|Richmond Cuts List Of
October 3, 1996
WEST COUNTY TIMES
Thursday, October 3, 1996
An article on page 4A of Thursday's Times incorrectly described allegations by Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt against several of his fellow council members. Butt did not accuse his colleagues of accepting bribes. He said that there was evidence that they may have solicited or accepted "gratuities, favors or other items of monetary value."
RICHMOND Another attempt at political shenanigans, or an honest debate about procedures?
After much disagreement, the City Council on Tuesday narrowed to three the number of consultants it will interview for design of a major redevelopment project.
The council originally had planned to interview six firms for the South Richmond Shoreline area project.
According to one council member, that was a concerted attempt to disregard staff recommendations and hire a firm pushed by Richmond's best-known power broker: Darrell Reese.
"The firm picked by Darrell Reese is not within the top three," Councilman Tom Butt said Tuesday, directing his comments to the audience. "But it's within the top six. That's what's going on here, folks."
Reese was not available for comment Wednesday.
Councilman Nat Bates responded testily to Butt's comment. "I think people are obsessed with certain political people out there," he said.
Voting to interview just three consultants were Butt, Mayor Rosemary Corbin and council members John Marquez, Donna Powers and Lesa McIntosh.
Butt elaborated on his comments in an interview Wednesday.
He said he heard from reliable sources that the number four ranked consulting team, led by Heller Manus Architects of San Francisco, held a meeting with Councilman Nat Bates, Richmond businessman Richard Poe and Reese.
The team was told that its selection was assured, Butt said. There was also a discussion of money and campaign contributions at the meeting, he said.
"I'm not saying that anybody took bribes, or did anything illegal," Butt said. "What I am saying is this is a continuation of a pattern where Darrell Reese and other powerful political interests appear to be trying to manipulate city policy for their own benefit.
"It's inappropriate, in my opinion," Butt said. "In the consulting world, it's unprecedented."
Jeffrey Heller, president of Heller Manus, scoffed at Butt's charges.
His firm has designed major projects, such as the seismic upgrade of San Francisco City Hall. Richmond's project was small potatoes, he said.
"Do you think I'm going to prostitute myself for a little dink job in the city of Richmond?" he said. He declined to say whether Reese was involved in any meetings with his team.
Neither Bates nor Poe could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The charges raised the specter of another imbroglio the council would rather forget: the selection of a consultant for Point Molate, a former military base. Butt had accused five of his colleagues of hiring a consultant because of prodding and/or bribes from Reese. That led to the suspension of a federal grant.
After months of discussion, the council went through the selection process again and hired a different consultant.
The city's plans for the South Richmond Shoreline area include public improvements and new commercial development in the largely industrial area.