|Feds Probe Richmond
April 29, 1996
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Monday, April 29, 1996
RICHMOND Federal authorities are evaluating allegations outlined in a letter from City Councilman Tom Butt that there were improprieties in the council's selection of a consultant for the Point Molate reuse plan, a representative said Friday.
"It's under internal review at this point," said Toby Halliday, project manager for the Office of Economic Adjustment in the Department of Defense. He said they hope to respond to the letter by early this week.
Point Molate, west of the Chevron refinery in Richmond, is a former naval fuels depot that the Defense Department ordered closed last year, saying it was no longer needed. The 400-acre site could be developed in a variety of ways.
As the designated reuse authority for the site, the city of Richmond is in charge of reuse planning. The federal Office of Economic Adjustment has committed a $150,000 grant to Richmond for the reuse design. That will help pay for Peterson's services.
Butt's letter accuses five of his fellow council members of selecting a certain consultant not on merit but as part of a political deal.
"I believe there is evidence that members of the governing board may have solicited or accepted gratuities, favors or other items of monetary value directly or indirectly from the contractors," Butt wrote Helene O'Conner, acting director of the Office of Economic Adjustment.
The council bypassed consultants recommended by city staff and hired Dan Peterson & Associates because he was a qualified Richmond architect, they said. The city prefers to hire local consultants when possible. City staff ranked Peterson sixth out of seven applicants.
Several of the council members involved have said the process was completely above-board.
But Richmond firefighters' union political consultant Darrell Reese "lobbied heavily for the selection of the Peterson team for this contract," Butt wrote the OEA.
Council members voting on March 4 for Peterson were Irma Anderson, Nat Bates, Alex Evans, Richard Griffin and Lesa McIntosh.
Butt said Friday he did not intend to imply in his letter that the council members received bribes for their votes. Rather, he said, he was referring to the fact that the five people who voted for Peterson received significant backing from the firefighters union in their election campaigns.
"They say, That didn't influence me,' " Butt said. "I don't believe that."
Evans called Butt's allegations "ludicrous."
"It's absolutely baseless, libelous, slanderous speculation on his part that shows both his naivete and lack of understanding of the political process," he said.
The other four council members named in Butt's letter were not available for comment Friday afternoon.
Butt said he has since been "shunned" by the five council members that are the subject of his accusations. He may thus be unable to get votes for his own initiatives, he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm sort of dead meat up there for the foreseeable future."
Evans said, "He's absolutely correct. . . . When he crossed the line and said my disagreements with him were based on corruption he has to find his way back."
Any attempts at a reconciliation must be based on courtesy and respect, Evans said.
"Tell Tom to put his tea set away. This is not a garden party."
City Manager Floyd Johnson said he discussed Butt's letter with Halliday and told him the city would respond, if asked, for any written requests for information. So far, Halliday's office has asked for nothing, he said.
Johnson said Halliday told him that, at most, the federal government would require the city to go through the selection process again. The grant is not yet in jeopardy, Johnson said.
Butt also sent a copy of his letter to the Contra Costa County grand jury.