City Hall Confidential
At the end of 2010, the city
issued bid requests for two separate projects: one to identify firms to work on the Alameda Point “Going Forward” process, and the second to create a list of pre-approved consultants available to provide consulting services to the city on an ongoing basis. But concerns about the way those bids were handled have led to some changes in the way they’ll be managed in the future.
During her tenure as Alameda’s interim city manager, Ann Marie Gallant
gained a reputation for signing contracts with firms that she had personal connections with and without a competitive process. Soon after being hired to the city’s top spot, she told one council member that she never issued a bid request without knowing exactly which firm she wanted to hire, a councilperson told CHC.
E-mails received by City Hall Confidential highlight what appears to be Gallant working with
a former City Council candidate who supported her publicly to help her successfully navigate the city’s competitive bidding process, even allowing that person’s application to be submitted nearly a week after bids were due .
The e-mails in question span meetings and conversations from late July through late December, and they show Gallant giving direct advice to Thomson Transportation Engineers on how to respond to a bid request in order to be included on the Alameda Point consulting team that would be selected by city staff.
On December 15, four and a half hours after the deadline for submittal, Gallant wrote the firm’s principal, Eugenie Thomson, “think you are safer as an independent with Mark Thomas (transportation engineer) – there is work coming up, so would recommend you re-connect with Mark so he know when he gets an interview etc that you are part of the team. I have talked to (Public Works Director) Matt (Naclerio) will give you an update on Friday…”
Later that day, Thomson told Gallant that she has not submitted and “no longer (has) the insurance the city requires and so can only submit as a sub(contractor)” and therefore “decided not to bother” with submitting for work. But five days later, she wrote: “Thank you for meeting with me Friday (12/17) and am delighted to hear there could be some work. A few moments ago, I left the (statement of qualifications) with the gal in your office.”
Gallant responded, “we got the info – not to worry-Matt (Naclerio) is pleased you submitted,” the e-mails show.
Naclerio told CHC that Thomson had applied and was selected for an interview. But he was surprised to hear that Thomson did not have the required insurance. Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas, who was also involved in the process, said it is not uncommon for applicants to request exemptions from city requirements, though he was not sure if one had been requested in this case.
Thomas told CHC that while several city staff were involved in making recommendations for the firms to be interviewed in the process,
Gallant attended the selection meeting and made the final list of firms to interview. Several staffers who were interviewed said that the December e-mails from Gallant were highly unusual, and that they raised concerns about the selection process. Contracting law would forbid a city official with influence on the selection process from guiding a specific applicant to a successful result, though no one suggested that Thomson’s actions were inappropriate. Thomson Transportation Engineers was selected for an interview, but the issue became moot on January 6, when Thomson sent a letter to Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman withdrawing her proposal for on-call consulting services for Alameda Point and other citywide projects. In the letter, she said that “Ann Marie Gallant and the Department of Public Works encouraged me multiple times to submit” but that she had decided not to proceed following the council’s decision to put Gallant on administrative leave in December.
Thomson and Mark Thomas and Co. were both contacted by CHC but did not return calls seeking comment.
The city also received a complaint about city staff’s recommendation
that Economic Planning and Services receive a contract to perform an economic analysis of potential plans for Alameda Point worth hundreds of thousands of dollars . The complaint, filed by one of the other applicants, alleged that the Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott, who was the contact for the bid request process, had a financial conflict of interest with EPS because her husband is currently employed by the company, though not on issues related to Alameda Point. (Ott used to work for the firm as well.)
Sources familiar with the process have said that Ott was not involved in the selection or interviewing of the financial consultants, but that she was the
point of contact for bidders and that she helped develop some interview questions, and that some of her direct managerial reports were key decision-makers in the process. Staff had discussed the issue of conflict of interest before the release of the bid request, but City Attorney Teresa Highsmith cleared Ott for involvement in the process because she was not personally being paid by EPS.
Instead of fighting – or ignoring – the complaint, city staff have decided to issue a new
bid request for the job . Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman told CHC that the city is “developing a new (request for proposals) for a real estate economics firm for reasons unrelated to the responses received on the prior RFP.” She refused a request for comment about the complaint.
The new call for bids will be released if the council decides to move forward with its existing Alameda Point process. The costs and goals of the process have become an ongoing issue for the council.
Thomas, a key staffer involved in the Alameda Point process, pointed out that EPS has worked for the city since before Ott was hired here , and that they had decades of experience working on issues of military base conversion projects like Alameda Point.