For at least three years, we've heard about an FBI investigation into malfeasance at Hercules City Hall during the administration of former City Manager Nelson Oliva.
Meanwhile, last year, the city reached a civil settlement against Oliva to partially recover the public money he siphoned.
Last week, we learned that Oliva has died. He was never criminally charged, and the city has received only a tiny fraction of the funds he pocketed.
While his family deserves sympathy, prosecutors must not cave to the temptation to bury the past along with his death for Oliva did not act alone. Similarly, city officials must ensure that his estate assets go first toward replenishing the nearly broke city's coffers.
Under the civil settlement, Oliva agreed to a $1.65 million judgment. But Oliva was only on the hook for $682,000 if he made regular payments over the next 10 years. Most of that money was to come from his monthly disability payments.
If he fulfilled his part of the deal, the city agreed not to seek the larger sum, nor go after his house or his wife's schoolteacher income. If he didn't, he or his heirs would be on the hook for the full amount.
It's unclear whether his wife will now collect any of his disability payments, or if Oliva left behind any assets. Neither the city's nor Oliva's attorneys returned calls.
It's reasonable to allow his wife to keep her teacher's income. However, she should not benefit from her late husband's ill-gotten gain.
As for the criminal investigation, questions go far beyond Oliva's role.
What about the $12 million put up by the Hercules Redevelopment Agency for a town center project that never materialized? As staff writer Tom Lochner detailed, money went for a $20,000-a-month consulting fee to developer Tom Weigel and first-class plane tickets to fly him across the country. The city also gave Weigel's company title to the city-owned site, which it used as collateral for a $2.5 million loan, on which the company later defaulted.
What about Mike Sakamoto, Oliva's predecessor as city manager, and then-Councilman Ed Balico? They and Oliva had business relationships, while Sakamoto benefitted from city contracts Oliva recommended and Balico voted to approve.
What about Steve Lawton, former economic development director, and Gloria Leon, former finance director, both of whom approved questionable expenses?
What about former City Attorney Mick Cabral, who publicly excused and turned a blind eye to Oliva's self-dealing?
Residents deserve answers. This case must not be closed.