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ALAMEDA FIREFIGHTERS BREAK SILENCE ON TAM INVESTIGATION

Submitted by on 1, July 19, 2010 – 5:00 am6 Comments

Representatives from Alameda’s firefighters union said this weekend that they already had information City Councilwoman Lena Tam was accused of leaking to them – including a letter from a would-be county ambulance contractor that they said was actually written at their behest.

On Sunday, IAFF Local 689 President Domenick Weaver released a trail of correspondence leading up to the letter from Alameda County ambulance service bidders Paramedics Plus, which Weaver and IAFF’s political director, Jeff DelBono, were sent three days before Tam’s e-mail containing the letter went out, documents show.

The information released Sunday also offers an e-mail Weaver received showing that reps from a host of firefighters unions in Alameda County, including Alameda’s, were set to meet with reps from Paramedics Plus months before the ambulance bids were due in and before Tam’s e-mails went out.

“At no time did Council Member Tam or ANY other council member ‘leak’ information to IAFF Local 689 on this topic, or any other,” Weaver wrote. “All information received was the result of official correspondence between IAFF Local 689 and the City of Alameda, through official public information requests to the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Agency, and our own meetings with Paramedics Plus.”

Tam is accused of leaking information to the firefighters and sending an e-mail to her fellow council members to try to scuttle any plan to contract out the city’s ambulance service.

The Paramedics Plus letter came as the union learned city officials were exploring the possibility of allowing Alameda County to take over Alameda’s ambulance service, which is currently operated by the fire department. Weaver said the union asked Paramedics Plus president Anthony J. Myers to write the letter to the City Council and Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant during a February 18 meeting they had with Myers.

After receiving the letter, which urges the city to maintain its existing ambulance service, Tam and another, unnamed council member contacted the union’s reps “inquiring as to why they had received the letter from Paramedics Plus as they did not recall giving council direction to pursue the contracting out of the Ambulance Transport Service,” Weaver wrote in a chronology that accompanied the documents.

Tam forwarded the letter with a February 25 e-mail to Gallant, Fire Chief David Kapler and members of the council that was blind-copied to DelBono. “Can you give me a briefing and context for this letter when we meet on Saturday. This is not my recollection of council direction,” Tam allegedly wrote. “I thought we were evaluating revenue-generating opportunities by having our own ambulance transport and (basic life support) services to maximize the skills of our firefighters.”

On March 5, Tam sent an e-mail to Gallant, Kapler and members of the council saying she had learned that prior to the responses being submitted for the ambulance bid, reps for both Paramedics Plus and their competitor, AMR, had met with labor unions and firefighter unions from across the county, and fire chiefs, records released by an outside attorney hired to investigate Tam appeared to show. The e-mail, which was apparently blind copied to DelBono, Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker and her chief of staff, Shawn Wilson, came in response to a March 1 e-mail from Gallant offering an update on the bid process.

Weaver sent letters to the council on April 24, 2009 and July 12, 2009 to make the union’s case for keeping ambulance service in Alameda, instead of contracting it out to the county. On July 14, he received a letter from the city’s human resources director, Karen Willis, saying the city had opted to be included as an alternative in the county’s bid for a new ambulance contract.

Representatives from Paramedics Plus, which eventually won the contract, met with union reps from several fire departments in Alameda County in September 2009, an e-mail furnished by Weaver showed.

“One of the processes we go through when preparing a proposal is to evaluate the surrounding systems to determine their level of relative sophistication and cost effectiveness. Our evaluation of the City of Alameda shows that the city has a well run, cost effective system that provides an outstanding level of care at a reasonable cost,” Myers wrote. “As an island community with limited access, we came to the conclusion that Paramedics Plus would not be able to provide a level of service to the City of Alameda that is comparable to what is currently being delivered by the Fire Department and it is our opinion that no other provider could either.”

Attorney Michael Colantuono, who was hired by the city to look at Tam’s e-mails to see if they violated open meetings and confidentiality rules, accused Tam of illegally trying to persuade the council to reject any proposal to contract out ambulance service because, he said, the information should have been related in open session instead of via the February 25 e-mail.

And he accused Tam of engaging in “biased decision making” by participating in closed session discussions relating to labor negotiations with the firefighters unions after sending the March 5 e-mail and another asking if Gallant had “closed the loop” with Weaver about amendments to the firefighters’ contract to DelBono. He said those e-mails and others showed that Tam exploited her position for private benefit.

Last week an attorney for SunCal, who Tam is also accused of sending confidential information to, said the company had ” frequent and open communication” with the councilwoman, and they said the investigation was an attempt to keep her from voting Tuesday on whether to deny SunCal’s development proposal, effectively sending the company packing.

6 Comments »

  • This is just too much. Tam is being accused of “engaging in ‘biased decision making’ by participating in closed session discussions relating to labor negotiations with the firefighters unions” when the woman that is leading the investigation, Ann Marie Gallant, displays the exact same behavior… Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone. Read her email chain with lead Alameda Point project opposition below:

    http://eastbayopengovernment.blogspot.com/2010/07/war-makes-for-strange-bedfellows-suncal.html

  • Jon Spangler says:

    In simple terms, then, if the firefighters’ union had received the letter three days earlier than Tam’s email, which the ICM’s attorney later claimed was “privileged,” Tam’s email was no longer confidential information, right? And all that Tam was doing was making sure that the ICM and other city officials were already aware of this prior communication and had “closed the loop,” Amazing.

    Like Alameda Watchdog, I am deeply disturbed by the ICM’s email correspondence with David Howard, which certainly does NOT read like an impartial city official’s communication with the “press,” a term to be used advisedly at best in reference to Howard and his biased communications.

  • ct says:

    Just more truths demonstrating how wrong ICM Ann Marie Gallant’s allegations against Lena Tam are. The following links also present facts that reveal the irrational nature of Gallant’s accusations:

    laurendo.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/dont-forget-to-stretch/

    laurendo.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/reading-between-the-redactions/

  • David Howard says:

    You folks are comical…

    From our host, who acts with great discretion in terms of which comments she approves and does not have a clear policy on what sort of comments are acceptable (see below), and supposedly tries elevate the level of dialog in the community, but still allows personal attacks of the sort that Jon Spangler loosed above, while selectively denying approval to other, milder statements. (I lost count of my submitted comments which were not approved.)

    Comical, to Jon Spangler, who decries personal attacks, but lets loose his own, as above.

    Comical, all the way to “Alameda Watchdog” who, while preaching openness and transparency, hides behind a pseudonym, and launches specious attacks. Just who is “Alameda Watchdog” anyway? Who writes that East Bay Open Government blog?

    The simple truth behind the e-mail exchange that “Alameda Watchdog” partially documented on his blog is this:

    During the Measure B campaign, Measure B supporters were arguing that Alameda Point costs more money to maintain than it generates in revenue for the city. Someone, I forget who, asked those people to substantiate their argument, and they – so I’m told – produced a spreadsheet which apparently was an internal City budgeting/forecast document showing projected revenue and expenses for Alameda Point.

    So just what document, exactly, does “alameda watchdog” allege that Ann Marie Gallant leaked to me? The spreadsheet? That document, evidently, was leaked to Measure B supporters! Read the e-mail on his blog – regarding that spreadsheet, I wrote “We got it from the pro Measure B folks…” Of course, “alameda watchdog” cut a portion of that out – look closely.

    My feeling at the time was that somebody with SunCal sympathies in City Hall – Leslie Little, Debbie Potter – leaked the document to SunCal and supporters. I asked the ICM about it to try to verify it was a real city document.

    How, exactly, did “alameda watchdog” get a copy of that e-mail exchange, anyway? I didn’t send it to him and I doubt the ICM did. I checked with the City, and the only public records requests for correspondence involving me for the first 6.5 months of this year doesn’t include a copy of that e-mail exchange. So who leaked that e-mail exchange to “alameda watchdog” ? The ICM? Not likely. Probably somebody she forwarded it to internally.

    Sorry “alameda watchdog,” but this one backfired on you…

    As for the other documents referenced in that e-mail exchange, the ARRA annual report for FY 2008-2009, I was making a request for public documents that all of us are entitled to, something the City should make available promptly, perfectly in line with what “alameda watchdog” preaches. It was a public records request. No rules broken, no statutes violated.

    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2010/07/15/east-bay-municipal-utility-district-has-no-plans-to-investigate-employee-lena-tam-after-alameda-allegations/comment-page-1/#comment-6083

    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2010/01/12/alameda-point-lease-revenues-to-exceed-130-million-over-next-eight-years/

    The Island Comment Policy
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    Comment policy
    By posting a comment you agree that The Island has the legal right to publish, edit or delete all comments. (No trolls, and one screen name per customer.) You also agree that you bear sole legal responsibility for your comments, and that you will hold The Island/Affiliated LLC harmless from the legal consequences of your comment, including libel, copyright infringement and any other legal claims. Please report inappropriate comments to michele@theislandofalameda. com.

    • David,

      Thanks for reminding people about my comment policy – and that I do exercise discretion in what gets posted in the comments, for the reason you stated. It is not an absolute right to post comments here, but a privilege. That said, there’s actually very little that ends up getting filtered out, because most folks seem to be pretty clear on what’s appropriate to post and what isn’t. But anyone who’s got a question about what might be OK and what might not be can – and people have done this – e-mail me to ask. And anyone who feels that a comment that has been posted is inappropriate can also e-mail me at my listed address.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    David,

    It is emails like the ICM’s to you that might cost this community millions of dollars in damages from a breach of contract suit. That is not just “personal.”

    It is not a “personal attack” to criticize city officials’ communications that appear to be unprofessional and/or to violate city policies and legal contracts (i.e., the ENA with Suncal). The ICM’s emails do not read like official, objective, “arm’s length” communications and clearly imply a subjective content and a political agenda not in line with the “good faith” negotiating clauses of the ENA with Suncal. And I am afraid they will make terrific evidence for Suncal to take us to the cleaners in court, which does not please me at all as a taxpayer.

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