The city of Oakland’s top homelessness official is off the job, making him the second person to last less than a year in the role.
Daniel Cooper, a public health professional from North Carolina, was hired last spring to become the city’s second homelessness administrator in as many years. The high-profile position was created in 2020 to coordinate Oakland’s homelessness response and to inform public policy.
City spokesperson Nicole Neditch confirmed that Cooper was placed on administrative leave Dec. 20, and “released from employment” Tuesday.
“The city has no further comment regarding this personnel matter at this time,” she said in an email.
LaTonda Simmons, assistant city administrator, will serve as the interim homelessness administrator “while the City works to recruit and appoint someone into this important role,” Neditch said.
The transition comes as Oakland prepares to close the final remaining portion of the city’s biggest encampment, on Wood Street. Cooper oversaw ongoing closures there and at other large camps like the East 12th median.
It will be Simmons’ second time in the interim position. She filled the role temporarily after the first homelessness administrator, Daryel Dunston, left the city after less than a year in the position, going to work for the San Francisco Foundation. He’s currently the assistant city manager in Santa Rosa.
Dunston helped shepherd the creation and passage of Oakland’s Encampment Management Policy.
Simmons previously told The Oaklandside that her time as the interim homelessness administrator was “one of the most eye-opening experiences” she’d had, and that it took her several months to “find the right person to keep a very respectful momentum of work” after Dunston.
The administrator role is not the only homelessness position that’s seen recent turnover in the city. Three other top staffers in that area left last spring, and the city’s housing chief left in the fall as well.
“It’s impossible to perform and succeed with excellence in this role given the resources and tools that are provided,” Cooper told The Oaklandside on Wednesday.
Before relocating to Oakland for the job, Cooper led policy and planning initiatives, on homelessness and other issues, for Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located.
Correction: This story previously said Daryel Dunston worked for the city of Oakland for less than a year. While he was homelessness administrator for less than a year, he’d previously held other roles with the city between 2017-2020.