E-Mail Forum
Letter To City Manager Regarding Capital Projects Management
April 24, 2001

April 24, 2001

Isiah Turner
Richmond City Manager
City Hall
2600 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94801

 Dear Isiah:

 I wish to express my frustration for the lack of responsiveness of staff to legitimate questions I have posed regarding City business, the apparent lack of support from you in encouraging your staff to be responsive, and finally, in what I perceive as the continuing poor management of capital and maintenance projects involving City buildings. I am particularly concerned because we are embarking on millions of dollars of capital projects, and I have serious questions about the ability of staff to properly manage these projects to achieve the quality that our citizens deserve.

I will expand on this in future communications, but at this time I will discuss just one example, the alterations underway in the Hall of Justice.

On March 16, 2001, responding to some questions from a constituent, I asked the following questions to your staff regarding a major interior alteration project in the Hall of Justice:

  • Who was the architect? 

  • How was he or she selected? 

  • What is the amount of the design fee? 

  • What is the cost of the construction work? 

  • When did the City Council authorize the construction contract and the design contract? 

  • Who is the construction contractor?

 These are simple questions of fact that should have been readily available in the project file and should have taken only a few minutes to answer. They are also items of information that any person has a statutory right to receive information about on the same day the question is asked under Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 2.40 and within 10 days under the California Public Records Act. Despite the fact that I am an elected City Council member, it took staff approximately three weeks to get me only partial answers, as follows:

1.   The original Architect on this project was Mr. Tim Craig of San Rafael, a specialist in jails. Due to delays in his work and cost overruns, Mr. Craig was released after being paid $8,280. We then hired Claudia Falconer who completed the required scope of work within one week at a cost of $1,650.

2.   We did not send out a design RFP on this project since the total cost was under $10,000.

3.   The project started out with an estimated cost of materials of less than $10,000. With changes in scope and the opportunity to demonstrate a method of seismic retrofit, the project cost will exceed $10,000. Staff is developing a project scope and estimate to bring to Council for approval.

4.   Work on the facility started in January 2001.

5.   Public Services crews are accomplishing much of the work. Small contracts have been signed for specialty work such as fiberglass wrapping and painting.

 When I posed some follow-up questions, I received a copy of an email from you dated April 18, 2001, to my City Council colleagues that said, rather sarcastically, “Tom [Butt] continues to keep my staff busy on his agenda.” The implication was, I presume, that staff had more important things to do than to conform to public information disclosure laws and provide information to City Council members. If my agenda is to find out how this City manages (or mismanages) projects, I have no apologies, and I expect your support, not your derision.

Just from the initial responses, I was able to draw the following conclusions about the way this project is being managed by the City of Richmond:

1.   The City made no effort to obtain design services from a Richmond business; instead, architects from Marin County and Alameda County were hired without allowing Richmond businesses even the opportunity to participate. The City apparently has no currently active policy requiring or encouraging the City to contract with Richmond businesses.

2.   The City Council was never informed that architects had been hired or that the original architect had been terminated.

3.   The City Council was never provided plans or any other detailed information about this project.

4.   City staff is unable to provide the current estimated cost or scope of work for this project, even though it started in January of this year. The expenditures have apparently not been appropriated by the City Council, and the plan now is to come to the City Council for approval after the fact.

5.   Part of the work is being accomplished by Public Service crews, so the capital cost will be hidden in the Public Services operating budget for building maintenance. This is an improper use of these crews and these moneys when there are other city buildings going without necessary maintenance.

6.   My questions about when the City Council authorized this work and the names of the construction contractors went unanswered.

 On April 17, 2001, I asked the following additional questions, which were raised as a result of the initial questions:

  • Please provide me a copy of the contracts with Craig and Falconer.

  • Please provide a copy of any construction contracts for the work.

  • Please provide me a copy of the drawings and specifications.

  • Is there a building permit? Was there a plan check?

  • Has the City Council authorized any of these expenditures? If so, please direct me to the pertinent line item(s) in the budget.

  • Is there any reason that local architects were not considered or chosen for this work?

As of today, April 24, 2001, I have received no response. Once again, these are simple questions of fact, and the documents that answer them should be readily available in the project file.

I would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this problem and potential solutions.


 Thomas K. Butt