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Lena Tam Allegations Fallout

Alameda’s League of Women Voters is standing behind Alameda City Councilmember Lena Tam, in the face of alleged official misconduct by Tam, and standing by one of their own, local league Co-President Kate Quick, to whom Lena Tam sent e-mails that allegedly contained City of Alameda confidential personnel matters.

In a letter to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office dated July 2, 2010, special counsel to the City of Alameda Michael G. Colantuono wrote that “Councilmember Tam forward emails with confidential personnel information expressly [pertaining] to the City Manager to various individuals, mostly by blind carbon copy. Some of the these individuals were the local bloggers John Knox White and Lauren Do, “the Island” reporter Michelle Ellson, the former City Finance Director Juelle Ann Boyer, and Kate Quick of the League of Women Voters.”

To support the allegation, Colantuono included a copy of an email sent May 24th, 2010 to Alameda League of Women Voters Co-President Kate Quick. The email pertains to concerns that Lonnie Odom of Stinson Securities LLC in San Francisco raised about Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant’s handling of a bond deal that he was lobbying Tam and Gallant for a piece of.

Ms. Tam’s website “Lena Tam for [Alameda] City Council” explains that “Ms. Tam chaired the Alameda County Council of the League of Women Voters and had served as a past president of the City of Alameda League of Women Voters and the East Bay Asian Voter Education Consortium.”

Lena Tam for City Council Webpage Excerpt

Last week, Action Alameda News tried to contact Kate Quick to ask her if she had received the email, whether or not there were others like it, and if she had ever asked Councilmember Tam to stop sending her such information. We also asked Ms. Quick if the allegations tarnished the image of the League as a body of political impartiality.

In April of this year, we asked the League if the organization believed it could give an “independent analysis” of Measure E after having already endorsed the measure. Ms. Quick assured Action Alameda News that “The League is scrupulous about presenting fairly as much information from both sides as it can obtain so the voters can make up their own minds, based on the best information available, when they go to the polls.”

By 6:00 p.m. Friday evening, Quick had not responded to Action Alameda News’ inquiry, so we forwarded our request to a larger body of League officials. Late Friday evening, Ann Spanier, Co-President for the local League replied, “The term alleged is important here. There is legal action underway and we will let that process proceed to uncover the facts.” (One source told Action Alameda News that Kate Quick was away on vacation, but we have not been able to verify that.)

On local blogs, Tam supporters have asserted that the allegations against Tam filed with the District Attorney by the Interim City Manager and City Attorney are retribution for Tam’s questioning of the Interim City Manager about her personal interests in the bond deal at a June 15th, 2010 City Council meeting.

According to City Council meeting minutes, the exchange went like this:

Council member Tam stated that she is very uneasy regarding the partnership; one of the partners mentioned that the Interim City Manager worked for Mr. Holmstedt. The Interim City Manager stated that she worked for Westhoff Martin Financial Services Group which is not Westhoff Martin Banking Group.

Councilmember Tam stated that she is focusing more on the comment that there was a business partnership with Mr. Holmstedt and the Interim City Manager.

The Interim City Manager stated the companies are separate; that she did consulting work for approximately ten to twelve months; she did not do banking work.

Councilmember Tam stated the City is dealing with appearances; clearly, one member of the team secured the position because of a relationship with the Interim City Manager.

The Interim City Manager stated that there was no relationship because she worked for a subsidiary in 1993 and 1994 which was fifteen years ago; she knew Mr. Holmstedt before when he was working for other firms; some firms will suggest debt issues that are risky and she does not believe WCH would.

Council member Tam inquired whether the partnership between the Interim City Manager and Mr. Holmstedt still exists.

The Interim City Manager responded in the negative; stated that she is not a partner and does not know if the firm exists anymore; she does not receive any annuities; stock options , and is not making any money on the transaction.

The two letters to the D.A.’s office signed by Colantuono are dated May 26th and July 2nd, 2010.

Adam Gillitt, a home-based 40-year old graphics designer for print and websites, based in Alameda, insists that the Interim City Manager’s handling of the bond deal, and her handling of a City “rebranding” contract earlier this year warrants just as much scrutiny as Tam’s alleged behaviors.

Regarding the rebranding contract, Gillitt told Action Alameda News, “My basic objection is that I only found out about these contracts through reading the local blogs. I never knew they existed. Nobody ever told me that these contracts were put out to bid. I don’t expect preferential treatment as a local business. I pay my taxes and I’m a registered business.”

In the future, Gillitt would like to see the City of Alameda send out an email or form letter to pertinent local businesses with a City of Alameda business license on file, letting them know that a contract is out for bid. Gillitt says that this should be true for all professions, not just his, and that, “I’m not involved in any groups, I’m just speaking my personal view.”

In accordance with State law, Alameda’s municipal code authorizes the City Manager to award informal contracts for amounts under $75,000 without City Council review and prior approval. Graphtek of Brisbane, California, was awarded a contract for $74,800 to update the City’s website and logo.

Gillitt didn’t see a problem in Tam’s choosing Cedric Cheng Design, of Concord, California, to design her campaign website, “No, because she’s a private citizen, not a city enterprise. Her campaign is not run by nor financed by the City. It’s disappointing that someone running for office would choose not to support local businesses, however.”

12 comments to Lena Tam Allegations Fallout

  • Barb

    Having a business license is not the same as registering an interest in a potential contract, or a Request for Proposals or Request for Bid. How many entities have licenses and don’t have the slightest interest in a City contract?

    I cannot imagine how much it would cost for someone in the Finance Department to contact every license holder to see if they are interested in every conract the City enters. Just imagine yourself as operating a business for profit an having to 1) write a description sufficient to allow bids; 2) publish and go out for bids; 3) personally notify everyone whose business is even remotely similar, such as painter, designer, computer software design, Geek Squad, etc. 4) wait the legal bid period (30 days or so); 5) analyze all bids for “responsiblity” (SUNCAL would fail here); 6) if insufficient number of bids from qualified bidders, go through the process with a wider scope of advertising; 7) use an alternative process if no qualified bidder woudl work for the authroized amount. Process generally adds time and costs that make it cost ineffective for a certain amount and type of contract. The amount used to be much lower however. Sometimes when you need something in a hurry one doesn’t go to bid, or shop locally. For example, TAM hired the San Francisco Keker firm when she was shown to have sent privileged information to PAT KELIHER of SUNCAL. Barry Bonds found Keker too expensive at $900 per hour plus costs. If the taxpayers are going to have to pay for her legal defense, shouldn’t she have gone to bid and hired a local firm? Barry Bonds found Keker too expensive at $900 per hour plus costs. I’d be curious to find out if TAM voted to raise the amount at which a contract had to go to bid to $75,000.00?

  • Cynical Observer

    Dave, you’ve got to dismiss that 1950’s view that the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization. Just this weekend, I saw a huge newspaper ad thanking a member of the U.S. Senate for their hard work on a particular issue. These sorts of ads are sought out by campaign advisors for the specific purpose of creating positive, seemingly independent press for an elected official.

    Quite obviously, Alameda’s League of Women voters is run by a clique of women who have stolen the good name of a 1950’s civic organization for their own political ends.

    I bet that if you tracked down the national League of Women Voters, you’d find that their national bylaws still say that they are supposed to be non-partisan.

    As to this Gillitt person, I notice in the blogs that s/he has been repeatedly asked to provide the California code section numbers which she believes were violated in awarding the contract s/he is complaining about. There has been no response. Your editorial today obviously shows one of the reasons why.

    Yes, Gillitt has a good idea, that an email blast list should be available to send notices to local businesses that the city is going out to contract for work, be it for a competetively bid or no bid contract. However, the non-existence of such a list doesn’t make the city’s contracting procedures illegal, as Gillitt, Lauren Do and Michele Ellson seem to suggest.

    Speaking of League of Women voters, I think one of the reasons the Founding Fathers didn’t even consider letting women vote was the sort of vacuous lip-flapping and lack of logical thinking and critical reading these ladies exhibit…starting with Lena the Leaker.

  • Local league officials insist, time and again, that they are impartial and non-political.

    About the League
    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, has fought since 1920 to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy. The League’s enduring vitality and resonance comes from its unique decentralized structure. The League is a grassroots organization, working at the national, state and local levels.

    There are Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong, in addition to the hundreds of local Leagues nationwide. The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters Education Fund operate at the national level with grassroots support from state and local Leagues.

    The League of Women Voters is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. At the same time, the League is wholeheartedly political and works to influence policy through advocacy. It is the original grassroots citizen network, directed by the consensus of its members nationwide. The 900 state and local Leagues – comprising a vast grassroots lobby corps that can be mobilized when necessary.

    Over time, the League’s legislative priorities change to reflect the needs of society and critical issues of concern. The organization remains true to its basic purpose: to make democracy work for all citizens. The League of Women Voters makes a difference in the lives of citizens because of the energy and passion of thousands of members committed to our principles.

    Our Mission Statement

    The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

  • Thanks for running this, AA.

    Email’s cheap and efficient, and we all register our email addresses.

    Furthermore, as I pointed out, why is this in the city charter?

    Sec. 3-17. When entering into any contract for labor or hiring any labor for public contract work, preference may be given to contractors, mechanics, artisans or other laborers of any class, who shall have actually resided in the City for a period of six months preceding the date of their engagement to perform labor, quality and price of work being equal.

  • […] had the chance to be interviewed last week by David Howard of the Action-Alameda blog about the current issues of corruption and impropriety surrounding Alameda City Hall. Have a look […]

  • There has been some controversy over local vendor preference laws: (Sacramento Bee, 9/22/2009 “Cities, counties push for hometown contracts, local hiring”)

  • Have you launched a campaign for City Council, Adam?

  • I am taking out nomination papers today, yes, since today is the first day to get them.

  • Barb

    The Charter provision cited is illegal and not enforceable. Like adjusting the salary of elected officials, it is not worth the effort to put it on the ballot to change it. When I was on the Council we tried to give some sort of enforcement and were told by the City Attorney, that we could not. Measure A has been the only change to the Charter that I recall. If Gillitt is elected, he’ll certainly wish the salaries of elected officials were kept up to date. Especially if he devotes hundreds of hours working on the contract bidding process while keeping the City out of bankruptcy. Good luck!

  • Barb

    Reviewing more of the TAM/SUNCAL documents, it was notable that Exhibit K the KNOX WHITE to and from emails, KNOX WHITE seems to exhibit a consciousness of “guilt” as they say in jury instructions. He emails Tam that he can be identified as the author using the current format. So in the future he will use PDF, which apparently conceals authorship. I think that is a basis for getting a search warrant for all his email accounts, and TAM’S

  • I will bow in reverence and respect to Barb any day. And what little work I got for my firm, Lazzari & Green Advertising, in the late ’80s and ’90s, I hate to admit, I got from having some connections at City Hall or then-known AP&T. My thousands of hours of pro-bono volunteer work on many projects favorable to both entities gained me some respect and consideration.

    We produced a packet of “sales sheets” for AP&T on the conservation side, and a few print ads for the City. A contract came up from the County when the Park Street Bridge was closed, and the $100,000 contract went to Aviso, but we peeled off about $5,000 worth, because we knew the island better than they did, located as they were at the time at the old launch pads near Marina Village.

    This was the customary way for years for businesses to get the work, but in our case, at least we were qualified! (I can only hope the statute of limitations has run out.) But Gillico has no serious bitch here, as the ICM was trying to overcome that past history of on-island favoritism and he just got caught in the bust. Go ahead, G, run for City Council. Ask Barb just how much fun it really is!