The interim assistant city attorney, Heather McLaughlin (no relation to Gayle McLaughlin) correctly reported at the June 29, 2021, City Council meeting that two votes taken in a protracted and contentious (my description) closed session to terminate City Manager Laura Snideman and City Attorney Teresa Stricker, respectively, failed with one vote in favor (mine), one abstention (Nat Bates) and five opposed.
I particularly appreciate Nat Bates’ support. Nat and I have a long history of sharing the same election cycle and running against each other for decades, including two mayoral races. For many political issues, we are about as far apart as two people can get, and we have traded a lot of jibes over the years, but unlike the rest of the City Council, Nat is a person of principle who knows right and wrong when he sees it.
What Heather McLaughlin did not report out is that another vote was taken also, 5-1-1 or 5-2 (I don’t recall which), to call the question and not allow me to respond at all to nearly an hour of personal invective by five City Council members who circled the wagons with City staff to defend admittedly illegal acts by the city attorney and the city manager.
Based on information provided outside the closed session, the city attorney and city manager have previously confirmed that:
- The expenditure of over $45,000 of City funds for an investigation without City Council authorization of a contract is a violation of the Charter. The only excuse provided by the city attorney and city manager is that they were simply doing what their predecessors had illegally done. The city attorney has confirmed that the previous practice was illegal and has ordered that it not be repeated in the future. However, both the city manager and city attorney thought it was okay to just let this one go because it was initiated before they took office.
- The city attorney has stated that no one has been able to find any legal basis for a city manager to order and pay for an investigation of an elected mayor for alleged corruption, even if it had been approved in closed session by the City Council. Nevertheless, both the city attorney and the city manager continue to defend their actions based on vague justifications including that the investigation was initiated before they took office and they had no choice but to continue it.
- The city attorney and city manager have confirmed that so far, after over a year and a half of investigation, the investigator has not been able to sustain any of the complaints that are the basis of the investigation.
Following repeated requests, I still have not been provided any written record of the complaints made against me or the findings of the investigator.
What we have here are four RPA City Council members plus Demnlus Johnson who are exercising personal animosities towards me to protect a weak city attorney and city manager who are continuing to flout the laws they were sworn to uphold. The City Council, city attorney and city manager have devolved into depths of disfunction that have rarely been seen before.
Since new members joined in January of this year, the City Council has become particularly contentious over multiple issues including Point Molate, Campus Bay and defunding the police. The RPA City Council members have strong feelings, and they have every right to express them and act on them, but they also have penchant for flouting City Council rules and decorum, disrespecting the chair, and not accepting the rights of others to disagree with them.
My next step will be to request the district attorney to investigate the city attorney and city manager.
The action was reported by several media based on the following story by Bay City News Foundation:
City Council Votes To Retain City Manager, City Attorney After Accusations Of Illegal Ethics Investigation
Bay City News Service
June 30, 2021Updated: June 30, 2021 3:17 p.m.
By Eli Walsh
Bay City News Foundation
The Richmond City Council voted Tuesday to allow two city officials to remain in office after Mayor Tom Butt accused them of improperly using public funds for an ethics investigation.
The council voted 5-1 in closed session to retain City Manager Laura Snideman and City Attorney Teresa Stricker after Butt accused them last week in his email newsletter of using public funding to investigate whether Butt or his architectural firm were paid by the city for designing the potential floor plan for a building's redevelopment.
Butt said in his newsletter that the investigation stemmed from accusations by at least one city employee that Butt or his architecture firm, Interactive Resources Inc., received payment from the city for designing potential floor plans for the redevelopment of the former Richmond Intermodal Transit Center into a visitor center and Richmond-themed merchandise store.
"This would be illegal if it were true, but it was not," Butt said in his newsletter.