Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks' legal woes mounted this week when a former aide filed a wrongful termination suit alleging that she's an abusive boss who ordered him to collect money from farmers market vendors directly to her with no proper accounting.
Sidney Wilson, who worked for Brooks from July 2016 until he resigned in October 2017, alleges in his suit in Alameda County Superior Court that Brooks "launched a campaign of retaliation" against him after he told her that he thought it was illegal for her to pocket the proceeds from the Millsmont Farmers Market in Brooks' district in East Oakland.
The lawsuit, filed on Wilson's behalf by attorney Charles Bonner, included an attachment of what Wilson says is a text Brooks sent to him on Aug. 26, 2017, in reference to the market's proceeds, saying, "Where is the money bag? Make sure it's dropped at my house no later than 3:30 p.m. today."
Wilson alleges in his suit that when he complained to Brooks, who was elected in 2012 and faces four challengers in the upcoming Nov. 6 election, about her conduct and the way he treated her, she threatened him by saying, "If you tell anyone what goes on in my office you will regret it!"
The suit says Brooks' retaliation against Wilson "included violently pushing, shoving and assaulting and battering" him.
The suit says that the nonprofit Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal (OCCUR) was solely responsible for running the farmers market but alleges that Brooks demanded and coerced Wilson into collecting money from vendors and turning the funds over to her, with no proper accounting to OCCUR.
The suit seeks unspecified economic and non-economic damages as well as $3 million in punitive damages.
Brooks, who hasn't attended recent City Council meetings or candidate forums, didn't respond to several phone calls and email messages seeking comment on the suit.
In a trial late last year and earlier this year, jurors awarded former Black Panther Party leader Elaine Brown $3.75 million in compensatory damages and $550,000 in punitive damages for injuries she suffered when Brooks, who is nearly 20 years younger than Brown, attacked her when they got into an argument about a public housing project in West Oakland at the
Everett & Jones BBQ restaurant near Jack London Square at about 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2015.
But Superior Court Judge Paul Herbert, who presided over the trial, ruled in April that the awards were excessive and weren't based on the evidence in the case, so he reduced Brown's award to $1.2 million in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.
However, the judge said he understood why the jury was upset at Brooks for "testifying falsely" and "lying about the events under oath."
The settlement also calls for Bonner, who represents both Brown and Wilson, to receive more than $1 million in attorneys' fees and other costs for Brown's case.
Bonner said today that Brooks still owes almost $200,000 in punitive damages and attorneys' fees in Brown's case and alleged that she is "deliberating evading" being served with court papers ordering her to pay up.
Bonner said his process server served Brooks at her home on Sunkist Drive on July 25, but Brooks claimed that she wasn't home at the time and was never served.
Bonner vowed to serve Brooks again soon, saying, "She can run but she can't hide."