City Hall Confidential
Recently re-elected City Councilwoman Lena Tam has sent the city a $44,000 bill for the legal costs she incurred when city staffers had her investigated for alleged leaks of confidential information. And if the costs aren’t reimbursed, her attorney says she may sue.
The claim, submitted at the end of last week by Alameda attorney Laurence Padway, says that California Labor Code requires the city to indemnify Tam from all legal costs and that state Supreme Court rulings have upheld this requirement.
So far, the city’s bill for l’affaire Tam stands at more than $71,000, invoices from outside counsel Michael Colantuono’s law firm show.
Padway told City Hall Confidential that he’s pursuing the claim to ensure that people with average incomes can continue to run for public office without fear of bankrupting themselves. “We can’t ask volunteers serving the city to risk everything they own defending themselves just because they disagree with city staff,” he said. “Are the people that we want to serve on the City Council going to serve if they have to spend tens of thousands of dollars of their personal funds to defend themselves against accusations that the district attorney has called ‘wild and baseless’?”
An attorney hired by Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith claimed Tam had leaked confidential information to SunCal, the local firefighters’ union and to local bloggers (including this one) and a reporter. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the attorney, Michael Colantuono, didn’t offer enough evidence of wrongdoing for her to proceed with a case against Tam or to ask a grand jury to remove Tam from office.
Padway’s claim says city staff directed Colantuono’s firm, Colantuono & Levin, to ask California’s attorney general, the Alameda County Grand Jury and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to file corruption charges against Tam and that all refused. And he said those who didn’t join in the campaign to oust Tam were also targeted. From the claim:
In furtherance of this campaign to coerce Councilwoman Tam into abandoning the duties of her office and thereby defeat the will of the voters who elected her, the proponents of this campaign accused those public officials who refused to join it, including the Alameda County District Attorney, of conspiring with Councilmember Tam, in an action reminiscent of the long discredited tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The claim leaves open the possibility of a lawsuit against the city if it doesn’t reimburse Tam’s legal costs.
City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said she couldn’t comment on the matter due to conflict of interest. Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, who oversaw the investigation, did not respond to a request for comment.
A copy of the claim is below.
Two weeks ago, CHC wrote about the efforts of Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and some of the leaders of the Island’s four business associations to quickly move forward with a plan to combine all of the organizations into a single entity, with the plan of action headed to the City Council on December 7.
In a surprise decision this week, the Park Street Business Association voted unanimously to “not participate in any further discussions pertaining to a ‘new chamber’ at this time.” According to Executive Director Robb Ratto, who had been rumored to be asked to head up the new entity, his association’s board does not believe such an idea is in the best interest of Park Street at this time.
According to an active member of one of the other business associations in town, it is likely that a plan for the remaining three organizations (the existing Chamber of Commerce, the West Alameda Business Association and the Greater Alameda Business Association) to consolidate without PSBA will likely start coming together next spring as a part of a new, more open process that brings many more voices to the table.