Oakland Mayor Denies Wrongdoing, Questions the Timing of 'FBI Intrusion'

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao had quite a week last week. First she learned that an effort to recall her had made the ballot. The very next morning, the FBI showed up at her house as part of some investigation involving the city's recycling contractor. That was Thursday morning. For the next several days, Thao seemed to have disappeared.


Many Oakland residents and advocates are asking: where is Mayor Sheng Thao?

It's been four days since the mayor was seen in public, following an FBI raid on her home and other locations in Oakland Thursday...

"She's got to be open. She's a public figure. She's got to let us voters know too. That's why she's in office," said Larry Sosa.

A group had a small rally Sunday night to call on the mayor to step down.

The group stood behind a fake photoshopped mugshot of Thao dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and held posters that depicted the mayor on a milk carton beneath such slogans as “Missing. If found, contact the FBI” and “Recall, sign here.” They also held signs protesting budget cuts to the city’s police and fire departments...

Organizer Edward Escobar of the Coalition for Community Engagement said the gathering was meant to criticize Thao’s “conspicuous absence” following a “spate” of recent violence. A shooting at an Oakland Juneteenth event at Lake Merritt left at least 15 people injured and stoked fears of violent crime in the city at a time when police data show overall crime fell earlier this year.

“These folks claim to be progressive, but where is the progress?” Escobar said.

Today, Mayor Thao's conspicuous absence finally came to an end. She held a press conference in which she flatly denied having done anything wrong. She also questioned the timing of the raid and seemed to suggest that it wasn't a coincidence it took place one day after the recall was approved.

"I want to be crystal clear. I have done nothing wrong," said Thao. "I can tell you with confidence that this investigation is not about me."

Thao blasted the raid her home early Thursday morning which she said came without warning and said the effort to have her recalled from office is a waste of time and city resources.

"I want to know what probable cause the FBI has. What evidence have they collected that justifies raiding the home of a sitting mayor without notice and without the courtesy of a conversation," said Thao. "I want to know more about the handful of billionaires from San Francisco and Piedmont who are hell-bent on running me out of office. I want to know why the day following the qualification of a recall election, funded by some of the richest people in the Bay Area, seemed like the right day to execute a warrant."


She continued, "I want to know how the TV cameras knew to show up on my sleepy residential street, so early in the morning to capture footage of the raid. And I want to know why Fox News and Breitbart were so prepared to fan the flames and to tell a story that they want to tell...I have a lot of questions and I will get answers."

Aside from blaming the media, Thao also said she was being targeted because she grew up poor. She made a comparison to "former elected officials" whose homes hadn't been raided. SF Gate reports that was probably a reference to former Mayor Libby Schaaf:

Her comment about “former elected officials” feeling safe despite alleged campaign finance violations seemed like a reference to former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Earlier this month, Oaklandside reported that Schaaf, who served two terms from 2015 to 2023, is under investigation for allegedly “running a political action committee that illegally raised large sums of money to influence an election." 

“Their front doors remain intact,” Thao said of those unnamed officials. “Their reputations preserved, their innocence presumed until proven guilty, they will never face this indignity.”

She wrapped up with an emotional statement saying "I will not be bullied and I will not be disparaged and I will not be threatened out of this office." Meanwhile, the NAACP released a statement pointing out that no one so far has come to Mayor Thao's defense.

The city desperately needs “active, engaged and competent leadership” in this trying time, wrote Cynthia Adams, president of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP in an emailed statement.

“It is telling that no other city officials have defended the mayor, nor do any of them even seem to be in contact with her,” she said.


Here's the mayor's full statement from earlier today. It's hard to imagine she could survive all of this. We'll find out in a few more months.

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