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City Hall Confidential

Submitted by on 1, April 15, 2011 – 12:02 am13 Comments

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.


  • Adam Gillitt says:

    That horse had the last signs of life beaten out of it several months ago, John. A more interesting topic would be why you’ve been using a City Hall telephone extension as your own while “sourcing” for “articles” such as these.

  • Robert T says:

    The issue here is not Ann Marie or Eugenie & the conflict of inerest that is obviously in Lena’s court. The full picture still requires resolution of those charges.She wasn’t exonorated! The conflicted are in hidding. By picking up the latest you ignore the previous.Kurita & staff hired,in service of building houses, are still the problem.

  • Jonathan says:

    Unlike Ann Marie Gallant or Eugenie’s Thomson’s emails, which had to be extracted through a public records act request, Lena’s emails are in full view of the public. It has Ms. Highsmith’s current employer (Colantuono) erroneously conclusions. The City’s contracting practices have been riddled with illegalities since Ann Marie Gallant was appointed. For her to tell Kemper Sports that they could get financing from the City, bonded against the General Fund, confirmed that she does not know the law. Hopefully, Alameda will get a City Manager that knows and follows the law.

  • Leonora Fong says:

    I am happy to read these stories that expose City Hall misdeeds. Ms. Gallant has left a trail of contracts, negotiations, fraud and lies in her legacy. It seems like her protege Jennifer Ott has followed closely in her footsteps ginning up work for her former employer and her husband’s firm. I am glad she at least tried to keep an arms reach away from the decisionmaking, but I kinda don’t buy it.

    Gallant positioned Ott, Naclerio and Thomas as her Alameda Point team. She told the Council repeatedly that those were the faces we would continue to see on the project, I guess now we know why. Only Thomas seems to not have sold his soul and done her evil bidding. I guess we know why Ott and Naclerio had a meteoric rise to prominence. I hope Russo brings a big broom when he comes to City Hall, he’ll need it!

    Thanks to JKW, Lisa Goldman and Andrew Thomas for shedding light in what seems like a very dark and messy place.

  • Hey folks,

    I just wanted to remind everyone that we don’t let people post under more than one name, so if y’all can stick to that, I’m happy to run your comments. Thanks!

  • Doug Biggs says:

    I had the opportunity to sit on two of the selection panels – one for the land use planner for the moving forward process(which was a separate panel than the transportation panel) , and one for developer(s) for the potential LBL project.

    I found that in both cases City Staff had done an excellent job of fairly soliciting applications, and providing an objective method of review and selection.

    The moving forward process was started by the ICM, and it was subject to her influence initially. However once she left, the staff responsible for implementing – Andrew Thomas, Jennifer Ott and Matt Naclerio did an excellent job of gathering input and creating a process that truly is community driven.

    I’m sure there is always room for improvement in the way business is conducted, but I hope we don’t throw out an otherwise well thought out process because of concerns with one bid.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Clearly, one person – be it the City Manager, a Public Works Director, or a potential city vendor – can make a difference by his or her ethical principles and how s/he lives them out.

    The effects of the clear violations of city procedures and state law by our former ICM linger uncomfortably in the air and are still influencing – and holding back – our city’s progress on a number of fronts. While I generally trust and appreciate all the remaining city staff mentioned in this piece and know they have our city’s best interests at heart, implementing clear, obvious, and transparent procedural guidelines for future contracting and hiring can only help them do their jobs better and protect their integrity as well as the City of Alameda.

  • Reggie Hipolito says:

    I have to wonder why our dear city leaders would through all these shennanigans to re-hire EPS, a consulting firm that is part of the history of failure with Alameda Point. Seems crazy. If we are going to revision Alameda Point, we should be looking beyond the “same old same old” consultants –particularly when there is big time conflict of interest.

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