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Lena Tamgate Timeline

In an interview with Action Alameda News, City Attorney Teresa Highsmith explained that the genesis of the investigation into Alameda City Councilmember Lena Tam’s behavior goes back to the wee hours of March 17th, 2010.

During the conversation, Ms. Highsmith referred repeatedly to the City’s press release and sworn declarations by herself and the Interim City Manager, Ann Marie Gallant, about the issue. Earlier this month, Alameda City Council approved the release of documents detailing alleged misconduct by Tam; the allegations have been referred to the Alameda County District Attorney for review and a possible grand jury inquiry, and potential criminal charges against Tam.

Highsmith told Action Alameda News that the problems started during a joint City Council/ARRA/CIC meeting that began on the evening of March 16th, and ran past 2:00 a.m. on the morning of the 17th. In that meeting, SunCal was expected to request a 60-day period to cure their defaults under their Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with the City of Alameda for redeveloping Alameda Point. During the meeting, Highsmith swears in her declaration, Tam “asked questions in open session [that] could have exposed the City to liability by making a record of SunCal’s legal arguments and requiring me to provide public legal advice to the City regarding those issues.” Highsmith told Tam that those questions would have been better asked in a closed-session City Council meeting that took place before the public joint City Council meeting.

In her declaration, Highsmith wrote that during the closed-session meeting, Tam “appeared to be reading from a document and her questions mirrored arguments that were subsequently raised by SunCal in their March 17th, 2010 Reservation of Rights letter to the City Manager.” Highsmith writes that although the letter from SunCal was dated March 17th, it wasn’t served to the City of Alameda until March 22nd. Late in the evening of March 17th, Tam sent an e-mail to Highsmith and Mayor Beverly Johnson chastising Highsmith for her behavior early that morning, in the joint City Council meeting. Subsequently, Highsmith says, she learned that Tam blind carbon-copied SunCal Vice President Pat Keliher and Councilmember Marie Gilmore on that e-mail. (Highsmith says that copying the Mayor was ok – the Mayor can call closed-session meetings to discuss City employee performance. But copying Gilmore made it an unlawful serial City Council meeting, in violation of the Brown Act, and copying Keliher meant that Tam was wrongfully releasing confidential employee performance information to an outside party.)

On receipt of SunCal’s Reservation of Rights letter on March 22nd, Highsmith had cause to wonder about Tam’s motives in asking questions during the public session that so closely mirrored SunCal’s arguments, and, in the interests of the City, were best asked in closed session. Highsmith says that she now had a conflict of interest in raising the issue, because of Tam’s March 17th e-mail, so she recommended the Interim City Manager bring in an outside attorney to investigate the issue; Highsmith recommended Michael Colantuono, who, she says, has done work for the City of Alameda since 2003 and is a highly respected lawyer. Mr. Colantuono ultimately prepared the two packets of allegations and supporting evidence against Tam, the first of which was dated May 26th, 2010.

Asked about the timing of the release to the public of the allegations, Highsmith referred to the City’s July 6th press release, saying the timing was related to the City’s upcoming decision on whether or not to continue negotiating with SunCal on the redevelopment of Alameda Point. The press release reads, “Given the importance of this decision to Alamedans and the need to review the City’s legal risks in Closed Session without fear of further leaks to SunCal, the City’s attorneys and the Interim City Manager brought the pending investigation to the attention of the Mayor and the City Council on July 6, 2010.”

Highsmith also told Action Alameda News that they were unable to search for evidence of potential leaks by Tam that might have occurred prior to mid to late February, because the City’s e-mail server automatically purges City-sent e-mail after 30 days to maintain free disk space.

15 comments to Lena Tamgate Timeline

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  • Cynical Observer

    My bet is that when Pat Keliher received City of Alameda memos marked “Attorney Client Privilege” he forwarded them to SunCal’s in-house lawyer Amy Freilich.

    Freilich’s name shows up all over minutes, memos and documents relating to negotiations between SunCal and the city.

    It seems to me that Freilich’s conduct was highly unethical, in allowing her client/employer to benefit from the receipt of unlawfully disclosed attorney client privileged communications. Ethically, what she was required to do was alert Teresa Highsmith that a city official was breaking California law by disclosing closed session information to Pat Keliher.

    It’s about time some voter, resident and taxpayer in Alameda writes a formal letter of complaint to the State Bar of California, asking them to investigate and sanction Amy Freilich’s conduct.

  • Well, if only I could qualify as a taxpayer…sales taxes count?

    I think Tam should resign and be dis-barred from any further public office in Alameda, if not the entire state, that attorney Frillich should also be disbarred forever from the State Bar, and that Pat Keliher should be sanctioned by the American Society of Advertising and Public Relations, never to sit in front of a camera again.

    Even such a profession as ours, Advertising/Marcom/ PR, has ethics, or is supposed to. In my work over the years, I was asked to lie to the press about a strike by CNA, California Association of Nurses, and refused, resigned from my in-house advertising role, and have make it clear to many clients since that they can rent my tongue without purchasing my soul. I have nothing but contempt for these geeks, and hope they will all do a little time in Q. for their efforts.

    DG

  • Barb

    DG Voter and resident count for enough. And yes Sales tax makes you a taxpayer. Do you buy gasoline? Some real taxes there.

  • Local sales tax is the 4th largest source of revenue for the city, bringing in roughly $5 million per year.

  • Cynical Observer

    No that it matters. It looks like Amy Freilich has been “outsourced” by SunCal. According to the website of a law firm called Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac, LLC of West L.A. she works for them. The State Bar of California’s records show the same thing.

    While the City of Alameda and SunCal may still call her Senior Vice President, etc. apparently she now works for many clients. All the more reason to be appalled if she didn’t disclose Lena Tam’s leaking of closed session information and attorney client privileged documents to Teresa Highsmith.

    Then again the firm which Senior Vice President Amy joined has one partner, who is a completely sleazy ash hole, so why would I be surprised she went to work there?

  • Hot R

    Sorry -can’t get to excited about this de minimis issue. No Grand Jury will indict Tam and she will not resign. So what if Tam questioned the judgment of the City Attorney? That is one of her jobs. Her email said nothing that wasn’t already known to Suncal. This is just a little nasty Alameda politics as the Mayor wants Tam’s seat after being clobbered in the Supervisot race and Doug DeHaan is the moving force behind this effort, right?

    I do agree that SunCal is a divisive element in Alameda politics and will cost the City a lot more money in legal fees before this issue is concluded, mainly because the City Attorney and manager are real lightweights. They will both be gone within the year.

  • Cynical Observer

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    Little Amy, upon whom SunCal so deeply relies, is an attorney employed by Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac LLC. That law firm website bluntly describes its activities for one particularly interesting client:

    “We act as land use counsel in representing Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. (the bankruptcy estate for Leman Brothers) in connection with the redevelopment of the 3,700 acre Great Park Neighborhoods, formerly the El Toro Marine Airbase, in Irvine, California. Lehman Brothers and its affiliates are the lenders to a Lennar affiliate that acquired the project in 2005 for over $600 million, conveyed over 1,200 acres to the City of Irvine, and paid Irvine a $200 million development fee for the Great Park. The 1,200 acre Great Park will become the largest metropolitan park in the United States. We assisted our client, as the lender, in assisting the borrower in obtaining the approvals in 2009 of over 1,200 density bonus residential units, resulting in a project that is entitled for over 4,800 residential units and 3 million sq. ft. of commercial, retail, institutional, and other development. The Great Parks Neighborhood will be the largest development project in Orange County for the next decade.”

    See http://www.agd-landuse.com/project4.html

    Let me get this straight. Bruce Elieff and SCC Acquisitions, Inc. (dba The SunCal Companies) blame all of their troubles in the world on Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. To read Bruce Elieff and his General Counsel’s declarations, SunCal and Lehman’s current management are mortal enemies.

    Yet Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., in the form of its current management, is a client of Amy’s law firm.

    While on its face this situation does not appear to be a violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-310, Amy’s firm’s representation of both Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. and SCC Acquisitions, Inc./SCC Alameda Point LLC is unseemly, to say the least.

    That is, of course, unless SunCal is, at this point, merely acting as a beard for Lennar, who, as described in the firm resume quoted above, was helped by Amy’s firm.

  • Barb

    Thanks Cynical, you have really done your homework. Or should I say our homework. TAM will be gone and hopefully her campaign contributions will become her defense fund. She has clearly violated a number of statutes. Either Jeff Stark (Pete’s son) who is the DA advisor to the Grand Jury or DA Nancy O’Malley or Attorney General Jerry Brown will take action, or be asked to leave the island. TAM became her own worst enemy when she joined SUNCAL and started sending them confidential documents. What could she have been thinking using the City’s own email account? Doesn’t matter if they already knew what she was sending them, they should have advised the authorities that she was violating the law to keep their record clean. Instead they remained silent when they had a duty to speak. And tried to reap any benefits from TAM’s violations. Soon they will be claiming she took them down with her dirty actions and suing us for their losses due to her actions. I can’t wait for that one.

  • Unexcitable Boy, Hot R., your partisan view is obvious, so why don’t you just lay it all out there? SunCal is wonderful, Tam and her support of them is laudable, the time line of investigation and squabbles on June 15th is meaningless, it’s just all one of those “Only in Alameda” dust-ups. Right? If all turns out as you predict it will, with Tam cleared of all charges, SunCal building nearly 5,000 dwellings at the Point, Gallant and Highsmith history, we will elect you King! But if not, you should just crawl underneath your house, if you have one, and lick your wounds, and never show your face in public, or your opinions, ever again! Deal???

  • Hot R

    Gee Gennis don’t go all Mel Gibson on me…If you actually read my post I suggested that Suncal should get out of Alameda. But your attempts to make this into “Tamgate” are overblown and do not show an understanding of the behind the scenes machinations of Mayor Johnson, and Doug DeHaan. Are you sure you know Alameda?

    I will repeat it again. No Grand Jury will indict, Tam will not resign, and only the City Attorney and manager will disappear as a result of this “scandal” as their own emails and self-serving actions are exposed to the light of day. And when it happens I won’t even ask for you to crawl under your house.

  • That’s quite the conspiracy theory there Hot R…

  • HotR & HotR, repeating the usual party line about DeHaan shows a very shallow knowledge and reading of Alameda and our politics. I doubt you were even around for base closure and all the committee meetings of citizens who laid down the terms for development there. Many hundreds of volunteer hours. I also worked closely with the previous guy to attempt mediating between the Navy and the City, Aidan Barry, when he was VP with Cowan. When SunCal followed his withdrawal, he told me what a bad reputation they have in the industry, which is not exactly known for it’s champions of virtue, so that’s saying a lot.

    I know that doesn’t bother you, because you’d rather see anything than nothing at the Point, but don’t go all Shirley Temple on me, coming to Tam’s defense. She’s got a high-priced lawyer for that. Your view and perceptive abilities were discredited by the defeat of Measure B, so based on what you say now, we can all expect it will be Tam who is long-gone in less than a year, and Gallant & Highsmith around for the next ten years! Long after SunCal has slunk off into the Orange County sunset.

  • Hot R

    You mean discredited by the 1% loss of Measure “E” ? I never predicted a victory, only thought the opposition was shortsighted. inconsistent and inaccurate in their arguments.

    As for your attempt to credential yourself with the base closing fiasco – nice job! The base development has really gone well after your ground breaking work ten years ago.

    Don’t bet against Tam and certainly not on Highsmith and Gallant. What politicians know is just like they turned on Tam they can turn on them next. Neither have any allies – oh, except you.

  • HOTR, are you really filled with such a degree of contempt all the time? Must be fun to be around you. Fortunately, I surround myself with people who run a lot of positive energy, even when we’re working against a dumb and unfair measure like B or E. We do it out of love for Alameda, and yes, I’d rather see a wilderness out at the Point than all those new houses and cars and Stepford wives. Since I arrived here in ’88 I’ve volunteered for useful civic causes and done my best to understand, appreciate and even at times conform to the established culture here. We’re still a bit of a Navy town, still embrace some of those good old down-to-earth, working-class values. And while I may disagree with some of the visionaries who have arrived more recently, I don’t feel for them the sort of contempt your express for everything in sight, except, I suppose SunCal and Tam. How’s that attitude working for you so far?

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