East Bay Express: An Alameda Power Play?, February 16, 2011


Some island residents also are fearful that a new three-member majority on the city council is making a power play to seize greater control of the city, and undercut Alameda's strong-city-manager form of government. They point to the recent 3-2 closed-door vote to put Interim City Manager Anne Marie Gallant on paid administrative leave and not renew her contract. Critics note that the three-member majority, made up of new Mayor Marie Gilmore, new City Councilman Rob Bonta, and longtime Councilwoman Lena Tam, appeared to be so intent on getting rid of Gallant that the trio found a way around a city law that prohibits new council members, such as Bonta, from voting to fire the city manager.

Soon after news broke of Gallant's ouster, accusations began to spread across the island that the move was nothing more than political payback. After all, it was Gallant who had spearheaded an investigation into allegations that Tam had leaked confidential e-mails to prospective Alameda Point developer SunCal earlier in 2010. In fact, the attorney hired to investigate Tam thought her actions were so egregious that he stongly recommended that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office press criminal charges. In addition, critics point to how the decision to get rid of Gallant was made: behind closed doors, without public notice, during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year's.

But Gilmore, Bonta, and Tam say the power-play allegations are unfounded. "Absolutely not," Bonta said. "The charter is the charter. We're going to honor and respect all aspects of it, especially the form of government that it specifies that we have in Alameda."

Still, the decision to oust Gallant remains an open wound on the island, particularly when viewed through the lens of last November's election. There's reason to believe that Tam, Bonta, and, to a lesser extent, Gilmore, may have benefitted from a barrage of negative, SunCal-sponsored campaign ads attacking Gallant — who wasn't even running for office — throughout the election season. Tam, in particular, had had a close relationship with SunCal and she ended up defeating staunch opponents of the developer in the election, as did Bonta and Gilmore. SunCal also had sued Gallant for alleged fraud, claiming she had conspired to derail the company's negotiations to develop the former Naval Air Station.