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City Confirms Leaked e-mail from Ron Cowan on Harbor Bay Club Campaign

ron-cowan-september-26-2013City officials have confirmed the authenticity of an e-mail sent last week from developer Ron Cowan to Mayor Marie Gilmore and City Manager John Russo, demanding support for the developer’s plans to build new homes at the current location of the Harbor Bay Club.

On September 26th, the City of Alameda published a Notice of Preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Report and an Initial Study for the proposed Harbor Bay Residential and Athletic Club Project, which would see 80 new homes built on the current site of the Harbor Bay Club, and the club relocated to vacant land on North Loop Road.

Bay Farm Island residents opposed to the project have organized and come out in opposition to it.

Apparently, also on September, 26th, Ron Cowan sent an e-mail to City Manager John Russo and Mayor Marie Gilmore demanding city support for the project and thanking “John and Andrew for thinking of it.”

City officials refused to provide a copy of the e-mail under a California Public Records Act request, stating that it “was sent to the private, non-City email addresses of John Russo and Marie Gilmore.” The contents of the e-mail, as captured from Twitter, are reproduced in full, below.

Deputy City Manager Alex Nguyen denied that John Russo and City Planner Andrew Thomas conceived of the project as suggested in Cowan’s e-mail.

Nguyen also denied that, despite the familiarity of tone in the e-mail, city officials are in the habit of back-channel, private, communications with developer applicants with matters before the Planning Board and City Council, telling Action Alameda News, “Neither the City Manager nor the Mayor have been emailing with Mr. Cowan. They were emailed by Mr. Cowan. This email was unusual, outside the normal course of business, and surprising.”

Finally, Nguyen refused to say whether or not Marie Gilmore or John Russo leaked the e-mail, and, clearly exasperated and appealing to the ghost of Walter Cronkite, deflected any further questions to Ron Cowan.

An e-mail sent earlier this week to Ron Cowan’s address as presented on the leaked message remained unanswered as of press time.

Public comments on the project can be sent to City Planner Andrew Thomas through October 29th, 2013.

Full Text of Leaked E-mail

You two are a trip…and you certainly don’t understand the nature and depth of a 40 year friendship. Once again, this was the City’s idea and I’m sorry it scares Marie’s ambitions for mayor. Tim has been expressly clear on the City’s support until Marie went on vacation came back “scared.” Willie and I both expect the City to support the project on it’s [sic] merits…Willie will make that very clear to you, John. Marie you can vote any way you want…although Willie said that anybody who’s that scared of losing the job probably isn’t strong enough to hold on. So let’s all take the high road…if we see any indication otherwise it’s going to be hell to pay. The project is right for Alameda on the merits. The club has 4000 members and 2000 fee paying customers and growing. The majority live on the main island it takes 50% of all that activity off Island Dr. We’ll win this campaign on it’s [sic] merits and we thank John and Andrew for thinking of it.

2 comments to City Confirms Leaked e-mail from Ron Cowan on Harbor Bay Club Campaign

  • Reader Allison had trouble submitting this comment, below, so I’m posting it here now:

    Allison says:

    “Wow, this guy is a trip! It is amazing that this Cowan guy “talks” to and about our Mayor, City Council and City Planner that way. Cowan thinks he’s somehow entitled to anything and everything he wants to do in Alameda and Bay Farm Island without going through proper channels. Better squash this bug before he does any more harm to our city and tries to go against the will of the people again.

    Regarding Nguyen’s statement, I hope you accidentally forgot the word “not” following the words in “city officials are” in the sentence below and above?

    Nguyen also denied that, despite the familiarity of tone in the e-mail, city officials are in the habit of back-channel, private, communications with developer applicants with matters before the Planning Board and City Council, telling Action Alameda News,”

  • Perhaps that sentence could have been written better. Nguyen said that city officials are NOT in the habit of back-channel communications.

    Try it without the intervening clause: Nguyen also denied that city officials are in the habit of back-channel, private, communications with developer applicants with matters before the Planning Board and City Council…

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