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Hercules City Council member Myrna de Vera. (Sherry LaVars/staff file)

HERCULES -- A festering feud between two City Council members flared up again earlier this summer, culminating in accusations by the council's lone woman that the mayor and city manager bullied her while the rest of the council and the city attorney stood by, emails provided to this newspaper by Hercules City Hall show.

"I have been reporting about your and (City Manager) Steve Duran's bullying tactics on me to (City Attorney) Patrick Tang for several months, and I have been ignored," Councilwoman Myrna de Vera said in a June 29 email to Mayor Dan Romero, copied to the council and to Duran and Tang.

"Patrick did not take any action," the email continues. "Meeting after meeting, the council members, the city attorney just stay silent, condoning your abuse to me in public, the disrespectful way Steve Duran addresses me. Then you turn around and imply that I deserved it, just like domestic abusers accuse their wives -- it's your fault, you made me hit you!"

De Vera's accusations were part of an email titled "Your Ethical Violations" that began with a complaint that the Citizens Legal Issue Ad Hoc Committee, which de Vera has championed, had been "shamed, humiliated, and at risk for their reputation and careers" when it agreed under pressure to "cure and correct" alleged violations of open meeting rules by rescheduling a meeting and amending the agenda to include specific mention of a public comment segment.

The entire email and other correspondence related to the ad hoc committee, including one in which member Phil Simmons accuses Tang of "throwing the committee under the bus," and another containing Tang's response, can be viewed at thewestcountytimes.com. The emails were obtained through a public records request.

An earlier flare-up occurred late last year, after the council on Dec. 13 chose Romero to succeed de Vera as mayor. Two days later, de Vera filed a formal complaint with Tang alleging that Romero had violated open meetings rules known as the Brown Act by privately lobbying other council members to elevate him to mayor. Tang found the charge to be unsupported by the evidence.

De Vera told this newspaper last month that Romero harbored bad feelings toward her ever since the campaign for a June 2011 special council election, in which Romero was elected to a seat vacated by a former councilman's resignation. After signing Romero's nomination papers, de Vera held a meet-and-greet event for one of Romero's opponents, Sherry McCoy. De Vera told this newspaper at the time of the meet-and-greet that it was her husband's idea and that she did not know McCoy was running when she signed Romero's papers.

McCoy is running again Nov. 6, for one of three seats currently held by Romero, Gerard Boulanger and William Wilkins. Simmons also is running, as are two more challengers, Hector Rubio and Bill Kelly. All three incumbents are seeking re-election.

The Legal Ad Hoc Committee lapsed at the end of June amid rancor and recrimination. Earlier that month, several residents had complained that the committee was not complying with state open meetings rules known as the Brown Act. Simmons argued that as an ad hoc committee, it was not subject to the Brown Act, a view that clashed with Tang's legal opinion.

Critics countered that the committee, initially tasked with helping the council choose a new city attorney, was ad hoc in name only after existing for more than a year and taking on a multiplicity of tasks, including drafting proposed rules related to conflict of interest, nepotism and cronyism, and ethics. Their objections included that minutes were incomplete and sometimes unavailable, and that meeting agendas did not provide for a public comment period.

On June 28, the committee accepted Tang's recommendation to "cure and correct" on a 2-1 vote, with Toni Leance dissenting and Simmons abstaining.

Tang did not immediately respond to an email Friday seeking comment. Romero said Friday he would not comment on de Vera's statements other than, "She's doing a good enough job of embarrassing herself."

Duran, in an email Friday, said, "I am almost certain there is an unwritten rule somewhere that city managers do not ever say anything negative about any of their beloved City Council members ... at least not to the press. Thus I must refrain from commenting on this specific matter and just say that, overall, this City Council is doing one heck of a good job under very difficult circumstances."

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