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  Attorney General Opines on Alleged Conflict of Interest
April 1, 2005

In addition to serving on the Richmond City Council, I serve as a member of the Rosie the Riveter Trust board of directors. The Rosie the Riveter Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that serves as the non-profit partner to the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park. The sole purpose of the Trust is to promote and enhance the success of the national park.

In 2003, it was suggested by several individuals that my advocacy for the national park, including encouraging businesses located in or considering locating in the national park or the historic shipyards area, to support the national park, either directly or through the non-profit Trust was an illegal conflict of interest.

The City Attorney was asked to provide a legal opinion, but in the end it was inconclusive.

As late as March of 2005, Mr. Cromartie was still making charges, somewhat embellished by this time,  about my allegedly inappropriate actions in regard to Rosie the Riveter Trust, as follows:

“I have personal knowledge that this Council member  "ordered" me to exact $750,000  in mitigation fees to be directed to a non-profit group which he held an executive position, with no nexus or legal basis to make such a request. When I refused, the person attacks on me intensified and this Council member openly called for my "resignation" in his email sent to me and others.”

In order to resolve the issue once and for all, I requested, through the offices of Assembly Member Hancock, an opinion from the California Attorney General. That opinion was published yesterday and included the following conclusion, which appears to have put these charges to bed.

“A city council member, who serves on the board of directors of a nonprofit trust created to support the operations of a national historical park, may participate in a city council decision to lease a parcel of land to a business owner from whom the council member has solicited contributions on behalf of the nonprofit trust.”

I am attaching as PDF files, the following documents, which more fully explain the issue:

  1. Email dated May 13, 2003, from Barry Cromartie to the Richmond City Attorney. This is when the issue was first raised.
  2. Letter from Tom Butt to Barry Cromartie dated May 1, 2003, regarding Hanson Aggregate. This is one of the two letters referred to in Cromartie’s May 13, 2003 email.
  3. Letter from Tom Butt to Jim Cannon dated February 26, 2003 (incorrectly dated 2002) regarding Eagle Rock Aggregate. This is one of the two letters referred to in Cromartie’s May 13, 2003 email.
  4. Letter from Tom Butt to Assembly Member Loni Hancock dated august 7, 2003, requesting an opinion from the Attorney General.
  5. Email dated March 4, 2005, from Barry Cromartie to Bill Lindsay demanding an investigation.
  6. Attorney General Opinion of March 28, 2005.

Ted_Prim_letter.pdf, attorney_general_opinion.pdf, cannon_letter_022603.pdf,

Cromartie_email_5-13-2003.pdf, hanson_lease_4_.pdf, Cromartie_email_March_4_2005.pdf

I would like to extend my thanks to Assembly Member Hancock for facilitating the securing of the opinion.

A West County Times article on the mater follows:

Posted on Fri, Apr. 01, 2005

State: Councilman can pursue funds for park


The state's top legal authority has given a Richmond City Council member the victory in one round of his fight with the city's planning chief.

Councilman Tom Butt's pursuit of funding for the Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historic Park created no conflict of interest, the state Attorney General's Office has ruled in a seven-page opinion.

Critics, chief among them city planning director Barry Cromartie, had claimed Butt should not be allowed to vote on a lease for a business owner from whom the park trust had solicited contributions.

Butt denies he was seeking contributions. He said he sought the state opinion to make sure he was not violating his conflict of interest laws in his efforts for the park.

Butt "has no financial interest or business that might conflict with, or be enhanced by, the proposed lease," the Attorney General's Office ruled in the March 28 report.

Butt went through Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who requested the opinion on his behalf in early 2004. Only state lawmakers can do so.

"The timing of this opinion could not be more interesting," said Hancock's aide, Hans Hemann, because the long-awaited opinion came just as Cromartie had begun to raise the issue again.

At issue are two letters Butt wrote to Cromartie.

In them, he suggested two rock and soil companies could invest in the national park because the city was requiring both to enhance their surroundings to earn environmental clearance.

One of them, Hanson Aggregates, offered to put $250,000 into the Rosie the Riveter museum. Butt suggested to Eagle Rock, the other company, that it do so as well "since they were in Shipyard No.2."

Cromartie characterized Butt's communications with Hansen as a "shake-down," in a May 13, 2003, letter to then-City Attorney Malcolm Hunter.

"I have been requested to impose a condition of approval on the Hanson project for the amount of $250,000," he says in the letter. "It appears this council member is using his office to 'extract' funds from Hanson which would be directed to a nonprofit organization which this same council member serves in an executive capacity."

Butt said Hansen, formerly Kaiser Sand and Gravel, approached him with the idea, "and I said, 'Hey, that's great."

Since the museum, a memorial to the women who worked in the defense industry during World War II, is on city land, Butt's efforts as a board member do not qualify as "economic interests" as defined by law, the state report says.

The organization's five-member board includes former Mayor Rosemarie Corbin, Councilwoman Mindell Penn, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, and Diane Hedler.

Reach Rebecca Rosen Lum at 510-262-2713 or rrosenlum@cctimes.com.