How is PRFO deal's secrecy even legal?

I have been following the PRFO controversy since the beginning. I read the Piedmonter's article in the paper, but noted the absence of any context.

The article failed to mention that the indemnification agreement was negotiated and entered into in secret, with no public notice or input. The city incurred in excess of $250,000 in internal costs and is still owed more than $200,000 in outside costs (albeit it is holding $95,000 in escrow) which were to be reimbursed by the PRFO. The PRFO gave notice to Geoff Grote of its intent to terminate the agreement in early January (about a month after the council approved the project), which he did not see fit to disclose to the public until after the election in early February.

The PRFO has met with a series of council members over the course of the last six months, and Grote has apparently indicated that he has discussed the negotiations with the PRFO with the council in closed session. As the article stated that the city expects to announce a decision later this summer, how would he know that unless he talked to and got guidance from the council, including the three members who get to negotiate with the PRFO in secret?


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If the matter is discussed in closed session and each of the three council members give input, isn't that a problem? Lastly, Grote has been quoted as indicating that the city's options are to either "drop it" or seek arbitration, even though the indemnification agreement covers only disputes between the city and the PRFO's supplied Limited Engagement Counsel (i.e., the lawyer retained to defend the city against the environmental litigation) and not disputes with the PRFO, suggesting that the city may be electing to pursue arbitration, which can be kept confidential, in order to avoid litigation, which is necessarily a matter of public record.

How is it possible for the city to have entered into, performed and to now try to settle a contract claim involving hundreds of thousands of dollars without any public notice or hearing? If I use the city's logic, will it be OK for Councilman Jeff Weiler to meet in secret with the PRFO, and then have Grote simply announce that based on closed session deliberations, the city has agreed to forgive what is owed beyond what is in escrow?

Rob Hendrickson

Piedmont

How about in-kind PRFO payments?

If the PRFO and the Piedmont City Council are talking, are they talking solutions?

A win-win solution is always the optimum. How about this: couldn't the PRFO make an "in-kind" contribution to cover the dollars already expended by the city on their behalf? If there is a project and it pertains to sports fields, they can raise money for that project.

Hampton and Coaches fields have improvement projects that are in the facilities improvements plan -- drainage improvements for both fields and bathroom upgrades for one of them. Funds could go to those projects in lieu of a reimbursement, and everyone would come out even.

Taxpayers who wish to donate to PRFO could do that, and those taxpayers who do not wish to will not be forced to if the City Council opts to 'forgive' PRFO's obligations. If this issue were to go to arbitration (per the contract) possibly this or a similar solution could be entertained.

In that way, PRFO's valiant efforts to improve Piedmont's sports facilities could be attained, they could still fundraise under the auspices of their 501c3, and their honorable intentions could be recognized. Everybody could save face a bit and we could do that healing that everyone talks about.

Joannie Semitekol

Piedmont

Officials owe voters clean government

The Alameda County grand jury's report regarding the Oakland City Council is a real embarrassment to our city.

After interviewing numerous witnesses and reviewing hundreds of documents relating to the teen center fiasco, it found that city contracting, purchasing and hiring rules were evaded and that one council member "inappropriately made administrative decisions throughout the process, often with the full knowledge and complicity of some city staff."

That council member is Desley Brooks. Brooks flagrantly violated the City Charter's command not to interfere with the operations of city staff. When the full council's attention learned about it, it refused to support a thorough investigation.

The grand jury properly determined that the council is unable to police itself. It urged the council to provide the Oakland Public Ethics Commission with the financial resources to fully investigate such violations and impose fines and penalties.

We agree. If there is one thing the council owes Oakland's citizens, it is clean government. Making sure the Public Ethics Commission can effectively carry out its duties is a critical starting point.

Gretchen White

president, Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club