Education in Oakland

Archive for the ‘corruption’ Category

Grease is the Word

Posted by novometro on December 28, 2006

A friend’s wife recently tried to bribe the DMV. I’m not sure of the
details, but I think her unsuccessful attempt was as clumsy as
including a couple of twenty-dollar bills when she returned her
written test for scoring.

She was lucky. The clerk ripped up her test and told her to
reschedule some other day. Even with an American citizen for a
spouse, her immigration status isn’t entirely settled, and the DMV
official might have made a lot more trouble for her.

When she told my friend what happened that day at the DMV, he
threw a fit. He reminded her that this is California, and not her
homeland. Petty bureaucrats don’t break the rules for strangers for
$40. My friend’s wife knows this. She comes from a country that is
routinely listed as the most corrupt in the world. Everyone, from the
lowliest village traffic cop to the president, takes bribes where she
comes from. The relative honesty of public officials here must be
one of the more bewildering aspects of her new home.

But she wasn’t completely wrong. In fact, her miscalculation may
have been one of dollars and not cultural mores. In the last 16
months, the feds have charged five workers at the DMV on
Claremont Avenue with taking payments of $100 to $500 to issue
fraudulent smog clearances and bogus licenses on behalf of
brokers, who themselves were charging $1,500 to $4,500 per fix. In
December, I sent my friend the small article reporting the most
recent guilty plea in the Claremont Avenue case. He showed his
wife, who said, “I told you so.”

I was reminded of this incident this week while reading a piece on
the origins of public corruption in the Economist. The article notes
that political scientists aren’t sure if poor countries are rife with
corrupt officials because they are poor in the first place, or if
corruption itself makes countries poor. Either way, the most corrupt
countries are also among the most fucked-up
. We ought to be
grateful that our local bureaucrats can’t be had for less than $100.
When $40 gets you a driver’s permit, you’ll know we’re in trouble.


Posted in corruption, NovoMetro, Oakland | Leave a Comment »

In Good Company

Posted by novometro on September 22, 2006

Ignacio De La Fuente can assume that his office is bugged and his phones are tapped. It’s cold comfort for the Oakland City Councilman, who now finds himself the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into public corruption at City Hall, but he is not alone. In the last couple of years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has made public corruption a top priority across the country. The FBI is buying ads in local newspapers asking for public corruption tips. The Christian Science Monitor reported in May that FBI officers assigned to the public corruption beat grew from 400 to 600 since 2004. According to FBI chief Robert Mueller, the effort has paid off.

In May, Mr. Mueller told an audience at the San Diego City Club that public corruption indictments are up 40 percent and more than 1,000 government employees have been convicted for involvement in corrupt activities since 2004. Oakland’s own probe is just one of 2,200 pending public corruption cases nationwide.

Ever mindful that the public cares more about terrorism than graft, Mr. Mueller connected the dots: “ If public officials violate their oath to uphold the law by smuggling drugs or humans, where would they draw the line? For the right price, would they assist terrorists to smuggle a bomb into the country, or help terrorist operatives cross the border?”

Of course, Oakland City Hall staffers have grown accustomed to FBI snooping. The feds have been asking about State Senator Don Perata’s influence on the City Council for more than a year.

Posted in corruption, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Won’t You Take Me to…

Posted by novometro on September 15, 2006

In some quarters, Oakland is known simply as “The Town,” but for people with friends in the right places, Oakland apparently has another name. Maurice Himy, a local businessman with ties to Mayor Jerry Brown and Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, dubbed Oakland “Moneytown.” That was before feds arrested Mr. Himy Wednesday on extortion and public corruption charges in connection to a city contract to auction surplus vehicles. Of course, according to the public official involved (Mr. De La Fuente), Mr. Himy corrupted no public officials. “I know I did nothing wrong,” Mr. De La Fuente told the Oakland Tribune, which reported the story today.

Posted in corruption, Crime, Mayor, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »