Gilmore seeks accounting on Tam investigation
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.”