“It would be foolhardy…to risk doing business with the City of Alameda…”

Eugenie Thomson withdraws her proposal for contracted work to the city; why?  Alameda City Council is untrustworthy. Their recent actions have been inexcusable. They been behaving illegally and worse.  In fact, she was so incensed–watching the January 4th city council meeting from home–that she walked straight into the meeting after the public comment period had finished (11:30p), went to the podium, and interrupted the meeting to get her comments heard. I wanted to post that video here too, but the new city website only has the minutes published; there are no audio or video files of city council meetings posted for 2010 or 2011.  (!) The video is here, go to minute 3:36:00.

See Eugenie’s letter, right below here, to the the Deputy City Manager.  Long, VERY worthy read that clarifies and explains A LOT.

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LETTER FROM: Eugenie Thomson, P.E , Project Management Consultant, dated January 7, 2011

To: Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman, City of Alameda

Dear Ms. Goldman:

With great dismay, I hereby withdraw my proposal to contract with the City of Alameda for on-call consulting services for Alameda Point and other citywide projects. City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and the Department of Public Works encouraged me multiple times to submit. Ms. Ann Marie Gallant was the first City Manager since the Base Closure in 1997, to fairly consider all facts including accurately identifying the constraints associated with developments with the goal to find buildable solutions with a design that would fit within our City. Her early assessment of the SunCal mega plan and financing CAPS in SunCal’s Measure B saved our City.

But now due to recent events, I am withdrawing my proposal because I cannot, in good conscience, contract with the Alameda City Council, in which I have lost all trust. . . .

At a Special Meeting on December 28, 2010, the Council took action regarding City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Attorney Teresa Highsmith in a closed-door meeting, in clear violation of the Alameda City Charter and the Brown Act. This action and failure to reverse this vote are prime examples of the ill-advised and inappropriate actions the current council has recently taken. After the January 4 City Council meeting, I have every reason to believe the Council will continue to act in defiance of the law, decisions not in the best interest of Alameda, and I refuse to engage in a contractual relationship with a body that takes such actions.

1. First, the majority of council (Bonta, Gilmore and Tam) knowingly ignored the Alameda City Charter,1 which prohibits the council shortly after being elected from taking any action such as (a) involuntary resignation/removal of the City Manager without notice and voted to not renew her contract that ends on March 31, 2011 (b) approval of paying the contract penalty for the city’s failure to give 90 days’ notice to Ms. Gallant, as required by Ms. Gallant’s contract with the city. c) then by incorrectly only calling the aforementioned actions as placing the City Manager on administrative leave and non renewal of contract in the Dec 28th meeting minutes and d) Ignoring the comments made by residents at the Jan 4th City Council meeting that pointed out these illegal actions.2 Fortunately Council members Beverly Johnson and Doug DeHaan acted correctly.

———page one footnotes begin

1 Alameda City Charter, Section 2-2.

2 Interim City Manager Employment Agreement: 5 Separation B(2) Termination and Removal states the city council may remove the interim city manager at any time, with or without cause, by a majority vote of its members. Notice of contract termination shall be provided to the interim city manager with 90 days’ advance notice to ensure a successful transition to either a subsequent interim or permanent city manager. The city manager shall remain on the payroll for the 90-day period and receive full pay and benefits. 5 B (3) Failure to provide a 90-day advance notice in writing will require 90-day payment-in-lieu of notice. That equates to approximately $80,000 in salary and benefits. Ms. Gallant’s annual salary, without benefits, is $250,000. Furthermore, Contract Section 5 Separation C. Involuntary Resignation states the following: (1) “Involuntary resignation” as used in this section, means the interim city manager’s discharge or dismissal by the city, or her resignation following a request by the city council, approved by a majority vote of the entire city council, requesting that she resign. The termination and removal provisions of Section 5 B (2) and 5 B (3) apply to “involuntary resignation.” (2) Involuntary resignation does not include the interim city manager’s death, incapacity due to injury or illness (physical or mental), dismissal for willful misconduct, malfeasance, dishonesty for personal gain, or following a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor affecting her ability to be covered under a fidelity bond, nor the interim city manager’s resignation for any reason other than so stated in this section.

———page one footnotes end

Section 2-2 of the City Charter states that, within the first 90 days after newly elected officials are sworn into office . . . [the council] shall take no action, whether immediate or prospective, to remove, suspend, request resignation of the . . . city manager and city attorney.

The reason this section exists in the Charter was to avoid what Vice Mayor Rob Bonta did in acting prematurely without experience of working with the Ms. Gallant. That is, Mr. Bonta who is new to the City Council, took away the opportunity for Ann Marie Gallant to demonstrate her skills and qualifications and he took away her chances to compete for the Permanent City Manager position. After some experience with Ann Marie Gallant, he independently may have learnt she could have been in the best interest of the City. Also, he as an Attorney in City government should have been aware of this section in our City’s Charter, it is not an unusual requirement of newly elected officials.

2. Second, the Brown Act 1 dictates that Ms. Gallant and Ms Highsmith should have been advised of this agenda item 24 hours in advance of the December 28 council meeting and allowed to consider having the complaint heard in open session.

3. Third, the Brown Act requires that proper notice of the discussion regarding the city manager and the city attorney should have been given in order to allow an opportunity for public comment.2 The agenda did not state the city manager and city attorney or their contracts were to be discussed.

4. Fourthly, the City/Gallant contract requires the City provide 90 days advance notice after the majority of Council decides to remove the Interim City Manager. The Council did not provide advance notice as required in the contract and as a result has to pay a penalty of 90 days payment- in- lieu of notice. It just so happens that the contract terminates on March 31, 2011 which is also approximately 90 days from the Council’s vote. The Council incorrectly, called their action as, only placing the Interim City Manager on administrative leave until the end of her contract and non renewal of her contract. The City failed to mention they had removed the Interim City as per the Gallant/City Contract. The contract included automatic 3 months extensions after March 31, 2011 if the City had not selected a permanent City Manager by that date; that too was deleted. As per Gallant/City Contract, Ms. Gallant has been removed or otherwise called involuntary resignation without notice and the City owes her a 90 day payment- in- lieu of notice. This payment which typically is a lump sum payment. Only stating she was put on administrative leave and non renewal of contract is misleading and hides the Council’s actions taken on the Gallant/City contract.

Council should have correctly stated their actions in the closed session approved:

a) Removal/Involuntary Resignation of the Interim City Manager as per Gallant/City Contract, Section 5. Separation C.1

b) Approval of the penalty 90 days payment- in- lieu notice (ie. approximately $80,000) due to failure to provide the 90 day advance notice to Ms. Gallant as per Gallant/City Contract, Section 5. Separation B (3) Termination and Removal, and failure to provide notice.

c) Non renewal of Gallant/City contract as per Gallant/City Contract, Section 2 Terms and Conditions.

———page two footnotes begin

1 Government Code, Section 54957.

2 The agenda for that same Council Meeting did properly notice and identified the City Clerk to be discussed for her Employee Performance Evaluation. However the same agenda did NOT identify the discussion would be regarding the City Manager and City Attorney’s contract.

———page two footnotes end

Those were their actions as per the City/Gallant Contract at the special meeting on Dec 28th. Their actions are inexcusable and their approval of the contract penalty of approximately $80,000 is a foolish waste of taxpayer dollars plus the City has lost a City Manager for the next 6 to 7 months, the time it normally takes to hire a City Manager and we have lost the transition of the knowledge from Ann Marie Gallant to the any new City Manager.

Most importantly though, Council took the above actions which clearly, are not allowed by City Charter Section 2-2, violated the Brown Act, took away the public’s including Ms. Gallant’s right to be heard and then Council hid their actions.

From a business perspective, it would be foolhardy for anyone to risk doing business with the City of Alameda, whose council takes such irresponsible actions. Additionally, contractual ties might force me into a professional position in which I am required to support a large development plan for Alameda Point, while knowing the impacts of such a plan would be detrimental to our island community. This would be a tremendous conflict of interest for me, as a professional engineer and an Alameda resident.

Professionally, I refuse to be associated with a client like our City Council and choose, instead, to relieve myself of any risky contractual ties to the city. This will enable me to continue to take an active, assertive citizen’s role in seeking to reverse and protesting the council’s recent illegal actions, as well as contribute personally and professionally to the public debate about other issues that affect our community.

Respectfully,

Eugenie P. Thomson, P.E. Project Management Consultant and Licensed Civil and Traffic Engineer

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About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

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