Former Human Welfare commissioner restored to position after contentious dismissal

Davila_chrisCox_file
Chris Cox/File

At its regular meeting Tuesday, Berkeley City Council approved in a contentious 6-4 vote the reappointment of Cheryl Davila to the city Human Welfare and Community Action Commission as an elected representative of the poor.

In September, Councilmember Darryl Moore removed Davila — whom he had originally appointed — from her position on the commission after she brought forth a proposal to divest city funds from companies affiliated with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Davila said that after she submitted the proposal, Moore offered her an “ultimatum,” telling her that if she did not withdraw the agenda item, he would dismiss her as a commissioner. After she refused to remove the item, she was notified by Housing and Community Services manager Kristen Lee that she was no longer on the commission, after serving since 2009.

Of the commission’s 15 representatives, nine are appointed by City Council members, and six are elected by their respective districts. Appointed commissioners are subject to removal at any time by their council member, whereas elected representatives of the poor cannot be dismissed by City Council.

When Davila was removed from the commission, there was a vacancy in her district’s elected seat, and the remaining elected members on the commission recommended Davila for the position in November.

According to Berkeley municipal code, a “vacancy (in an elected seat) shall be filled by the remaining elected commission members, who shall recommend to the council the person to fill out the term of the appointment.”

City Council is required to confirm the commissioners’ appointments before they can serve, but the agenda item was pushed back for nearly four months, leaving a long-term vacancy on the commission.

Failure to maintain full membership on the commission could result in a loss of funding from the Community Services Block Grant, a state program that provides funds to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty in communities.

The state’s Department of Community Services and Development has noted vacancies on the commission as a “finding” in its audits for the past several years, according to a report submitted to the council by Praveen Sood, chair of the human welfare commission.

“I want to emphasize that this vote is not about Palestine or Israel,” said Councilmember Lori Droste during the meeting. “This vote is not a commentary on any particular issue or a council member’s ability to remove a commissioner, which is within his right. … I will be supporting the appointment because I think we need to fulfill our duties and it’s the democratic thing to do.”

Davila’s term is effective through Nov. 16.

“I did not think it would happen,” Davila said. “I’m just happy that I had support on council that I didn’t think I had.”

 

 

Jessica Lynn is the lead city government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.