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UPDATED Interim manager makes claim against city

Submitted by on 1, March 15, 2011 – 12:02 am3 Comments

Updated 5:26 p.m. Tuesday, March 15

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith is suing has made a damage claim against the city, claiming she was placed on administrative leave for her role in the investigation against City Councilwoman Lena Tam. More to come.

Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant has filed a damage claim against the city in the wake of the council’s December 28 decision not to renew her contract and to place her on paid administrative leave.

In a letter attached to the claim submitted to the city on Thursday, Gallant said she was terminated by the council because she authorized a leaks investigation into City Councilwoman Lena Tam. Gallant is seeking lost wages, emotional distress damages and attorney fees and costs in an unspecified amount in excess of $25,000.

Gallant says the council’s 3-2 decision not to renew her contract violated the city’s charter, which prohibits the council from terminating any of its charter officers within 90 days of a new council member being seated. Rob Bonta joined the council as vice mayor on December 21.

She is also claiming the non-renewal of her contract came in retaliation for her authorizing the investigation into Tam. State law prohibits employers from firing employees for whistleblowing or for refusing to participate in illegal activity.

City officials said they were reviewing Gallant’s claim but made no further comment.

An attorney hired by Gallant to investigate Tam claimed she had illegally leaked confidential information to SunCal, then the master developer for Alameda Point, Alameda’s firefighters union and local bloggers and a reporter, and that Tam had conducted private meetings with council members via e-mail in violation of the state’s open meetings law. The accusations were submitted to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, who declined to pursue a case against Tam, citing a lack of evidence.

Tam, Bonta and Mayor Marie Gilmore voted on December 28 not to renew Gallant’s contract, which expires March 31, and to place her on paid administrative leave while the city conducts a search for a new manager. Gallant’s contract requires city officials to give her 90 days notice if they decide not to renew it.

Gallant won a $215,000 settlement following a wrongful termination suit she filed against the City of Carson, in which she claimed she was singled out for being a whistleblower. She had been that city’s general manager for development services from 2000 to 2003, but was fired for what court documents described as “back-stabbing behavior.”

The council has selected three finalists for Alameda’s city manager’s job, and has put interview panels into place to vet the finalists.

3 Comments »

  • Li_ says:

    I take it that a Damages Claim is something like a check-the-box boilerplate. It is letting us kmow to expect a formal submittal that is going to involve big bucks from AMG. Is there any time limit involved? Does filing of Claim start a clock running on the formal submittal? Is there a statute of limitations on any of this?

    Thanks for info.

  • Parlin Rathborne says:

    Why are these clowns who are elected costing the citizens of Alameda so much money? Why do they hire these people who run from overpaid job to overpaid job when they have a history of suing when they do not get their way. Are we also paying the legal bills for Tam?

  • Kate Quick says:

    Lena Tam did not vote to hire Ms. Gallant or Ms. Highsmith. Nor, do I believe, did Mayor Gilmore, and Mr. Bonta was not on the Council. There is a new Council majority which is hiring a new permanent City Manager utilizing lots of community input, background checking, and reference checking – a careful and well-considered vetting process which, I hope, will result in avoidance of the risk inherent in not doing so.
    Lena Tam’s claim is for reimbursement of attorney’s fees she was forced to pay to defend herself against the false accusations made by City staff and accepted by others. She did not incur these expenditures because she was willful; she had to defend herself and the accusations were found to have no merit by the DA. I believe it is far more appropriate that she should ask to be made whole for defending herself against City-generated slander than it is for the Interim City Manager to ask for damages when she has been off on administrative leave with full pay and benefits for three long months waiting for her time-limited contract to expire.

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