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Tam’s supporters stand behind her despite accusations

Submitted by on 1, July 12, 2010 – 5:00 am16 Comments

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.”


  • Incredulous says:

    “The fundraiser’s attendees included…a host of other political movers and shakers, including C.C. Yin, who was described as the godfather of Asian politicians;”

    Michele, use a little common sense when you are writing a story supportive of someone who seem to like.

    Describing the existence, let alone the presence at a party for Lena Tam, of a “godfather of politicians” is a real turn off to voters.

    Yes, Miss Marcucci, who studied in at Buffalo State College, on the Italian West Side, you do know what a godfather is.

  • Lauren Do says:

    In Asian cultures, the term “godfather” has not taken on the — apparently — negative connotation that you are ascribing to it. Extended family and including non-relatives as family is a fairly common phenomenon in Asian cultures, and I think a lot of other non-Western cultures as well.

  • Linda Hudson says:

    Incredulous: I’m incredulous. Michelle is a reporter, and she reported the event accurately, including the “godfather” comment. Talk to the Asian politicians who referred to Mr. Yin as “the godfather,” and explain your reasoning to them. If Michelle had edited that comment, then I might be queasy, but an ethical reporter tells it like it is.

  • Jon Spangler says:


    As Linda Hudson and Lauren Do have stated, the term “godfather” was a direct quote from the event and was used in the specifically Asian–not Sicilian–context Saturday afternoon. The word was absolutely NOT Michelle’s creative addition–we were all there and heard it used in the quite honorable Asian-specific context.

    Even in a purely Western European context the word “godfather” has quite positive connotations quite apart from Mario Puzo’s late-arriving popularizations.

    Here is the excerpted Merrian-Webster definition. The second definition is entirely accurate and the word was most aptly used Saturday afternoon:

    1 : a man who sponsors a person at baptism
    2 : one having a relation to someone or something analogous to that of a male sponsor to his godchild: as a : one that founds, supports, or inspires…

    Only after the above main definitions does M-W mention the Italian-Sicilian definition that you mistakenly took to be the applicable one. Be careful when applying your own cultural definitions to the wrong culture(s)…

  • Dennis Green says:

    “Reporting as a news event supportive comments at a fund-raiser is not journalism, but mere comedy favoritism. And in Chinese society, it’s not “Godfather” but “Tong Master,” which has an even more dubious connotation. Yes, there are still some very active Tongs in Oakland’s Chinatown. I once had a secretary, Jeannie Wong, at Children’s Hospital Oakland, whose father heads one up. And Michele, you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of a Tong War. They make Mafiosa gun-downs look like a Tea Party.

    Of course, Michele is named in the investigation against Tam, as is Lauren Do. I’m surprised John Knox-White hasn’t chimed in yet. Isn’t he some sort of “Godfather” of Alameda New Politics? In think the real news is yet to come, not about a fundraiser, but about a Grand Jury. Or do you suppose a Grand Jury can be bought off by SunCal?

  • Jon Spangler says:


    The campaign event is significant in light of the (IMHO questionable) allegations against Lena Tam. And I trust her professional judgment of what is newsworthy. (Do you have a degree in journalism or experience working as a real reporter? You do not write like one…)

    Your inaccurate and misleading “spin” ignores entirely content and context of the remarks that Lena Tam made at this event and your misrepresentations are entirely absolutely wrong. Why are you deliberately misconstruing words you never heard or witnessed? What is your purpose here? It clearly is not benign, well-intentioned, or constructive, since the truth is absent from your post.

  • Dennis Green says:

    Yes, Jon, I have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, a definition of journalism Michele and I both share. I also served five years as Senior Editor at UC Santa Barbara, published a column, “Geezerville: A Wry Take On Aging” for four years in the Alameda Sun, and have published several investigative articles there, including one, “Doomsday Scenarios” based on my interview of Mike McMahon. What are YOUR credentials? And trust me, I know the Chinese terms and concepts for what Tam called “Godfather,” studied Chinese and translated 25 poems from the Tang Dynasty, am friendly with all my Chinese neighbors on the East End. I’m here to correct such little cultural errors, benighted opinions, and to have fun! Isn’t that what politics is all about?

  • Dennis Green says:

    And by the way, Jon, I know that you’re big on transparency, so wouldn’t it be useful for you to acknowledge that you were an “advisor” to SunCal on Measure B? And that you and Linda Hudson, with your adjacent posts, are man and wife? And didn’t you once blame SunCal’s failure on “bad advice”?

  • tkoliver says:

    Blogs remind me of family dinners where there is always one person, anut unlce, grandpa or grandpa, who come just to piss people off. They often throw the phrase, “just in fun”, “cant you take a joke” or “oh come on, that’s not what I meant.”
    I am not a journalist, a lawyer, a sociologist nor of asian descent. Not have the those credentials makes it important that I have places to gather information about local politics and happenings. While some may find it fun pointing out errors or arguing issues as to the multiple ways “godfather” can be used or reported about, I find it much like sitting through those old family dinners, in my case it happened to be an uncle. Growing up I always wondered, why he acted the way he did and what was his point? At the risk of sounding like a B#$%h, Dennis could you help me out?

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Dennis, I’d much rather hear your response to tkoliver than respond seriously to your obviously tangential comments made at others’ expense.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    By the way, I never tell Linda what to think, say, or write. I learned that lesson decades ago and we have been married almost 22 years. We do read some of the same blogs, however, and sometimes discuss the more outstanding events and posts of the day. And your posts *do* stand out, in a manner of speaking…

  • Dennis Green says:

    tkoliver, some old saying about dysfunctional families all being different..? Of all the dysfunctional families, and family dinners I’ve enjoyed, I’ve never had an Uncle Boliver quite like yours. So pardon me if I can’t relate. You say you come to this news site for the information. So do I. I began reading The Island about a year ago, and found it a pleasant and often reliable supplement to the local rags. As a journalist, I recognized Michele as a colleague and a talented writer. She and I even met for lunch one day at Asena. I began emailing her comments privately, and then decided to join these discussion threads, where I have found the “old-timers” oddly proprietary in their responses, rather than welcoming. It’s more like encountering the regulars at a neighborhood bar than sitting down at a family dinner. Some of you folks are downright hostile!

    But I can take it. My primary purpose in commenting is in service of accuracy and the truth. When I read wildly speculative accusations dressed up as some sort of official “evidence,” my bullshit detector goes off, and I point out the disparity. When someone like Jon gets on his high horse and begins grilling me on my credentials, I turn his little water pistol back on him, and if he’s dissembling as a non-partisan when he’s got at least one dog in the fight, and a wife who tees up his ball for him, I’m gonna call him on it. Most of the partisans here in objective drag have an axe to grind, and I don’t. When I say that I’m in favor of free speech, I really mean it, and I’m not telling any of you to STIFLE, but that is definitely the message I’m getting back. It’s like stumbling on a nest of squirrels, and having the little buggers climbing up your legs!!!

    Dennis Herbert Green

  • tkoliver says:

    Dennis- Please do not confuse my question with “STIFLE”, a question is actually opposite. If I remember my 3rd and 4th grade language arts classes, a question is presented with the openness and anticipation of an answer. A statement is just words thrown out factual or not. Once again I could be wrong its been along time since elementary school.
    Hummmmm. Please be careful with your words, “you folks” is a rather large group, which “some” of us are you refering to? Clarification, much like that you felt neccessary to point out regarding the term “godfather”, would be helpful. With the way our world is today, I want to make sure I know what groups and labels I have. Am I hostile, friendly, happy, sociable, ugly, witty, encouraging, angry, stupid, funny, or giving? Regardless of the years we have been on this earth, young or young at heart, let us blog about others as we would have them blog about us.
    For beauty and hostility just might be in the eye of beholder.
    PS….2:53am???? Regardless of the reason for posting so late, I hope you got a good rest.
    And water pistols…I dont like pistols, could we use pissing match instead?
    And squirrels…lets leave them out of this. The audacity of comparing myself to such cute little creatures is such as insult to all squirrels.

  • jusjosh ahryte says:

    shes quoting someone else,referring to c.c. yin as someone whos been involved with asian politics for a while whos well respected..u guys are sheep…so easily distracted..just how they like it.baaaaaaa..

  • Dennis Green says:

    As for tko, I suspect he’s a lot like me, like a to present a moving target so mo one can quite get a fix on him. Admirable. Doubt that he’s as harmless as a squirrel, more the toxic rodent type. Maybe a leftover Desert Rat, although I suspect he was born after WW2… Doesn’t matter. All we need to know about him is what he says here. Nothing more revealing than one’s writing. A bit of a bully. Likes to push people around. With his innocent questions. Implies that if I’m writing at 2:53 a.m. I may be just another drunk. How would he know?

    I’m on dialysis and sometimes write late at night on my iPad. And I think a lot more clearly at 3:00 a.m. Than a lot of folks do at noon! Go figure.

    ; – )

  • tkoliver says:

    Jus josh- Most people, including me, agree with you and mentioned that when it was first brought up. My friend, Dennis, didn’t seem to agree. That is his right, but then he started throwing sand in the sand box. John seemed to get the worst of it. Because I come from a no throwing sand sandbox, I asked some clarifying questions. Seems that Dennis is now throwing sand at me, which actually makes my point. The original sand thrower is busy throwing sand at me, while John in the mean time was able to escape and hopefully find a nicer sandbox and get a break from Dennis.
    Dennis has wasted alot of energy thinking about what a mean, horrible person I must be. In the mean time I have been enjoying my week.

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