(Last Updated On: May 6, 2019)

Michele Byrd, the now former Housing and Community Development Director, was fired by the City of on Friday, April 19th 2019. Since the news of that action, there has been a lot of change. Foremost among them is that Maraskeshia Smith, the City of Oakland’s Assistant City Administrator who was hired June 5th of 2018, is essentially taking the place of Byrd, and that’s at the tip of a lot of chaos and poor morale that’s reportedly developed. The rest of the story is below.

(Update: at 9:02 PM EST, a City of staffer called me to say that the City “reversed” its termination action and offered Ms. Byrd a settlement and a resignation. “That’s much better treatment,” the staffer said. I have continued to reach out to Mayor Schaaf, who has not agreed to go on the record with Zennie62Media as of this writing.)

Michele Byrd Oakland
Michele Byrd

The initial story (which was broken by Zennie62Media via a twitter tweet on April 22nd and thank to not one, but many calls and texts from City of staff members) was that The City of fired Housing and Community Development Director Michele Byrd over a March 29th 2019 television interview she gave to a news organization regarding the Rent Board and claims that she was not enforcing the city’s laws against illegal evictions.

How Did Michele King Come To Talk To The TV News?

The original news came from an irate City of staff member who said that “no one in the City saw this coming. The news organization targeted her, even though it wasn’t her fault. They (the City Administration and the Mayor of ) made her take the fall (for their jobs).” The City Of Staffer I talked to didn’t know why Byrd agreed to talk to the news organization “We all wondered why someone didn’t talk to her about what to say.”

Maraskeshia Smith
Maraskeshia Smith

There has been a lot of speculation regarding how Ms. Byrd became the person who was authorized to talk to that television news organization. Two other City of staffers have said to me that they believe Byrd was set up by the Mayor’s Office to give that interview.

Another Staffer texted that “requests were made of admin to interview multiple people but admin apparently decided to only have Byrd be interviewed.”

I have several texts and calls into Mayor Libby Schaaf to confirm that action, but none have been returned.

More News From City Of Staff

Moving forward, several more city staff members have reached out to this blogger to inform that it was Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Administrator Sabrina Landrieth who gave the order to fire Ms. Byrd. Now, the more detailed back story has it that the Mayor and the City Administrator dispatched Ms. Smith to fire Byrd, and head the reorganization of Housing and Community Development.

Maryann Leshin City Of Oakland
Maryann Leshin City Of

In all of this, the news that Maryann Leshin is replacing Byrd is not true, but for an interesting reason. First, this space wrote “for about two years, (Leshin) has served in the capacity of Deputy Director of the City Of Housing and Community Development Department. Blunt-force racial cosmetics: black Byrd is replaced by white Leshin.”

Second, as this blogger was told by one City of Staffer “That (hiring Leshin) was the idea, but they didn’t want to have a white person replace a black person, so Smith was put in charge.” (If so, then the Mayor Schaaf’s political sensors were spot on: had she taken such an action as replacing a black department head with a white one and for reasons that many believe are baseless, a number of Southern cities would have ran her out of town.)

Additionally, I’ve been informed by an City Staffer that the new recent hire in Housing and Community Development has, they claimed, hired “their friends” and reportedly, is “mean to employees.”  That’s something Mayor Schaaf has to address, because it’s leading to poor working conditions and morale in the department.

In The Byrd Story, The Main Problem Of Illegal Eviction Enforcement Is Ignored

The sad part of this entire story is that the original issue of why years of illegal landlord evictions have been ignored has been all but forgotten. One City Staffer texted this blogger to explain that the City hired a new person (not yet identified) to handle illegal landlord evictions (and the same person a City Staffer personally identified as “mean”, above). The trouble is, as another staffer informed me, Michele Byrd told the City Council, the City of lacks a true method of enforcing laws against illegal landlord evictions!

So, as another City of person remarked “Byrd defended in the media, warned of enforcement problems, and how does she get rewarded? She’s fired.

It’s one thing for to have a fine against illegal landlord evictions, but in this blogger’s view, the City of does not have a true, easily findable, online process to file a complaint, and even though illegal evictions are criminal, there’s no form of punishment that points to the use of police power.

In other words, an Police Officer writing a citation and / or jailing a landlord for an illegal eviction would cause the anti-illegal eviction laws to be followed. A tenant can file a complaint with the Rent Board, but that’s about it; a well-monied tenant can hire a tenant’s rights lawyer, but some of them strike deals with the landlord that isn’t in the tenants favor, just gives them more time to move out of their apartment.

Mayor Schaaf’s Office Needs To Break Its Silence On This Matter

Another City Staffer informed this blogger than Public Information Officer (PIO) Autumn King reportedly told city employees “Don’t talk to Zennie about this. He’s wrong.”

Well, first, I know Autumn King: she and I were introduced to each other via Melissa Russo (the wife of former City Councilmember and City Attorney John Russo) when she was heading up the media relations effort for the Chabot Science Center six years ago. Moreover, the three of us had brunch at my favorite place for breakfast in , Lakeshore Cafe at 3257 Lakeshore, in 2013, and around the time they were focused on a number of story initiatives including this one on Asteriod 1998 QE2.

In her position as PIO, Autumn King has sent several press releases to this blogger on various subjects, so for her to not reach out to me to tell the Mayor’s Office side of the story only hurts the City of Administration, not Oakland News Now, and because city staff has completely ignored her “order” (as if someone can prevent someone else from exercising their American right of free speech), and talked to me, anyway.

Second, I want to thank Autumn King for mentioning my name and publication in a City of staff meeting.

Stay tuned.


By Zennie Abraham

Zennie62Media, Inc. CEO Zenophon Abraham AKA Zennie62 YouTube Zennie62.com, Oakland News Now, OaklandNewsNow.com Zennie62 YouTube Partner, Oakland California blogger / vlogger hire @Zennie62Media, Inc to tell your story.

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