Taxpayer lawsuit against California city, police department claims discrimination against minority trucking contractors

Port of Oakland California
More than 50 minority truckers say they will support a lawsuit against the City of Oakland, California, and the Oakland Police Department. The lawsuit alleges that the police department issued “secret permits, giving the Port of Oakland’s corporate partner unlawful advantage.

OAKLAND, Calif. — More than 50 minority truckers are planning to file a petition in support of a lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the City of Oakland.

The taxpayer lawsuit filed by Steven Fajardo, a retired Hispanic police officer, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the expenditure and waste of public funds in the unauthorized process used by the OPD, alleging that the department favors Dreisbach Enterprises, a single, large trucking partner of the Port of Oakland. The OPD allegedly issued Dreisbach secret, noncompliant permits needed for the operation of heavyweight trucks on the streets of West Oakland and within the Port of Oakland. The lawsuit, filed in the Alameda Superior Court, is before Judge James Reilly in Case No. RG 20061840.

According to the lawsuit, a former OPD police officer, who is Caucasian, violated Oakland city ordinances when he unilaterally changed critical “trailer safety requirements” from four tires per axle to only two tires per axle, even though neither the current chief of police or any predecessor had formally established any new or additional safety and equipment criteria for use in determining whether an operator’s overweight truck satisfies the safety requirements mandated by law. The lawsuit further alleges that neither the public or any independent truck driver was notified of this potential or actual change, and that the change was not posted on the Port of Oakland’s website until four years after the fact.

According to the filing, the “secret” change occurred after the Port of Oakland entered into a lucrative arrangement for the construction of a cold-storage facility at the port through a joint venture between Dreisbach and conglomerate Lineage Logistics. These changes, made without public hearings and comment, allegedly allowed Dreisbach alone to receive special permits from the OPD to use specialized chassis, giving Dreisbach a disproportionate economic advantage over African American, Mexican American and other racial minority truckers at the port.

Ignacio De La Fuente, a former member of the Oakland City Council and a trucking-industry expert, summed up the concerns of the more than 50 independent minority truckers supporting the lawsuit as follows: “As if local law-enforcement agencies have not done enough damage to the African-American, Mexican-American and minority communities, the OPD has clandestinely and unfairly rigged the system in favor of the city’s partner (Dreisbach) at the expense of small, minority, independent truckers trying to get by in this already economically challenging time.”

Fajardo is represented by Eduardo G. Roy, a Bay Area attorney.

“It is time for the Oakland City mayor and acting police chief to immediately put the brakes on the Dreisbach’s illegal special permits and the improper favoritism, and investigate the systemic unfairness and disproportionate impact these illegal and unsafe policies and practices are having on our African American, Mexican American, and minority communities,” Roy said. “We have uncovered much evidence to show the city before any further changes or policies are considered by the acting police chief.”

Roy is also representing a Dreisbach competitor, PCC Logistics/Pacific Transload Systems, in a separate lawsuit against Dreisbach that has been pending since December 2018 and is set for trial in February 2021 in the Alameda Superior Court, Case No. RG18931876.

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