OAKLAND -- Three daughters of former Hercules City Manager Nelson Oliva will remain as co-defendants along with their father in a $3.2 million civil suit brought by the city, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
The city seeks restitution of the $3.2 million it paid to the Oliva family company, NEO Consulting Inc./Affordable Housing Solutions Group, during Nelson Oliva's tenure as city manager.
The Olivas' lawyer, Richard Ewaniszyk, had argued that Taylor Oliva, Gabrielle Oliva and Adrianna Oliva should be dismissed from the suit because the daughters were not public officials. According to the city's complaint, the Olivas violated a section of the California Government Code that bars public officials from having a financial interest in contracts they make in their official capacity.
But the city's counsel, David Trotter, argued successfully that the daughters and their father were alter egos of the company.
NEO held a wide range of city contracts during Nelson Oliva's tenure with the city that included managing the affordable housing, housing loan, mortgage bailout, business development loan, neighborhood beautification and secure mailbox installation programs. The daughters were CEO, secretary and chief financial officer of NEO, according to a 2009 filing with the California Secretary of State. Taylor Oliva worked out of an office next to Hercules City Hall and had a city email address and phone number.
Nelson Oliva was Hercules city manager from April 2007 to January 2011; he served briefly as assistant city manager before ascending to the top post.
On Friday, Judge Robert B. Freedman confirmed his tentative ruling that the city, in its First Amended Complaint, had made a strong enough case that the daughters were alter egos of NEO and that they aided and abetted Nelson Oliva's conduct to justify including them in the suit. Ewaniszyk's co-counsel, Shannon Suber, argued vainly that the fact that the daughters were not public officials means there is no cause of action.
Freedman also rejected the Oliva attorneys' argument that the suit should be dismissed because the complaint is too "uncertain."
The defendants were not in court Friday, nor were their attorneys, at least not physically. Suber made her argument via a speaker phone connection.
Freedman scheduled a case-management conference for Feb. 8 and tentatively set trial for November 2013.
Outside the courtroom, Trotter characterized the ruling as "awesome" and a win for the city.
Ewaniszyk could not be reached for comment.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner