HERCULES -- Officials have taken a novel approach to spur prosecutors to pursue some of the players in the city's financial meltdown several years ago, by putting a petition online and inviting residents to sign it.
The petition, to state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson, contrasts what Hercules officials see as the slow pace of justice in their city with the quick action in a 2010 corruption scandal in the Southern California city of Bell -- by, among other officials, Harris' predecessor as attorney general, now-Gov. Jerry Brown, and Harris' losing rival in the 2010 attorney general race, then-Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Seven former Bell officials were convicted last year of misappropriating public funds and other financial corruption charges.
"In that case, there was swift action and the devotion of considerable resources to investigate and prosecute the public officials found to have violated the public trusts," reads the petition, composed by City Attorney Patrick Tang upon the council's unanimous instruction given at the Feb. 11 meeting. "Convictions were obtained, and justice has been served. We understand that federal agencies have been looking at the situation in Hercules, but after four long years we believe it is time for our state Attorney General and District Attorney to act."
In the only official action taken by any public agency against anyone in connection with Hercules' financial meltdown of the end of the last decade, former City Manager Nelson Oliva was fined $70,000 in November by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for conflicts of interest and unreported gifts. The same month, Oliva and his family company, NEO Consulting Inc., agreed to settle a lawsuit with the city for $3.2 million.
Hercules officials have urged prosecution of Oliva and possibly others.
The petition, on the website GoPetition, reads: "We, the duly elected Members of the City Council of the City of Hercules, along with the undersigned citizens of the Hercules Community, want to urge your agencies to conduct a criminal investigation of former Hercules officials." It can be accessed via a link on the home page of the city website at www.ci.hercules.ca.us.
Councilman Bill Kelly, noting that the state has a stake in any redevelopment funds, said petition signers need not reside in Hercules.
"We welcome the support of any citizen of California who is as outraged as we are about these events," Kelly said.
Harris and Peterson have not responded to requests for comment. Oliva and his attorney, Richard Ewaniszyk, did not respond to several recent requests for comment.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner