed. No list of applicants was produced. No disclosure was made of how the funds were used. When asked by city hall gat-fly Sanjiv Handa at yesterday’s press conference why he did not make the names of the finalists public, the Mayor stated that he did not have to. Why is our city council silent on this issue? Was the search just a sham? Did the mayor know all along that Lindheim would be his appointment? If so, why did we spend tax money to retain the Hawkins Company, a head-hunting fim?

Appointment flaunts Anti-Cronyism ordinance passed just weeks ago.

On December 8th, 2008, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting Cronyism in hiring practices. The language reads: “‘Cronyism’ means participating in any employment decision that may be viewed as a conflict of interest, such as one involving a close friend, a business partner, and/or professional, political, or commercial relationship, that would lead to preferential treatment or compromise appearance of fairness.” About the Ordinance, Councilmember Nadel, the author, stated “I see (cronyism) as being more of a problem than nepotism.” (Oakland Tribune, December 4th, 2008.)/

The Oakland Charter reads: “(The City Administrator) shall be a person of demonstrated administrative ability with experience in a responsible, important executive capacity and shall be chosen by the Mayor solely on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications.

The mayor’s own job announcement detailed the following mandatory qualification for the City Administrator position: “Twelve (12) to fifteen (15) years of senior level executive management experience preferably in a large sophisticated diverse urban governmental organization.

While Mayor Dellums is mandating that all applicants meet this requirement he is allowing his political friend and ally to qualify with almost no experience, simply because he is “smart”. The is the very definition of cronyism. (Merriam-Webster defines Crony as “a close friend especially of long standing“, and Cronyism as “partiality to cronie especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications“.)

The choice of Dan Lindheim as City Administrator flies in the face of the recent ordinance and the city charter. The question now is: will the Oakland City Council ignore its own Anti-Cronyism ordinance, and render it purely a grandstanding move, or will it stand behind its own commitment to outlaw cronyism from employment decisions?

Our Leadership’s acceptable of mediocrity a reflection of low self-esteem.

Oakland is battle-scarred. We’ve been through tough times. And as a result, our leadership no longer is demanding excellence, or even mediocrity for the most important position in the city. Instead, they are using standards such as “he works well with us” or “he’s smart” as the baromete of good management. The Oakland Builders Alliance believes that for Oakland to become a great city, we must demand great management. And residents should settle for nothing less. Marysheva-Martinez and Cohen are excellent choices for their respective positions, but they will be managed by someone who does not have the experience to steer Oakland out of the current crime and budget crisis, and position it for greatness when the economic recovery comes.

Oakland residents must demand excellent management and accept nothing less from our leaders. The voters are the ones who set the bar of expectations, unless we abdicate this to those we elect.

The Oakland Builders Alliance will continue to demand excellent management. We invite you to join us by writing or calling your councilmember and demanding excellent, proven leadership, especially at the top. Urge them to deny the appointment of Dan Lindheim as permanent City Administrator and to instruct the mayor to use the $150,000 in tax payer funds allocated for the search to look for proven leadership. Oakland deserves nothing less.

16 thoughts on “Lindheim Choice as Administrator Result of Cronyism, Hypocrisy, and Low Expectations at City Hall

  1. John

    I’d call the appointment ” (nearly) instant karma” for the trashing OBA gave to Ada Chan and for everyone else dancing on her grave so gleefuly – you all deserve it.

  2. V Smoothe

    I don’t even understand that comment. You think the entire City of Oakland should suffer inept management because the Council didn’t confirm the Mayor’s Planning Commission nominee?

  3. Chris Kidd

    How one has anything to do with the other is completely beyond me.

    OBA opposed a planning commissioner whom they legitimately thought was wrong for the job and used the tools at their disposal to block her appointment; therefore, we all suffer? OBA opposing Ada Chan justifies Dellums not bothering to search for a qualified city administrator even though he appropriated $150K for that purpose? Denying a seat to a woman some people liked and some people didn’t like means that we deserve a completely unqualified city administrator?

    As for “karma”, In the words of Inigo Montoya “I do not think this word means what you think it means”.

  4. Max Allstadt


    Instead of talking about payback, could you give us some examples of why you think Lindheim’s a good choice? I haven’t heard anything convincing yet from anybody.

    That’s an open challenge to everybody out there. Has anybody made endorsements of his people skills? His knowledge of urban issues in general? I’m waiting…

  5. V Smoothe

    According to a commenter on FutureOakland, Pat Kernighan responded to an one e-mail with “He may not be perfect, but he’s honest and is motivated to act in the best interests of Oakland.”

    Great bar we’re setting there.

  6. Max Allstadt

    I may not be perfect, but I’m honest and motivated to act in the best interests of Oakland. And I have a cooler mustache. Where do I send my application?

  7. Becks

    Pat’s response is disappointing. I don’t know why our Council thinks they must settle for a second-rate administrator. It seems like they’ve given in to trudging through the next two years and not making real progress until Dellums is gone. That’s a terrible attitude!

    Imagine if the Democrats, after taking power in 2006, had approved everything Bush proposed because they were waiting out his administration. That’s essentially what our Council seems content to do.

  8. Jennifer

    Why Lindheim wants the job is beyond me. The Council has no guys and the Mayor has no ability to hire qualified people. I’ll withhold my opinion of the others he appointed yesterday since I know how screwed up the departments like CEDA are. Good luck making sense of that mess.

  9. Chris Kidd

    What kills me about the Kernighan letter is that she claims we have to accept Lindheim because no one else wants to work with “this crazy administration”. That’s all well and good, but we’ve got *no proof* of that! Until Dellums releases the results of his administrator search, we have no idea how many people were looked at and whether there really was an unwillingness by qualified people to come to Oakland. Unless Pat has some insider information she’d like to share with us, that kind of defeatism is absolutely unacceptable. That kind of defeatism is exactly the reason we end up with unqualified retreads like Lindheim running our city. Have some pride, Pat!

  10. V Smoothe

    And if Oakland is so awful that nobody good is willing to come here, why were we able to get such excellent people in the CEDA Director and Assistant City Administrator positions?

  11. Max Allstadt

    And, if Lindheim is already acting administrator, why can’t we just keep him as acting and demand a continuing search for someone qualified? The council is empowered to choose their own administrator. Why don’t they?

  12. len raphael

    most of the controversy was about her husband including his keeping his marriage secret because of likely violation of anti nepotism rule there. but that’s his problem, not hers.

    her alleged problem was that she and her spouse signed off on each other’s expense reports, which would have been ok if they hadn’t been married.

    heck, that’s petty ante compared to the stuff we do in oakland.

  13. CitizenE

    Er…Len…She was the Assistant City Manager and she, too, kept silent. In Oakland. Given all the ranting, wailing and teeth gnashing going on about nepotism, doesn’t seem like the wisest of personnel choices on the part of the Mayor’s office to me.

  14. mark

    Cronyism, Hypocrisy, and Low Expectations at City Hall…..incompetent. Sounds like he will fit right in.

    Oakland is on it’s way to bankruptcy, this will just get us there quicker. Bring on Ada Chan and we can be there by the end of the year.