PINOLE -- In the continuing fallout over a flap involving a Hercules councilwoman and her reaction to a blogger, two of Myrna de Vera's counterparts on the Pinole council denounced her actions Thursday in explaining why the project manager for the Pinole-Hercules wastewater plant upgrade has been replaced.
Pinole Councilwoman Debbie Long said during Thursday's meeting of the Pinole-Hercules Joint Wastewater Subcommittee that the decision to remove Dean Allison, the Pinole city engineer, from the project stems from his role earlier this year in helping silence a blogger on Hercules Patch who was perceived as a critic of de Vera. The blogger, Kent Von Aspern, is an employee of the firm that holds the Phase I improvement design contract for the wastewater plant, HDR.
Emails obtained by this newspaper under a public records request detailed correspondence between de Vera and Allison over Von Aspern's blog posts and Allison's efforts to stop them.
Long said Allison's removal was "a direct result of the actions of the councilwoman, de Vera," adding, "It has cost both cities more now that we have to pay a project manager, as opposed to just allowing Dean to absorb those costs.
"This is an outcome of an entitlement by another public official that felt that they had carte blanche to our city employee, and actually resulted in some impacts to both cities," Long said.
Retired former Pinole city engineer Keith Freeman, whose experience with
Pinole Councilman Tim Banuelos, who forms the subcommittee along with Long, de Vera and Hercules Mayor Dan Romero, said he was personally offended and upset.
"If it were up to me," Banuelos said, addressing the Hercules delegation, "you'd be paying the $75 an hour completely."
Allison still will be responsible for overseeing daily operations of the plant, which is co-owned equally by the two cities, and will continue to attend meetings of the wastewater subcommittee, Pinole City Manager Belinda Espinosa said in a Nov. 13 letter to her Hercules counterpart, Steve Duran.
Allison got entangled in the blogging flap after de Vera or her husband, Manuel "Manny" de Vera, told Allison that Von Aspern was blogging on Hercules Patch.
"It was during a social setting sometime in May or June that Myrna and Manny were together, and I was told by one of them that one of the people we hired with HDR was on the blogs," Allison told this newspaper in September, adding, "It was more the fact that he was blogging than the content that we were concerned with."
Von Aspern referenced Myrna de Vera in a June 15 post, prompting an angry post from Manuel de Vera in response about an hour later. The following week, Allison sent a copy of Von Aspern's post to Von Aspern's boss at HDR, according to email records. Two weeks later, Allison emailed de Vera that the postings would cease.
Another two weeks later, Myrna de Vera emailed Allison that Von Aspern was blogging again. No postings under Von Aspern's name appeared on Patch after July.
In September, Myrna de Vera told this newspaper: "I did not ask Dean to silence (Von Aspern). I just informed (Allison) that this HDR employee was blogging."
After listening to the comments by Long and Banuelos at Thursday's meeting, Romero said it seemed Pinole had lost confidence in one of the subcommittee members, an apparent reference to de Vera, and that if the Pinole delegation wants to ask for her removal, "I would support that."
Long responded that it's up to Hercules how to deal with its council members.
Removing de Vera from the wastewater subcommittee was a provision in a draft censure resolution that the Hercules City Council earlier this week tabled for 30 days, in part because it contained several legal flaws. The council's annual reorganization will be Dec. 11.
De Vera, in an email Thursday, said she could not comment on what was said at the subcommittee meeting because she was absent.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.