Nov 17 2010

Piedmont Citizen Questions Staff Adherence to Piedmont City Charter

At the Nov. 1, 2010 City Council meeting, Piedmont resident, Rick Schiller questioned whether City Administrator Geoff Grote had violated the City Charter by amending a City contract prior to consideration by — and without authorization from— the City Council, as required by the Charter.

The amendment in question was a $25,000 increase in the City’s contract with LSA, the City’s environmental consulting firm, for its work preparing the Response to Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) of the Moraga Canyon Sports Fields project.  Grote noted that 180 letters and emails, representing some 850 comments, were received on the DEIR.  He stated in the Council meeting that he had decided to instruct the consultants to continue their work beyond the original contract ($111,000) in order not to further delay completion of the DEIR and to meet publication dates promised to the public. He said he had also spoken to proponents of the sports field project, Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO), and asked them to pay the consultant’s increased cost, which they had agreed to do.

Council Members asked City Attorney, Thomas Curry,  if Grote had violated the Charter by his actions.  Curry replied that Grote had not because ”there is no contract” (unless the Council approved it).

Grote told the Council that he had negotiated the amount LSA had originally asked for to complete the Response to Comments down to $25,000 from their original request for $35,000-$40,000. Council Member Garrett Keating asked if reducing the amount meant that work on the Response to Comments would be incomplete.  Grote replied that Recreation and Planning Department staff felt they could respond to many of the questions.  No tasks were identified.

According to Grote, LSA  understood it was proceeding with work which had not been approved by the Council, and that it would not be entitled to payment without approval from the City Councl.   Grote did not provide the Council with a written document verifying this agreement with LSA.

The City Council did not request any information about the cost for the Recreation and Planning staff to prepare Response to Comments. Nor was a detailed contract change provided to the Council specifying the changes.

The Council did not ask Grote why he had not sought Council approval for renegotiating the contract earlier, when LSA had advised him last August that the needed hours vastly exceeded the amount in the contract  for Response to Comments.

The question of staff adherence to Piedmont’s City Charter recalls similar questions concerning Piedmont’s utility under grounding problems, where staff committed to substantial unfunded payments prior to obtaining Council authorization to renegotiate and continue the contract.

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