Until last summer, it appeared city officials were being transparent about planning for the Concord Naval Weapons Station development.
That façade has crumbled. Political intrigue has replaced that sense of fairness.
Twice now, City Manager Valerie Barone made last-minute changes that have cast shadows over the integrity of the process. It's unclear if she acted on her own, as she claims, or under pressure from the council. It is clear that she misled the public, which is inexcusable.
Meanwhile, following the tragic suicide of City Attorney Mark Coon, an outside lawyer was hired to finish investigating allegations of influence-peddling surrounding selection of a master developer for the massive project.
The Concord City Council will receive the investigator's report in closed session Tuesday. It must be made public.
More secrecy cannot be helpful and should not tolerated. There's too much at stake. The plans for housing, office buildings and commercial space will cover an area half the size of the city of Pleasant Hill.
For a decade, the planning process seemed above board, balancing concerns of environmentalists, neighbors, transit officials, educators and builders. Then, last year, as selection of the developer neared, backroom politics reared its ugly head.
Mayor Tim Grayson accepted $16,800 in donations to his state Assembly campaign from firms linked to Lennar Urban, one of the two finalists. He later returned the money and claimed he didn't realize the contributors were connected.
He and his campaign manager, Mary Jo Rossi, also sought political advice from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a Lennar advocate and principal at an investment fund that does business with the builder.
Meanwhile, the project's planning director announced his retirement. He was replaced by Guy Bjerke, a politically connected former councilman with an apparent conflict as former CEO of the Building Industry Association Bay Area.
Bjerke was one of five job candidates interviewed by a panel of outside experts. As reporter Lisa White discovered through a Public Records Act request, he didn't make the cut with them in part because he lacked experience with military base reuse projects.
But Barone, when announcing his hiring, said Bjerke was one of two finalists. She didn't mention that was only because he was brought back into the selection process at the last moment, a decision she now says she made.
Soon after, city staff finalized its analysis of the two competing developers' proposals. But before its release, the staff recommendation for Catellus Development Corp. over Lennar was deleted. Barone claims that was also her call, but newly released documents suggest council involvement.
The surprising removal of the recommendation prompted Catellus' demand for the investigation. The company and the public deserve to see what it found.