PINOLE -- A city councilwoman this week muted her recent critique of her Hercules counterpart's enlistment of a Pinole employee to help silence a blogger, explaining that the intent was not to indict -- or defame -- anyone.

At the Nov. 15 meeting of the Pinole/Hercules Wastewater Subcommittee, Pinole Councilwoman Debbie Long had said the recent removal of Pinole City Engineer Dean Allison as project manager for the upgrade of the two cities' jointly owned wastewater plant was "a direct result of the actions of the (Hercules) councilwoman, (Myrna) de Vera,"

De Vera had taken offense at a June 15 posting on Hercules Patch by Hercules resident Kent Von Aspern, an employee of HDR Engineering, which holds the Phase I improvement design contract for the plant upgrade. De Vera notified Allison, who reported the posting to Von Aspern's boss at HDR.

Allison reported back to de Vera in early July that the blogging would stop. When Von Aspern resumed blogging soon after, de Vera emailed Allison, who responded, "this is not good." No postings have appeared under Von Aspern's name on Patch after July.

On Nov. 13, Pinole announced the hiring of its retired former city engineer, Keith Freeman, as replacement project manager for Allison, who remains as Pinole city engineer and public works director. Freeman will be paid $75 an hour, up to $15,000 through the first phase of the plant upgrade design.

At the subcommittee meeting, Long said de Vera's action was costing both cities money. The two cities will split the cost of Freeman's services evenly.

At Tuesday's Pinole City Council meeting, Long said the discussion at the subcommittee the previous week "had nothing to do with an indictment of her (de Vera) or what she did or didn't do -- that was irrelevant."

The discussion was not an indictment of Allison either but "just the opposite," Long continued, adding that Allison has received "a lot of accolades" for his work.

"But it was a perception that has arisen, due to the actions of Councilwoman de Vera, and we had to clear the air on that part of it," Long continued. "So it wasn't a matter of defaming anyone in the process. It was a matter of explaining why ... we replaced ... the project manager."

De Vera said last week she could not comment on what was said at the Nov. 15 wastewater subcommittee meeting because she was absent. The subcommittee consists of Long, Pinole Councilman Tim Banuelos, de Vera and Hercules Mayor Dan Romero.

The subcommittee meeting, meanwhile, has been video-archived on the Pinole city website.

Long said Wednesday that she had not backed down from what she said at the Nov. 15 subcommittee meeting. Rather, she said, she wished to clarify that she commented on de Vera's action, and not de Vera herself.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner