Representatives from Alameda's firefighters union are denying claims that City Councilmember Lena Tam leaked them confidential information, saying they already had the information she's accused of giving them.
IAFF Local 689 President Domenick Weaver said the union already had received a letter from one of the two bidders for Alameda County's ambulance service contract that Tam was accused of leaking to the union by blind copying its political director, Jeff DelBono, on an e-mail she sent to council members. And he said the union had participated in a meeting between the company's representatives and leaders of several Alameda County firefighters unions that was discussed in a second e-mail Tam copied the union on.
"At no time did Councilmember Tam or any other council member 'leak' information to IAFF Local 689 on this topic, or any other," Weaver said. "All information received was the result of official correspondence between IAFF Local 689 and the city of Alameda, through official public information requests to the Alameda County Emergency Medical Services Agency, and our own meetings with Paramedics Plus."
On July 18, Weaver released a trail of correspondence leading up to the letter from Paramedics Plus, which Weaver said was written at the firefighters' behest. The letter was sent by the company's president three days before Tam included it in her e-mail, documents show.
Weaver also released an e-mail laying out plans for a meeting between representatives for Paramedics Plus and leaders of several firefighters unions across Alameda County that was held months before Tam sent an e-mail to council members letting them know that the meeting and others like it were being held.
City officials were exploring whether to contract Alameda's ambulance service, which is now handled by the fire department.
Weaver said the union asked Paramedics Plus President Anthony Myers to write the letter to the City Council and Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant during a Feb 18 meeting they had with Myers.
"One of the processes we go through when preparing a proposal is to evaluate the surrounding systems to determine their level of relative sophistication and cost effectiveness. Our evaluation of the city of Alameda shows that the city has a well-run, cost-effective system that provides an outstanding level of care at a reasonable cost," Myers wrote. "As an island community with limited access, we came to the conclusion that Paramedics Plus would not be able to provide a level of service to the city of Alameda that is comparable to what is currently being delivered by the fire department and it is our opinion that no other provider could either."
After receiving the letter, Tam and an unnamed council member contacted the union's reps "inquiring as to why they had received the letter from Paramedics Plus as they did not recall giving council direction to pursue the contracting out of the Ambulance Transport Service," Weaver wrote in a chronology that accompanied the documents.
Tam forwarded the letter with a Feb. 25 e-mail to Gallant, Fire Chief David Kapler and members of the council that was blind-copied to DelBono. "Can you give me a briefing and context for this letter when we meet on Saturday. This is not my recollection of council direction," Tam allegedly wrote. "I thought we were evaluating revenue-generating opportunities by having our own ambulance transport and (basic life support) services to maximize the skills of our firefighters."
On March 5, Tam sent an e-mail to Gallant, Kapler and members of the council saying she had learned that before the responses being submitted for the ambulance bid, reps for both Paramedics Plus and their competitor, AMR, had met with labor unions and firefighter unions from across the county and fire chiefs, records released by an outside attorney hired to investigate Tam appeared to show.
The e-mail, which was apparently blind copied to DelBono, Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker and her chief of staff, Shawn Wilson, came in response to a March 1 e-mail from Gallant offering an update on the bid process.
Attorney Michael Colantuono, who was hired by the city to look at Tam's e-mails to see if they violated open meetings and confidentiality rules, accused Tam of illegally trying to persuade the council to reject any proposal to contract out ambulance service because, he said, the information should have been related in open session instead of via e-mail.
And he accused Tam of engaging in "biased decision making" by participating in closed session discussions relating to labor negotiations with the firefighters unions after sending those two e-mails and a third asking if Gallant had "closed the loop" with Weaver about amendments to the firefighters' contract to DelBono. He said those e-mails and others showed that Tam exploited her position for private benefit.
Tam has maintained that she has done nothing wrong and she called Colantuono's investigation a political ploy to thwart her efforts to improve openness and transparency at City Hall.
Contact Michele Ellson at firstname.lastname@example.org.