HERCULES -- The resident who got in trouble for comments critical of a City Council member on a local blog has withdrawn his application to sit on a tax oversight board, citing stress and fear for the loss of his job.
Kent Von Aspern was among five people who had submitted completed applications as of Thursday to sit on the Measure O Oversight Committee, formed in the wake of voter approval in June of a local sales tax of one-half cent on the dollar, to sunset after four years. The others are Chris Kelley, Anton Jungherr, Onkar Mahay and Chris Tallerico.
Several more people took out applications but had not returned them as of Thursday, City Clerk Doreen Mathews said. The deadline was Friday.
The committee is supposed to have five members. Measure O is expected to raise about $500,000 a year for the general fund.
In a letter to the city dated Thursday explaining his withdrawal, Von Aspern said that if he were appointed, it could create the perception that it was a corrective action and thus raise questions about his worthiness. An employee of HDR Engineering Inc., Von Aspern had written posts on Hercules Patch in June that apparently upset Hercules Councilwoman Myrna de Vera.
HDR has a long-standing relationship with Hercules, with more than $8 million in contracts since 2005 in connection with its Intermodal Transit Center project. HDR also has an $800,000 contract to do the preliminary design of improvements to the joint Pinole-Hercules wastewater treatment plant. A second phase is expected to go out to bid in the next 12 months.
In June, de Vera contacted Pinole City Engineer Dean Allison. According to emails obtained by this newspaper through a public records request, Allison reported back to de Vera that he had spoken to HDR's vice president and that Von Aspern's posts would cease.
De Vera alerted Allison after Von Aspern made several more posts in July. There have been no more posts by Von Aspern on Hercules Patch since July.
Earlier this week, de Vera apologized publicly for her action, at the City Council meeting and in a widely disseminated email.
In his letter to the city, Von Aspern says he has been removed from the wastewater plant project.
"I now live in daily fear for the loss of my job," Von Aspern writes. "My working conditions have become less enjoyable and substantially more stressful."
"I worry constantly that if my employer does not secure the next phase of this project, I will be held accountable," he continues.
Von Aspern cites de Vera's role on the Pinole-Hercules joint wastewater subcommittee and Allison's status as project manager for the wastewater plant expansion as additional factors in his withdrawal from consideration for the tax oversight panel.
Von Aspern has declined a request from this newspaper for comment.
An HDR senior official, Craig Olson, did not respond to requests for comment.
Allison deferred comment to Pinole City Manager Belinda Espinosa, who said a comment from her city would be forthcoming.
The Hercules City Council will interview the applicants for the Measure O Oversight Committee at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in the City Council Chamber, 111 Civic Drive, Hercules.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.