City Council postpones item asking for firing of Assistant City Manager
on April 3, 2013
Efforts to have Richmond Assistant City Attorney and Human Resources Director Leslie Knight removed from her position were deterred Tuesday evening, when a resolution calling for her dismissal was taken off the city council agenda shortly before the meeting.
The resolution, introduced by Councilmember Jovanka Beckles, recommended that City Manager Bill Lindsay, who has the power to fire employees, terminate Knight for violating city policies, as found in a city-funded independent investigation.
In a public statement Lindsay released in March, he listed the policies Knight had violated, according to the investigation—which include using a city car while collecting a car allowance and using city employees and time for work unrelated to the city—and said he’s taken disciplinary action short of terminating her from her job.
Beckles said at the beginning of the meeting that she was removing the item from the regular agenda so it could be scheduled for the next closed session meeting. “I think it’s also a personnel issue, which is raised and handled in closed session,” Beckles said.
The employee who brought the complaints against Knight last year, Finance Manager Stacie Plummer, said before the meeting that Beckles called her around 4:30 that day to tell her the item was being removed. Plummer said removing the item might have a more favorable outcome for those calling for Knight’s termination if this means the city council will be able to look at the full investigation during closed session. The city released part of the investigation’s findings last month, and Plummer said she has not seen the rest yet.
At a rally held outside city chambers before the meeting—the second one in two weeks—a group of about 20 people called for Knight’s removal, saying it was the only acceptable action. Two speakers likened her continuing employment to an illness that’s infected the city’s administration, and said the only cure would be to fire her.
“Until this is done, we cannot heal as a city,” said Andres Soto, a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance.
More than a dozen speakers spoke on the resolution during the public comment period, and many voiced a similar call to action, asking for accountability for the city’s staff. “It’s the notion that the powerful shouldn’t get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everyone else,” said Richmond resident and political activist Charles Smith.
RecycleMore reviewing bids for a new post-collection contract
As the meeting moved into its regular session, the council heard a presentation from RecycleMore, the agency that handles waste collection in Richmond and four other cities. The presentation laid out the process for reviewing RecycleMore’s contract with Republic Services, Inc., the company that handles trash and recycling after it’s been collected. The current agreement with Republic Services, Inc. is nearing its expiration date, and six companies, including Republic Services, Inc., submitted bids to handle the city’s waste post-collection, the steps taken after trash is picked up from the curb.
Republic Services, Inc. is paid $18 million annually to process and dispose of nearly 130,000 tons of material from five cities within the West County—Richmond, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Hercules, and Pinole. The agency’s post-collection agreement with Republic is scheduled to end in 2014, while its collection agreement will remain in effect until 2025.
Rob Hilton, a consultant who is a part of the evaluation team looking over the companies’ bids and who gave the presentation to the council Tuesday, said the process will lead to better prices through competition, something that’s been lacking within cities’ waste management for the last 70 years. “This was huge to get a transparent process here,” Hilton said.
The West Contra Costa Waste Management Authority, otherwise known as RecycleMore, was created more than two decades ago in an effort to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills by at least 50 percent. As a joint powers agency, the board includes councilmembers from participating cities, including Richmond. The board is responsible for deciding which company will win the new contract.
Hilton said the agency would like to reach a goal of 75 percent of the cities’ waste being recycled.
City Councilmember Corky Booze made a motion to pass the item, which has no financial impact, but allows RecycleMore to go forward with its selection process. He praised the city’s sanitation staff and RecycleMore for their presentation on options to increase recycling intake and decrease the cost to residents.
Councilmember Jael Myrick seconded the motion, following with more praise for the agency. “You’ve got services increasing, rates going down and I think at the end of the day, this is going to be good for the Richmond rate-payer,” Myrick said.
The council passed the item unanimously. RecycleMore’s board will likely award the new contract in July.
Port of Richmond Public Art Project
One of the most discussed items on the agenda was approving a one-year, $33,750 contract with Regina Almaguer, who would become the project manager for the Port of Richmond Public Art Project. Almaguer’s job would be to review and select artist proposals and oversee all aspects of construction, budget, and installation for public art at the Port of Richmond.
In 2012, the Port of Richmond allocated $225,000 for the project. But at Tuesday night’s meeting, Arts and Cultural Manager Michele Seville said she was notified last week there was another art project already planned for the same area, near Shipyard 3, that was proposed through the San Francisco Bay Trail Project.
Both projects could move forward independently, but Bruce Beyaert, chair of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee, spoke during public comment and said he would like to see his project’s artist selected for the Richmond Public Art Project, since she has already been paid and created the design for the art installation. The installation would include a 12-foot tall Rosie the Riveter welcome sign and a 55-foot-long sculpture of a Victory ship, much like the SS Red Oak Victory that can be seen across the port.
Beyaert sent an email to the council earlier Tuesday morning arguing that hiring a project manager to select an artist for the project would essentially be a waste of money, since the Bay Trail Project has already found and approved an artist’s work. But Beyaert said the group’s chosen artist’s installation couldn’t be completed because the project ran out of funding.
The fact that the group has already chosen an artist poses some difficulty to the city, because according to the city charter, public art installations require an open proposal process so that all artists can apply. Seville said the Bay Trail art project was grant funded, and did not follow those guidelines.
Seville said that the money is already there for the Port of Richmond Public Art Project and the city is ready to start taking proposals. “Now, we do have the money in place,” Seville said. “We’ve got a project manager in place and we are ready to go.”
After the presentation outside of the chambers, Seville said a solution could be to extend the geographical area for the Port project so that it could include the Bay Area Trail, and invite the artist to submit her proposal for the Port of Richmond Public Art Project. If her work is selected, the funding would be available for the 12-foot-tall sign and Victory ship sculpture.
Councilmember Tom Butt had several problems with the project, one of them being the cost of hiring a project manager. “I’m appalled that you would spend 15 percent for someone to administer the program. I think you’re getting taken for a ride,” Butt said.
The motion to hire the project manager passed with Butt voting no and Myrick abstaining.
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