Alameda DA declines to investigate councilwoman

September 7, 2010 4:26:52 PM PDT
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said today that her office has found insufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation or a civil grand jury referral for an Alameda city councilwoman who had been accused of misconduct.

Four Alameda City Council members, including Mayor Beverly Johnson, voted on July 6 to release an investigative report that accused Councilwoman Lena Tam of violating the state's open meetings law by leaking confidential information to a firefighters union and a company that wants to redevelop the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

They said the evidence of alleged misconduct is largely in e-mails between Tam and principals of SunCal, a developer negotiating with the city to develop the former naval air station, and the International Association of Firefighters union.

Michael Colantuono, an outside lawyer whom city officials hired to investigate Tam, said the leaks undermined Tam's constituents and exposed the city to liability because some who allegedly received the information were opposing city leaders in private negotiations, such as SunCal representatives.

But O'Malley said her office concluded that "an insufficient factual and legal basis exists to justify opening a criminal investigation into allegations that the Brown Act was violated."

She added that her office "declined to present evidence to the Alameda County civil grand jury with the goal of obtaining an accusation against Councilmember Tam that would have ultimately resulted in her removal from office."

Tam said, "I am relieved that the district attorney flatly rejected the charges."

She said she believes the allegations against her were "an act of political retribution" by Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant "because I dared to question her motivations."

But Colantuono said in a statement, "It is plain that the district attorney has not given Councilmember Tam a clean bill of health, but suggests instead that the city pursue other remedies (like a lawsuit) or that the voters solve this problem on Nov. 2."

Tam is up for re-election in November.

Tam said it's true that the district attorney suggested that the city could pursue a suit against her, but she said prosecutors also told her that she could sue city officials if there's evidence that they acted improperly in making allegations against her.

"It works both ways," she said.

Before her election to the council four years ago, Tam served on the Alameda Hospital board and as an Alameda County planning commissioner. She works as a manager in the water resources planning department of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Tam also has served as head of the League of Women Voters chapters in both the city of Alameda and Alameda County.

In February, more than 85 percent of Alameda voters rejected a proposal from SunCal to build about 4,500 new housing units and make other changes at the former naval air station, now known as Alameda Point.

SunCal's exclusive negotiating deal with the city expired on July 20.


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