Home » City Hall Confidential, Columns, Featured

City Hall Confidential

Submitted by on 1, October 22, 2010 – 5:00 am20 Comments

Editor’s note: The Island has a new comment policy. Check it out here.

Full Term

Alameda’s firefighters issued a fresh press release last week suggesting that the city is stalling in their negotiations until after the elections. Alameda firefighters have been without a contract for over nine months, and say they have been unable set up meetings with city staff since July. Domenick Weaver had this to say in the release: “To date, City staff has declined offers to meet. Instead, they set a meeting for after Election Day.” E-mails to Karen Willis of Human Resources were not returned. Last week, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman said the city would have a statement, but they have yet to release one.

Firefighters are claiming that they have offered more than $15 million in cost savings, including an immediate $1 million in savings, but that the city has not responded to them. More to come, I’m sure.


As reported on The Island, SunCal has filed a public records lawsuit against the City of Alameda alleging that the city is withholding public documents by relying on an incorrect reading of the California Public Records Act. Last week, Alameda’s legal representative, David Newdorf, filed a motion asking Judge Frank Roesch to recuse himself, which he has. Judge David Hunter will be hearing the case.

The California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) rule 170.6 requires that judges recuse themselves from a case if asked, and that no reason must be given as a part of the request.

This is at least the second time the city has asked for Roesch to recuse himself. The city asked Roesch to recuse himself, and the judge complied, in the city’s legal dispute with the firefighters over arbitration. Neither City Attorney Teresa Highsmith nor Judge Roesch responded to inquiries regarding the alleged prejudicial bias against the City of Alameda or its interests.

Interestingly, Roesch’s most recent case involving the City of Alameda, Francis Collins’ lawsuit over the Boatworks project on Clement Avenue, saw the judge rule in the city’s favor.

Letters from down south

In the last week and a half, City Council members have received letters from two former members of the Desert Hot Springs, the last city that employed Alameda’s interim city manager, Ann Marie Gallant. At the beginning of last week, former Desert Hot Springs City Councilman Henry Hohenstein wrote that he had been a supporter in hiring Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant in Desert Hot Springs and that “(s)he did many things well, but the City is still reeling from the negative consequences of her actions and some individuals will never recover.” The full letter is below.

A second letter, this one from Mary Stephens, the former vice mayor from Desert Hot Springs, arrived on Tuesday. “I also see that one of your council members is being investigated,” she wrote. “This all sounds so familiar…I want you to know that [I] was investigated. This was very embarrassing. I was investigated by the Grand Jury, FBI and Fair Political Practices (Commission). There was no finding.”

After the first letter arrived, I reached out to all five council members and Interim City Manager Gallant for comment. Councilman Frank Matarrese responded, saying he thinks “the content is suspect given the timing and SunCal’s involvement in this election.”

Hohenstein did not respond to calls seeking comment. But Stephens said that no one had asked her to write her letter, but that she had spoken to SunCal back in July or August and that they had mentioned Alameda and that she had been cursorily following the goings-on in town and felt compelled to write. Asked about the letter from Hohenstein, Stephens said she was surprised he had written because “he was her biggest supporter” on the Desert Hot Springs council.


  • tomcharron says:


    Here is copy communication sent to the president of Alameda Forefighter Union yesterday.

    Dear Dom:

    I read the posting on your web site regarding the (three year) efforts of your union to reduce cost for your services to the taxpaers of our city.

    In order for me and all Alamedans to evaluate your proposals I recommend that you submit tpublic review the actual proposal(s) including all budget/fiscal projections you are using to back your claims posted on the union web site.

    Your words sound excellent but lack any fiscal data which makes me a bit skeptical and unable to evaluate your statements.
    Perhaps what you have written/proposed actually holds a fiscallly reasonable plan.

    But no one can legitimately agree with your union without studying your fiscal budget

    Citizen review of cost for your public employee fire services will likely be much more common
    than in past years. It might be to your advantage to open up the books and publish your union’s plan to help keep our city solvent.


  • Jon Spangler says:

    These letters are not unexpected but they are illuminating. Perhaps Mary Stephens and lena Tam can start an “I survived Ann Marie Gallant” support group….

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    “the content is suspect given the timing and SunCal’s involvement in this election.”


  • Darcy Morrison says:

    Based on the timing, my best guess is that SunCal engineered the sudden appearance of these letters trashing Ann Marie Gallant, which has been their strategy all along. In fact, I saw their TV ad attacking her just last night, plus of course the flyer and the anonymous push-polls. They see her as a roadblock and they want to get rid of her, we know that. Frankly I wonder what exactly this has to do with the election — she’s not running office — plus,very obviously, this hit piece strategy has obviously backfired.

    I did some reading on Hohenstein and Stephens. I have nothing conclusive on Stephens as yet, but I did find something on Hohenstein below — the FPPC imposed a “penalty” on him of $18,000. That’s plenty of good reason to be mad at a former City Manager.



    Consideration of Administrative Law Judge Proposed Decision

    In the Matter of Henry Hohenstein, FPPC No. 05/489.

    Staff: Staff Counsel IV Melodee A. Mathay and Senior Special Investigator Sandra Buckner. Respondent Hohenstein was a member of the Desert Hot Springs City Council from December 2003 through December 2007.

    In this matter, Respondent Hohenstein violated the conflict of interest provisions of the Political Reform Act in December 2004 and February 2005, by making and participating in making six governmental decisions which had a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on his interest in real property. By failing to disqualify himself from these governmental decisions, Respondent Hohenstein committed six violations of Government Code section 87100 (6 counts).

    Following a one-day administrative hearing in Los Angeles, Administrative Law Judge Humberto Flores issued a proposed decision finding that six violations occurred,…

    **and imposing an administrative penalty of $18,000.**

    The Enforcement Division filed an opening brief requesting that the Commission accept the proposed decision in its entirety. Respondent did not file a written response to that request by the agreed-upon filing date of August 7, 2009. The Commission may hear argument on the proposed decision, and may then consider the matter in closed session.

    [note to would-be posters: always copy your post before you hit the submit button — just in case it disappears.]

  • Hi Tom,

    Both the City and the Union are legally forbidden to share the specifics of their offers while they are in negotiations. It is not until an impasse is declared that the particulars of either side can be released.

  • frank martin says:

    I suggest people do a quick google search using “Mary Stephens and
    Jerry Hanson + Desert Hot Springs.

    As usual the “Knox News Network” is only presenting one side of the story.

    I am personally very disappointed in ‘the Island’. We get this same propoganda in our mailboxes everyday. We get the ‘robocalls’
    every night. Now we get it here.

    Perhaps I’m one of those ‘paronoid NIMBY’s’ but you know the message from ALL on the other side is EXACTLY the same wording as Suncal’s.

    It is like the Wizard of OZ

    “Ignore the man behind the curtain”.

  • Ani Dimusheva says:

    Michele, did Hohenstein confirm that he actually wrote the letter? I would not put anything like that past SunCal, or their local advisors.

  • Darcy Morrison says:

    Michele — I’m also going to suggest that you take steps to fact-check letters like this, before you post them. Otherwise, you’re potentially posting slanderous statements from people who have a grudge, as these folks do.

    That would be in keeping with journalistic standards.

  • Barbara Kahn says:

    I was hoping that we were going to be able to get past the personal attacks and stick to the facts on this site. I see nothing in the article as written that does not conform to these standards, however the responses are the same old same old from the same old people. I hope that when the election is over that civility will return to our civic discourse. No matter who is elected, they will need positive input from the community and we have to get past this behavior if we are going to move forward at all on the many issues that we face–not just the base.

  • Mark Irons says:


    FYI-I voted against Measure B and I feel SunCal was foolish to go that route. However, this refrain that the language used by the Sunshine Task Force or others is the same as that used by SunCal in flies, just doesn’t have legs. For one, maybe what is stated just happens to make sense. But as to the implied collusion which seems to be the red meat of the inferences, consider that the language was out there for SunCal to use, which they apparently have. To me SunCal’s is not only unwelcome interference, it also makes no sense, because it lends fodder to detractors of people like Lena, and it’s intent is only clear to those who see all roads leading to a SunCal return. I don’t see the election of any particular group as paving the way for SunCal to roar back into the master developer driver’s seat and none of the people claiming that have made credible arguments to support that claim. Further, after their overt meddling in this election it seems impossible that any elected official would wish to be associated with them in any serious way. Political suicide.

    As for the Fox News references, I view the Island as a forum for diverse points of view. I subscribe to the Chronicle. I have simply stopped reading Debra Saunders and I don’t waste time protesting to the editorial department about printing her stuff.

    I find the timing of this material suspect, but that doesn’t necessarily effect the credibility, especially of Mary Stephens. There are axes to be ground everywhere and so the truth may lie in the middle, but I am grateful to have this material to add to the mix.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    The connection between the STF and SunCal has plenty of legs, Mark. It is simple and simple and public- Jeff Mitchell was employed by SunCal while on the STF and admits as much:

    “I did work for Sam Singer earlier this year on the SunCal account, I have never been anything but open and honest about my relationship with them. I disclosed all details of my business relationship to the news media and on my campaign blog in early August just as I opened my campaign…

    “…in late July, the Alameda City Council voted to reject SunCal’s request to have its exclusive negotiating agreement extended, thus ending the Irvine master developer’s official business relationship with the city. Mitchell’s communications consulting contract with Singer was also concluded at that time.”


  • Denise Shelton says:

    I was willing to give Mr. White the benefit of the doubt when he launched this column but I’m very disappointed in the way he presented these letters from Hohenstein and Stephens. Both were accused and Hohenstein found guilty (by a judge no less) of misusing their positions on the Desert Hot Springs city council. Apparently the charges against Stephens warranted an investigation by the FBI among others. Clearly, these folks have a very big ax to grind and yet, Mr. White presents their letters as if they are the leading lights of their community stepping forward to caution us about Ms. Gallant. By the way, I googled this information in about 5 minutes. There is no excuse for Mr. White’s negligence at not putting these letters in context.

  • frank martin says:

    Like Denise after reading John’s piece I did a search.

    Later on Saturday I spent some more time on it.

    The events that occured in DHS during the time of these two CC member terms go beyond bizzar. The original FBI (and Riverside County DA probe) stared long before Ann Gallant was even hired and was instigated by former DHS police chief Roy Hill.

    Here is a link to a LA Times Article (note the article goes on for several pages)


    Sometime later Roy Hill won a judgement against the City for 1.3 million.

    Here a link from the local DHS newspaper regarding Mary Stephens


    This is another link to the site of DHS group called ‘Friends of Desert Hot Springs’ which gives a general idea of what was happening at the time when Gallant had become CM.


    There is really a lot of information out there for those thay may be curious. Howerver many of the links from the FODHS website are ‘dead url’s’ and the Articles from the local newspaper are Archieved and available for a fee.

    Here is one link that is still live.


    When I say bizzar you someone could write a good book on the events
    in DHS and the links to adjacent areas in Riverside County.

    Not to go to far afield and in no way assoiciating the CC members with the other events there were investigations into the filming of a molestation of a young girl by two DHS police officers and the subsequent investigation by a Riverside County DA investigator David
    McGowan. McGowan made claims that he was forced by the DA to coverup what actually happened. Later his entire family was found dead and quickly ruled a murder-suicide. Last news on this was the FBI was an ongoing investigation. I couldn’t find anything more current. If you really want bizzar the investigation of the murder is linked to unsolved murders that occured in the 1980 on the local Indian reservation located in Cabazon with links to the overthrow of the Sandanists by the US.



    Again I want to make clear in no way are Mary Stephens and Henry Hohenstein linked to any of this but once I got started on this it just got weider and weider.

    So there was a lot more going

  • charlie taylor says:

    The City hasn’t had an EMS contract with Alameda County for five years, the firefighters have been without a contract for over nine months, and the Alameda Junior Golf Association has been waiting since March for the City to meet with them about Mif Albright. Why is the interim city manager dragging her feet on these negotiations when it’s part of her job?

    The common denominator linking Desert Hot Springs and Alameda’s troubles is Ann Marie Gallant. We plebeians may never know all the details of what really goes on in City Hall, so we just have to trust what Henry Hohenstein, Mary Stephens, those who decided on the Stephens case, Lena Tam, and Nancy O’Malley say on the one hand, or what Gallant, Beverly Johnson, and those who decided on the Hohenstein case say on the other hand. It seems like just about everything else is opinion, speculation, or gossip.

  • Darcy Morrison says:

    Charlie: “…those who decided on the Hohenstein case”. It’s the Fair Political Practices Commission, that’s what “FPPC” stands for, which conducted a formal investigation and found Hohenstein guilty. This is not a matter of opinion.

    What you’re saying above is yet one more rehash of the SunCal PR script in support of SunCal’s agenda, to discredit Ann Marie Gallant. None of these allegations are true, and it becomes even more ridiculous when you tie it into what are obviously manufactured allegations from two people holding a grudge. It means nothing.

    Let’s recall that SunCal went so far as to run ads in local Desert Hot Springs newspapers, trying to dig up dirt on Gallant (however looney and extreme that may sound). It’s quite possible that the folks signing — not writing — these well-timed letters were paid, and that SunCal’s PR flaks composed the letters for them.

  • frank martin says:

    This is from the current Homepage of the Friends Of Desert Hot Springs Website. I have cut the specific part as it is a long scroll


    begin quoted material:

    Slime Balls Alert
    SunCal Running Full Pages Ads in Local Newspapers In What Appears To Be A Hunt For Dirt On Former Desert Hot Springs City Manager Ann Marie Gallant

    Ann Marie Gallant is city manager in Alameda, California now and SunCal has filed suit against the city saying Gallant prevented it from going ahead with what would have been a very bad deal for Alameda, leaving the city with a giant financial load to carry in support of the development (well, SunCal did not exactly put it that way).

    We have to think that if SunCal thinks they are going to find someone in this city that did not like Gallant they are wasting their money on the ads. Full page ad appeared in the Desert Sun. Seems slimy to us but who knows, there might still be some lingering slime balls in this city from those days of a city that never saw a developer deal it did not love – and that have since cost our city millions to correct (that is no exaggeration).

    SunCal has a project in the city on the west side of Hwy 62 at Indian Avenue (project 56 on this map). It made it through the planning commission over significant objection, including concerns by public safety department that they project created significant access issues for adjacent properties.

  • charlie taylor says:

    Ms Morrison,

    I am well aware you fall into the group that believes everything that’s been said by Ann Marie Gallant, Beverly Johnson, and those who decided on the Hohenstein case, and that to you, “this is not a matter of opinion.”

    The facts about Gallant’s foot-dragging on negotiations with Alameda County health care officials, the firefighters union, and the Alameda Junior Golf Association have been reported here on “The Island”. Are you saying that “The Island” is “[rehashing] the SunCal PR script in support of SunCal’s agenda”?

  • Darcy Morrison says:

    Charlie — The Chamber of Commerce came out with an ad in the Sun last week telling SunCal to butt out of local politics, and stop trashing Ann Marie Gallant. Everybody else in this city is doing their level best to distance themselves from SunCal’s tactics and you would be well-advised to do the same.

  • Darcy Morrison says:

    The folks in Desert Hot Springs were kind enough to provide the posting below, in response to the letters above, posted by John Knox White. See the post titled “Out of the Woodwork”, dated 10/25/10, and be sure to check out the flyer that’s attached. Under “Now let’s follow the money” you’ll find some useful information on Mary Stephens and Hank Hohenstein.

    Friends of Desert Hot Springs:

    DHS Observer (flyer)

  • charlie taylor says:

    Ms Morrison,

    What looks to you to be the “trashing [of] Ann Marie Gallant” is simply a listing of Gallant’s unwise decisions, questionable job skills, and actions indicating her preference for closed government.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.