Oakland mayor in crisis as lawyer, top aide jump ship following fiery speech after FBI raid

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao speaks during a news conference
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao speaks during a news conference at Laney College in November 2023. Federal authorities raided a home belonging to Thao on June 20 as part of a California investigation that included a search of at least two other houses, officials said.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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Key players are ditching embattled Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao as her administration and legal team convulse following an FBI raid on her house last week.

Over the last two days, following a fiery speech she gave declaring her innocence, Thao lost her personal lawyer as well as the head of communications for her administration. A former chief of staff, who resigned in 2022, has called on the mayor to resign, noting that she quit because of a pay-to-play scandal involving Thao’s administration.

“It says a lot when you have people of this caliber abandoning you,” Bay Area public relations specialist Sam Singer said. “The city of Oakland is in full crisis mode and on the verge of collapse. The instability of Sheng Thao’s administration and the inaction of the City Council is of deep concern.”


Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she believes the FBI raid of her home is linked to an effort to recall her from office.

June 24, 2024

The current drama facing the mayor is two-pronged. Last Tuesday, a campaign to have her recalled made it onto November’s ballot. Separately, the very next day, Thao’s house was raided by the FBI as part of an investigation, the details of which are still murky.

On Monday, Thao gave her first public comments since the raid, claiming she was innocent and painting herself as a victim of federal agents who she said would have treated her differently if she came from a wealthy background.

FBI personnel work on an investigation at a home in Oakland.
FBI personnel work on an investigation at a home registered to businessman Andy Duong in Oakland on June 20. Duong is a member of a family that owns recycling company Cal Waste Solutions, which has been investigated over campaign contributions to Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and other elected city officials.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Thao’s comments shocked her attorney, Tony Brass, who resigned shortly after she spoke. Brass said he had no idea that Thao was going to have the news conference.

“She contacted me, and she was in a fair amount of crisis over the search warrant. I followed my procedure. I have a certain way of processing cases. Our attorney-client relationship was short-lived,” Brass told The Times. “I have an approach, and it appeared as though she had a different approach. I did not feel like I was the right guy to follow hers.”

Thao said she “obtained new legal counsel” over the weekend.

“I appreciate Tony Brass for providing me with initial legal guidance. He helped me better understand the investigation and my legal options,” she said in a statement Tuesday.


After Brass quit, the mayor’s head of communications, Francis Zamora, also left the office. He had been in the position for nine months.

“I resigned my position as Chief of Communications. I thank my colleagues for their professionalism and dedication. It was an honor to serve the City of Oakland beside them,” Zamora said in a statement.

“Francis was a valuable member of the team, whose contributions are greatly valued and appreciated. I thank him for his service and wish him well,” Thao said.

A third former key ally, Renia Webb, has called on the mayor to resign. Webb worked for Thao’s 2022 campaign and was chief of staff following the mayor’s election.

FBI personnel work on an investigation at a home in Oakland.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Webb told CBS that Thao’s boyfriend, Andre Jones, was promising jobs to people in exchange for money.


“A lot of what’s coming out now is the reason I resigned shortly thereafter winning the election that we fought so hard to win,” Webb told the outlet.

The FBI has not disclosed what it is investigating, but the raid at the mayor’s house coincided with a second raid at the home of Andy Duong, whose family owns and runs Cal Waste Solutions, which has been under investigation by a city ethics panel over campaign contributions to Thao and others.

Thao, without giving any facts to back up her statement, linked the FBI raid to the campaign to get her recalled. She is the first Oakland mayor to face a recall vote.