Tam’s supporters stand behind her despite accusations
Dozens of supporters turned out to a campaign fundraiser Saturday for City Councilwoman Lena Tam, who told them that accusations that she broke open meeting laws and leaking confidential information are unfounded and motivated by politics.
They said they will continue to back Tam, who they called a champion for open government, despite the allegations.
“My attorney looked at this, and (found that) absolutely, the city manager’s accusations are false,” Tam told a crowd of about 50 supporters at the fundraiser, which was held in a private home in Alameda’s Gold Coast. “There’s been no improper distribution of documents that certainly are in the public domain.”
Other high-powered supporters who showed up to the fundraiser also stepped forward to defend Tam, including Oakland City Attorney John Russo.
“It seems to me there are a number of agendas. The timing of the allegations is remarkably convenient,” Russo said. “There’s a game being played here, and Lena is the victim of it.”
Russo urged the fundraiser’s attendees to look into the pasts of Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith, who hired an outside attorney to investigate Tam. That attorney, Michael Colantuono, forwarded the allegations to the Alameda District Attorney’s office with the request that they have a grand jury explore them further. Colantuono said he believes Tam should face misconduct charges and be removed from office.
Tam is accused of leaking confidential documents to SunCal, the local firefighters union and local bloggers and a reporter, and of violating the state open meetings law by circulating e-mails to more than one council member at a time on city issues.
Late this week, she announced that she hired high-powered San Francisco John Keker to defend her against the charges.
The fundraiser’s attendees included City Councilwoman Marie Gilmore, council candidate Rob Bonta, school board vice president Mike McMahon and a host of other political movers and shakers, including C.C. Yin, who was described as the godfather of Asian politicians; Chris Peeples of the AC Transit Board; Betty Yee of the State Board of Equalization; and Barbara Kahn, who is active in local political circles. Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker and incoming Supervisor Wilma Chan, who were named on the invite for the fundraiser, were at other engagements Saturday.
Supporters attending the fundraiser said they believe Tam is an honest person who has worked hard for her constituents. And they questioned the truth and the motivation behind the accusations.
Tam and Gallant have found themselves on the opposite sides of several issues, most notably the development of Alameda Point and compensation and staffing for the Alameda Fire Department. And Tam and Highsmith have had a handful of testy public exchanges at city meetings, including one early-morning exchange that led to Tam calling Highsmith to the carpet in a testy e-mail the next day.
Tam was asked to recuse herself from a closed council session Wednesday but she refused to do so.
“I think Lena has a great deal of integrity. I do not believe that she would do anything improper because she respects the political process too highly,” said Audrey Lord Hausman, who attended the fundraiser with her husband, Richard.
“There are way too many questions,” Lord Hausman said of the allegations against Tam. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”