ALAMEDA — City Councilwoman Lena Tam has been accused of official misconduct after an attorney brought in by the interim city manager said she leaked confidential city information, including to representatives from the company that wants to redevelop the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
Along with providing information to SunCal Companies while the city was negotiating with the developer over the former base's future, Tam is accused of leaking information to the Alameda firefighters union and of violating the state's open meeting law by using e-mails to influence her fellow City Council members.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is now reviewing the allegations, which are detailed in a report the City Council made public after a closed session late Tuesday.
"I am confident that when the investigation is concluded, there will be no evidence of misconduct," said Tam, whose council seat will be up for election this fall.
The report asks prosecutors to refer the allegations to the grand jury as a violation of Government Code Section 3060, which would allow Tam's removal for "official misconduct."
The councilwoman "repeatedly disclosed closed session information ... to persons who were not entitled to receive that information," said attorney Michael Colantuono, who carried out the investigation on behalf of city officials.
The leaks undermined Tam's constituents and exposed the city to liability because some
"Because of the frequency and repeated nature of these violations, it is reasonable to infer that other violations may have occurred telephonically, by private e-mail accounts, in person or by other means, and that Tam likely continues to leak confidential closed session information," Colantuono said in a May 26 letter to Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Blazer.
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 base, now known as Alameda Point.
But SunCal still hopes to redevelop the site. Its exclusive negotiating deal with the city will expire July 20 unless the City Council extends it.
Tam has supported SunCal's efforts, while Mayor Beverly Johnson and other city leaders have opposed it.
Among Tam's reported leaks was a March 17 city e-mail that she forwarded to SunCal Vice President Pat Keliher that included comments City Attorney Teresa Highsmith gave in closed session, as well as information on Highsmith's job performance from another closed session.
Tam is also accused of forwarding SunCal's Frank Faye a confidential April 15 e-mail that Highsmith had sent to the City Council about her concern that Faye was texting during closed talks with city representatives.
In a phone call the same day, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said Faye "restated language from the e-mail almost verbatim."
"At that point, I advised him that this e-mail was sent under attorney-client privilege and asked how he could have received it," Gallant said in a declaration included in the report. "At first, he did not respond, but when I also told him that this was a breach of attorney-client privilege, he later changed his story and claimed that he did not have the e-mail, but had been told about it by a third party."
Records show Faye called City Hall and left a message about Highsmith's e-mail about 30 minutes after Tam forwarded it from her city account into her personal account, according to Gallant's declaration.
Tam is also accused of forwarding a letter from a company called Paramedics Plus on the possible outsourcing of the city's ambulance service to a leader of the firefighters union.
"I believe that there are inaccuracies in the investigative report, and that it jumps to conclusions and speculates on issues that have no basis in truth," Tam said Wednesday.
She said she will comment on specific accusations against her in the coming weeks.
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.
Others who reportedly received confidential e-mails from Tam include Lauren Do, who operates the "Blogging Bayport" website, and John Knox White, a community activist who serves on the city's Sunshine Task Force, according to the report.
On Tuesday, Mayor Beverly Johnson called on White to resign from the task force, which was created to help make local government more transparent.
Johnson said she will put the issue before the council if White refuses to step down.
"Mayor Johnson called for my removal as vice chair of the Sunshine Task Force despite offering no evidence of wrongdoing on my part," White said in a statement.
"I've heard of innocent until proven guilty before, but having to defend yourself against nonexistent accusations is a new one to me."
White said the demand he quit was "a political vendetta by a waning politician" over his defense of the Brown Act, or the open government law.
Tam and the interim city manager also have been frequent political opponents, including on what SunCal has proposed for the former Navy base.
While Tam declined to comment on whether she thought the investigation into her was politically-motivated, she noted this is an election season. Candidate filing begins Monday and runs to Aug. 6 for the November election. The mayor and two council seats are open.
Among those who some observers believe may soon make a bid for a council seat is Johnson, who will be termed out as mayor this fall.
"The timing is certainly interesting," Tam said.