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Gilmore seeks accounting on Tam investigation

Submitted by on 1, September 21, 2010 – 5:00 am34 Comments

Courtesy of the City of Alameda

Alameda City Councilwoman Marie Gilmore is asking her dais-mates to okay an audit detailing the costs of a city-sponsored leaks investigation into Councilwoman Lena Tam.

Gilmore wants City Auditor Kevin Kearney to perform an audit that would include “legal bills, costs, technology (hardware and software) and employee time expended in the investigation of Councilmember Tam so that the Council and public has a clear understand of the amount of money and time expended on this matter,” Gilmore wrote in a council referral to be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting.

Gilmore is also asking for a Brown Act workshop for the council, members or boards and commissions and the public, and she wants the legal contract for the Tam matter terminated so the council can “place this matter behind (them).”

Tam has said the investigation into allegations she leaked confidential information cost the city more than $100,000, a claim City Attorney Teresa Highsmith has denied.

Invoices from attorney Michael Colantuono obtained by The Island through a public records act request showed that Colantuono billed the city $77,095.16 for “general services” performed between the months of March and August. Highsmith would not reveal the specific amount of money Colantuono charged for his work on the investigation, claiming the information was protected by attorney-client privilege and exempt from public disclosure requirements.

Tam – who is up for re-election – was accused of leaking confidential information to former Alameda Point developer SunCal and the firefighters union, accusations she denied. Colantuono had asked that a grand jury decide whether Tam should be removed from office based on the accusations, but District Attorney Nancy O’Malley declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Opponents of the Tam investigation have since released information showing that Colantuono and city officials he worked faced similar accusations when he was city attorney for La Habra Heights. In 2003, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office issued the city a warning letter after attorneys there said city officials had violated the state’s open meetings law by discussing city business over e-mail and by not letting members of the public speak at meetings until after issues had been decided. They said the city had also wrongly claimed that a committee set up to work on the city’s general plan was exempt from the Brown Act because it was “only an advisory committee.”

Colantuono and the city’s then mayor, Stan Carroll, denied the claims, and Colantuono accused the district attorney’s office of failing to get input from the city before issuing the letter. And he accused the district attorney’s office of being drawn into local political disputes.

“The goal of the Brown Act is not punishment or the discouragement of civic volunteers such as those who serve on La Habra Heights’ uncompensated boards and commissions. The goal is meaningful public participation in a democracy,” Colantuono wrote on August 29, 2003, in response to the district attorney’s letter. “Where there is an alleged failure to foster that participation, the remedy is more public information, and more opportunity for public input. The remedy is not to chill the activity of those who devote their volunteer efforts to improving their communities.”

34 Comments »

  • j cloren says:

    Why isn’t she concerned what sun cal has cost the city of Alameda???
    Isn’t it irresponsible to ignore what sun cal has cost this city, and express greater concern over a side issue!

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
    William Shakespeare

  • Good for Marie. It’s good to see someone showing leadership and an independent mind, something Marie has always been known for. Our city hasn’t updated its computer servers which are incapable of meeting even the minimum municipal standards for data retention because staff can’t find the $100K to do so. But ignoring City Ordinance that allows the City Attorney’s office to spend no more then $36K without council approval (the audit will likely find costs of the investigation in the $80-100K range based on Colotuono’s invoices meaning rules were broken), the City staff can dig up whatever money it wants to pursue seriously unsuccessful legal vendetta’s against elected officials.

    It’s good to see someone stepping up and asking reasonable questions about this fiasco.

  • Dave L. says:

    If the Interim City Manager has nothing to hide she will release the data to Gilmore, in a timely manner.

  • Kate Quick says:

    Even more worthy of investigation is Attorney C’s statement in his diatribe against Lena about who to vote for in the upcoming election. Crossed the line, and it is against the law for the staff (he is an agent of the Interim City Manager, City Attorney, and indeed the Council)to engage in politics.

    Also, for those of you spreading the lie that Marie Gilmore, Rob Bonta and Lena Tam are the “SunCal Slate”, stop it. They have all publicly said that is not true, they have taken NO money from any developer, and in light of the SunCal suit against the City, they are not interested in bringing them back. It is a political untruth, being spread around to cause damage. Just have your candidates say what they are for, and stop the smears against others!

    I am putting a camera on my yard, so any further stealing of my Lena Tam signs will be recorded. Three went missing yesterday.

  • Mike says:

    Enough already! The investigation is over! Now Councilmember Gilmore wants to spend MORE resources on an audit?

    This feckless revenge only keeps the story alive.

  • Nancy says:

    It seems that Councilwoman Marie Gilmore is implying that monies spent on an investigation is money wasted.

    As an attorney, she should know that our government begins thousands of investigations that are later dropped because there is not enough evidence to go forward with a case. It’s the nature of justice being served.

    Let it be, and let’s get on with city business.

  • J.E.A. says:

    Kate, I agree they should not be called the SunCal Slate…I think the Perata Slate has a better ring to it.

  • Mary says:

    j. cloren, you should do your homework before making comments. SunCal was reimbursing the city for all costs associated with Alameda Point with the exception of the election, which the city brought on itself by insisting on holding a special election and rushing Measure B to the ballot. All other costs, including staff time and about half of the ICM’s salary were paid for with SunCal monies!!!

    On the issue at hand, good for Marie requesting this audit, its about time we find out exactly what this witch hunt cost the City. Once the numbers are revealed the City Council and the Mayor should immediately begin the process of getting rid of the ICM and the City Attorney!!!

  • EastBay2010 says:

    I don’t understand why it would cost any money to “audit” the investigation. Staff should have to input their hours daily on what they work on already. Invoices from the Attorney the City hired should come regularly. So, add up the invoices, add up the staff time (multiplied by staff hourly salaries) and we’ll know the basic “cost” of the investigation. Obviously this won’t account for the opportunity cost of staff not working on other things, Lena Tam’s costs, etc., but it’s a good starting point. Ths just isn’t rocket science.

    As for SunCal, all City services provided for the redevelopment of Alameda Point, including the salary of many staffers who were working on more than just Alameda Point, was paid by SunCal…look it up. I’d be more interested in knowing how much the City is spending now that SunCal is not the developer? The current state of what’s going on with top City staff and some electeds feels like a house of cards to me just waiting to fall.

  • john says:

    We did not need to have an investagation of MS.Tam by the county D.A. She should have been called by the City Attorney for a meeting to inform her of the information that they had, then it should have gone to the Fair Political Practices Commission. If they had found that it needed to go further the City would not have had to spend all that money on laywers. It was very unfair of the City Attorney’s office to handle it the way they did.

  • Terry Francke, Californians Aware says:

    1. A council majority can, in recognition of the public interest, waive the confidentiality of the attorney-client privilege and disclose all communications with Mr. Colantuono. It’s entirely up to them as a political decision.

    2. There is no California case law or other legal authority that recognizes as privileged the general kind of tasks for which an attorney bills the client. Federal case law for the Ninth Circuit (including federal courts in California) indicates such information is not treated as privileged.

  • ct says:

    Mike and Nancy,

    Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant acted rashly, irresponsibly, and maliciously when she ordered a politically motivated investigation of Councilwoman Lena Tam. Gallant used city funds to pay for her smear campaign (while Tam had to rely on her own personal finances to defend herself). The full scope of public resources Gallant squandered on waging a personal vendetta is very much a public concern, because we need to know if she is fit to serve as interim city manager.

  • j cloren says:

    Considering what Lena Tam got caught doing .. Lena Tam violated the law .. not the city manager. The city manager did a good job by protecting the city from a conspiracy.
    Stop trying to shoot the messenger just because you don’t like the message.
    Lena Tam violated the law, not the city manager!

  • john says:

    J. Cloren, I don’t think the City Manager violated the law, nor do I think Lena Tam violated the law. My opinion is backed up by the Alameda county District Attorney. You say Lena Tam violated the law, can you offer proof.

  • Jack Kirby says:

    j cloren –

    I believe your series of posts on the Lena Tam investigation, have overlooked a critical piece of information.

    You continually state that, “Lena Tam violated the law!”

    But considering that no charges were ever brought against Ms. Tam (they were merely sought by the City Attorney and Interim City Manager) and that, “District Attorney Nancy O’Malley declined to pursue the case, citing a lack of evidence,” one must assume she is innocent of the accusations (that’s how our legal system works, if you like it or not).

    That means that the City’s costly investigation did not uncover enough evidence of wrong doing for the DA to recommend any charges be sought by a grand jury.

    Seems pretty reasonable for Ms. Gilmore to want to know how much was spent on the investigation, considering there wasn’t enough evidence of wrong doing to bring charges against Ms. Tam. It’s not like we have a pot of mad money around here to waste on frivolous pursuits right now.

  • L Baroni says:

    I agree with J. Cloren – with money as scarce as it is these days to pay for much needed resources in this city, why aren’t people more concerned about how much was wasted on SunCal? There’s all the money for the election (a reported $400,000), and now, because SunCal didn’t like the outcome of the CITY decision not to extend their contract they are suing. Even MORE of our tax dollars are being spent on this – Where is it going to end and what is the financial toll on our community?

    John Knox White praises Ms. Gilmore for showing leadership – where was his leadership when he accepted a CONFIDENTIAL email and did not report it to the proper parties? For that matter, wasn’t Ms. Gilmore also a recipient of the bcc’s sent by Tam? If there was some honesty here, the emails would have been reported and this argument would not be happening.

    As far as the third comment today, at the same meeting, if you were watching on TV, you saw the screen go blank, but the sound was on and Ms. Gilmore (it WAS her voice) kept commenting to Highsmith she was not trying to cause trouble, and wanted to make amends. Only a brief portion of the conversation is on the video posted on the City website.

    It’s interesting that certain regulars to this blog and others are the people that keep pointing fingers at the ICM (Ann Marie Gallant) and City Attorney (Theresa Highsmith) as well as the Mayor. Perhaps it’s because the City of Alameda has been without leadership at the paid staff level (not electeds) for so long, that they are frightened. Ms. Gallant and Ms. Highsmith are doing their jobs, and if JKW watched the last city council meeting, Ms. Highsmith did a very good job MORE than once explaining the City Ordinance regarding expenditures.

    Don’t shoot the messenger(s)! Every resident of this city should be thankful we have Gallant and Highsmith doing their jobs amidst all of the controversy. I wonder if you would keep working or just walk away if it were you being criticized every day.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    At tonight’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Terry Highsmith denied that she had ever “talked to” any reporters about what Michelle has reported. Very interesting, considering that Michelle is the one who filed the public records requests….

    I hope the City Council will do better next time and follow Terry Francke’s advice. The City needs to account for its spending–in both city staff time and in outside contractor time and dollars–wasteful or not.

    The City Attorney seemed either arrogant or defensive when she warned the City Council to not violate the charter and abrogate the (Interim) City Manager’s prerogative to investigate the City Council…..Why?

  • Dave L. says:

    J cloren, it’s pretty well known that the costs incurred by the city on SunCal were paid for by SunCal. My guess is that the million or so dollars a year taken by the city will probably be missed.

  • j cloren says:

    Dave L

    What about the cost of the special election (400K), did sun cal reimburse the city for that ??
    Sun Cal brought in out of town, paid signature gatherer’s to force a vote, that we didn’t ask for. They cost the city lots of money in their attempt to avoid legitimate avenues of negotiation. When do you expect them to reimburse us??

  • Mike says:

    Gee. The 15 percenters sure do take up a lot of air space. Their unhealthy fixation on the city manager and city attorney is getting tiring, if not annoying.

    I find it amusing the latest telephone push polls (two now) against Councilman Frank Materrese use the same talking points as what the 15 percenters use.

  • EastBay2010 says:

    Did anyone see the Council meeting last night? At the last Council meeting a couple of weeks ago,Gilmore asked the City Attorney several times about how much the Tam investigation cost and the City Attorney wouldn’t provide that information. Last night, Gilmore asks for an audit and the City Attorney said it was unecessary because she would provide that information without an audit. That is all Gilmore wanted in the first place. Again, I don’t understand why this is even an issue since it should take about 2 minutes just to grab the invoices from the outside counsel. Also, I think it’s important to get City staff time spent on the investigation as well…and if that isn’t available, staff really needs to start accounting for their hours spent on stuff.

  • Mary says:

    Eastbay 2010, you might as well stop your salivating. We’ll all find out soon enough.

  • Mike says:

    Mary, it’s disappointing that you call EastBay’s observations “salivating.” Don’t you think it’s wrong for the city attorney not to reveal the cost of the Tam investigation to a councilmember? We’re talking our taxpayer money being spent here, and there is no legitimate reason for the numbers to be kept a secret from the council or from regular citizens. For pete’s sake, the councilmembers are the elected officials of this city, and the city attorney reports to them. It seems that Highsmith and Gallant run Alameda like there is no council.

  • ct says:

    Mr/Ms Baroni,

    Are you aware that Mayor Beverly Johnson, Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, and Councilman Frank Matarrese voted in November 2009 for the City to have the special election in February? Measure B could have (and should have) been placed on a general election ballot, but that City Council majority voted in favor of spending $325,000 for an early election on one initiative with no urgency connected to its passage or defeat.

    Also, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant has shown an astonishing inability to negotiate with the firefighters union, Alameda County health care officials, and the Alameda Junior Golf Association. SunCal is just one more group that Gallant is incapable of negotiating with in good faith; the developer is suing the City for that reason alone.

    How can anyone justify wasting taxpayer dollars on a needless witch-hunt and then lambaste the resulting call for accountability on the matter? You can at least take comfort in the knowledge that such an audit wouldn’t require the assistance of overpaid consultants or outside attorneys.

  • ct says:

    Mike,

    There appears to be two Mikes on this thread; I am responding to the glib comment posted yesterday at 9.22 a.m.

    Ann Marie Gallant became interim city manager in April 2009. Since then, she’s:

    • Failed to negotiate with the firefighters union over a benefit dispute

    • Failed to negotiate an emergency medical services contract with Alameda County health care officials

    • Failed to negotiate with the nonprofit Alameda Junior Golf Association over the future of the Mif Albright golf course

    • Failed to negotiate with SunCal regarding Alameda Point, carelessly exposing the city to legal action for breach of contract

    Instead, Gallant has spent her time (and our tax dollars) commissioning a new brand for Alameda, promoting her “Civic Center Vision” plan, trying to increase her compensation without review via the City Council’s consent calendar, handing former colleagues city contracts, persecuting a council member who has been calling for more transparency at City Hall. If you genuinely believe that concern over Gallant’s suitability as interim city manager is an “unhealthy fixation,” then it seems you are completely in the dark about her job performance, which is exactly where Gallant wants you to be.

  • j cloren says:

    Hey CT

    Are you aware that 85% of Alameda does not trust sun cal?
    So why are you so defensive of a business that has failed in almost every attempt to develop a community ?? Recent news .. NEW NEW NEW sun cal bankruptcy in Chico
    please explain why, if you are able.

  • ct says:

    j cloren,

    Did you know that 85 percent of voters in one of Alameda’s lowest turnouts (not, as you say, “85% of Alameda”) voted no on Measure B?

    And did you also know that repeating inaccurate statements undermines the credibility of your comments?

  • j cloren says:

    CT

    So what is your point?? Do you think 15 is bigger than 85??

  • reyla graber says:

    CT,correction please: Measure B was not defeated on one of the lowest voter turnouts. In fact, for a special election it was high at 43%. Obama was elected by 63%.

  • RV says:

    Meausre B, defeated by 86%, for a special election, had a high turnout of 42%. While President Obama was elected by 63%. S 42% for a special election is quite good voter participation.

  • j cloren says:

    Hey, CT:

    Thanks for the lesson in credibility even though it looks as if you failed your own test.

    Oh! By the way, according to current math, 85 is STILL bigger than 15.

  • No matter the percentages, the Measure B election was the lowest turnout election in over 20 years. It was the lowest turnout election since Measure A in 1991.

    No one is arguing Measure B’s defeat, but the attempts to make it some sort of high turnout, “Everybody feels…” moment are overstating the results.

    In the end, the election didn’t excite the electorate, and people didn’t vote in large numbers. SunCal’s gone, it’s time to move on.

  • ct says:

    j cloren,

    But can you understand the difference between: 1) your comment about “85% of Alameda”; and 2) 85 percent of 42 percent of Alameda voters?

  • Dave L. says:

    Mary, I guess you were wrong. We still don’t know how much has been spent.

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