Tom Butt
  E-Mail Forum – 2021  
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  City Finally Admits Wasting Time and Money on Dead End Investigation
November 16, 2021

It appears that the Richmond Progressive Alliance has pretty much milked all they can from a failed two-year investigation of me for alleged discrimination, retaliation, “corrupt conduct,” “abusing power,” “circulation of information externally,”  and more ,that they gleefully kept going as long as they could. The investigation was started in 2019 by an assistant city attorney, picked up by the current city manager and staunchly defended by the current city attorney for nearly two years. The city attorney and city manager will apparently soon be no longer with us.

The investigation had cost taxpayers $45,000 by June of 2021 and the final bill is probably much greater. According to the city manager and the city attorney, the investigation was launched “at the direction of City Council,” but there is no record of this. The city manager violated the City Charter by hiring an attorney to investigate without approval of the City Council. Once launched, the RPA City Council members were happy to see it last as long as possible to provide a source of speculation and innuendo like the “Press Release” that circulated on November 1, 2021.

The conclusions of the investigation pretty much follow what I wrote six month ago in Calling for Resignation of the Richmond City Manager and City Attorney, June 23, 2021. Well, the city attorney and city manager are (almost) gone, and I’m still here.

Perhaps due to embarrassment over such a waste of time and money, the city attorney inappropriately marked the memo “confidential.” Now that I have daylighted it, the city Council will probably direct her again to turn me in to the district attorney and the grand jury.

Read it and weep.



Mayor Butt and Members of the City Council


Teresa Stricker, City Attorney
Heather McLaughlin, Interim Senior Assistant City Attorney


November 15, 2021


Summary of Conclusions from Investigation of Complaints of Corruption by the Mayor and Authority to Undertake that Investigation


This memorandum summarizes the results of the investigation conducted in response to a City employee’s allegations of corruption by Mayor Butt and addresses the authority of the City to undertake that investigation.

I.          Background and Outcome of the Investigation

In November 2019, a City employee submitted a complaint with the Human Resources Department, alleging retaliation by employees in the Finance Department and City Manager’s Office as a result of a discrimination complaint the employee had filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Shortly thereafter, the employee submitted a second complaint for retaliation for an earlier complaint made in November 2018, in which the employee alleged corrupt conduct by Mayor Butt, and certain City employees, although the basis for the alleged corrupt conduct was not included. In early 2020, at the direction of City Council in light of the nature of the allegations, the newly-appointed City Manager retained two law firms to manage and investigate the employee’s complaints (“Investigator”). Shortly after Teresa began as City Attorney in late 2020, the Investigator found both complaints without merit.  This conclusion was communicated to the employee by letter on December 15, 2020, and to the City Council and the Mayor at that time. 

On December 21, 2020, the employee filed a third complaint in which the employee asserted that the Investigator had misconstrued the second complaint.  In the third complaint, the employee alleged that the Mayor had been paid by Richmond Main Street Initiative, Inc. (“RMSI”) to prepare a sketch of a floorplan pertaining to the RMSI lease in the Richmond Multi-Modal Transit Station located at 1600 Nevin Plaza and that the Mayor had negotiated a below-market lease for RMSI’s occupancy of the premises.  The Investigator found the third complaint without merit and this conclusion was communicated to the employee on March 23, 2021.

Thereafter, also on March 23, 2021, the employee sent an email to the City asserting that the third complaint had been misconstrued, and alleging that the Mayor: (1) did not follow the correct procurement process for design services, (2) voted on the agenda item to extend the RMSI lease terms after drafting the floor plan for the lease, and (3) negotiated lease terms after designing a floor-plan for RMSI. This email was treated as a fourth complaint by the City. The Investigator submitted an addendum to the report to the City dated July 15, 2021, finding the fourth complaint without merit, concluding that the Mayor’s acknowledged advocacy for and involvement in the RMSI lease did not constitute wrongdoing.

The employee made new allegations in a fifth complaint submitted to the City on July 2, 2021, directed against Mayor Butt for the “circulation of information externally” of the employee’s earlier complaints against the Mayor. The fifth complaint also contained allegations that Mayor Butt was (1) personally benefiting from the cannabis industry and directing certain businesses to use his firm’s architectural services and (2) abusing his power and covertly using a past City Manager to appoint department directors to assist the Mayor with illegal and questionable projects in exchange for the employees’ continued employment.  The interim Director of Human Resources conducted an intake interview and followed up with a letter to the employee.  The letter asked the employee to provide specific information regarding the alleged wrongdoings and advised the employee that absent such specific information, the City would consider the fifth complaint closed.  The employee did not respond to the request and the fifth complaint was treated as an abandoned complaint.

Late last week, we received the investigator’s final report. In summary, the report concluded that the each of the complaints was without merit.  

II.         Legal Authority to Conduct an Investigation of Alleged Wrongdoing by the Mayor.
Mayor Butt has questioned whether the City had the legal authority to conduct an investigation of allegations of wrongdoing by the Mayor brought by a City employee. 

As noted in Section I, above, the allegations asserted against the Mayor have been found to be without merit. That said, the allegations asserted conduct by the Mayor, if true, would have constituted a violation of Government Code Section 1090 and the Political Reform Act of 1974 (Government Code sections 83000 et seq.). 

Under Section 1090, an official cannot have a financial interest in a contract entered into by the City. Wholly aside from the personal liability that would attach to an official who votes on a contract in which the official has a financial interest, any such contract would be void if the official did in fact have such a financial interest.  Additionally, had the selection of RMSI as a tenant violated the City’s procurement policies, or had the below-market lease rate been unlawful, then that would have further cast doubt on the validity of the lease agreement between the City and RMSI. 

The City Attorney engaged an outside law firm to evaluate the City’s authority to conduct the investigation of the Mayor summarized above.  The law firm concluded that the validity of the RMSI lease was a matter of legitimate concern for the City because the City has an interest in assuring that the City’s actions are lawful and proper. Hence, an investigation into the potential invalidity of the RMSI lease under Government Code section 1090 and the City’s procurement rules, particularly given that it was a below-market lease, was appropriate and within the City’s authority to investigate.

The law firm also concluded that had the evidence supported a finding that the Mayor received remuneration for his activities in connection with the RMSI lease, then the District Attorney and the Fair Political Practices Commission, and not the City, would have been the appropriate agencies to pursue any remedies against the Mayor. The law firm reached its conclusion that the investigation was proper not because the City had the authority to investigate conflict of interest allegations against the Mayor, but because the City had a separate and legitimate interest in ascertaining if the approval of the RMSI lease was legally infirm.