Jan 14 2012

Residents’ investigation of the Crest Road washout revealed incorrect allocation of funds from the Sewer Fund, resulting in proposed refund to the sewer fund > Click to read more…

Nov 18 2011

 New Information on Crest Road Washout –

League of Women Voters

Task Force to Investigate and Report on Piedmont Hills Undergrounding Project Addendum to Preliminary Findings

– Crest Road Trench Washout
November 14, 2011

The League of Women Voters Task Force is publishing this Addendum to its initial report (updated 3/15/11) because of additional information obtained since completion of that report. > Click to read more…

Nov 3 2011

City Goes Public on Suit Against Engineers – 

Following direction from the City Council at its September 19th meeting, the following documents have been posted related to the civil suit against the engineers for the Piedmont Hills Underground Assessment District: > Click to read more…

Oct 20 2011

City Council approves “final” preliminary undegrounding audit report

 At its meeting on Monday, Oct. 17,  the City Council unanimously accepted the Preliminary Report of the Audit Subcommittee on the 2009 problems associated with the Piedmont Hills Underground Utility District (PHUUD),  which resulted in the expenditure of approximately $2.3 million in City funds.  > Click to read more…

Oct 16 2011

Citizen responds to the Oct. 17, 2011 Agenda Item #3: Acceptance of Audit  Subcommittee Interim Report

In a democratic society, those who gift public money away do not investigate themselves. Now, Mayor Barbieri and Vice-Mayor Chiang will “accept” the report they prepared, a report that is non-substantive as to most of staff’s actions. Once the plans were in place and the first shovel hit the dirt in July 2009, virtually all responsibility shifted to staff.  To have the City Administrator (Geoff Grote) be the staff for the Audit Subcommittee speaks for itself; he is ultimately responsible for this debacle.  Documentation was presented to the Audit Subcommittee that directly contradicted statements by Mr. Grote.  Those documents were ignored.

This “audit” took far too long, evidently in the hope residents’ fading memories would wipe out the multimillion dollar loss.  Judge Kawaichi wanted to do a proper investigation, regardless of the time required. This is a sad day for Piedmont.

Investigation of the Crest Road washout was not done by the Audit Subcommittee. My research concluded there was a “gift of public funds” on Crest Road; Oct. 3 Mr. Grote acknowledged the misuse of the Sewer Fund. Soon this Council will consider transferring General Fund money to the Sewer Fund. Staff robbed the Sewer Fund of $296,000 two years ago. A transfer of taxpayer money will not erase the original act.

Staff withheld critical information and provided false information concerning Crest Road. Staff did not inform Council there was an initial construction error that created the washout. Equally troubling is that Valley Utility was instructed Oct. 14, 2009 to repair the damaged trench with cement slurry, as approved by PG&E. That repair method had no trench dams.  The Nov. 4 Kleinfelder (Geotechnical Consultant) trench dam* recommendation was obtained after the work had been completed.  Additionally, staff presented false information concerning Valley’s protection of their job site and the existing drain system on Crest Road.

On Feb. 1, 2009, a day before the Municipal Election, staff stated there was another cost overrun, citing pipe mis-measurements. Five days later the overrun morphed into taxpayers paying another million. The City’s litigation places this mis-measurement cost at $200,000 (complaint @ p4:18-24). These contradictory facts reveal a culture of concealment at City Hall.

Piedmont taxpayers assumed unlimited liability by the contracts Mr. Peyton, City Attorney, reviewed and approved. That’s why we’re here tonight. Mr. Peyton ruled it was legal to debit the Sewer Fund, but ignored the fundamental issue; without the construction work for the special benefit of PHUAD (Piedmont Hills Underground Assessment District) there would have been no washout.  Mr. Peyton never addressed the initial Crest Road construction; the City has included that specific point in its litigation. Despite all this, the Audit Subcommittee was unresponsive to any questions concerning George Peyton’s breach of his fiduciary responsibilities.

A year and a half ago, I presented my PHUAD analysis to council members; Mr. Wieler lamented the loss of “esprit de corps” among staff.  That loss is the least of residents’ concerns.

Rick Schiller
Piedmont, CA

*Short definition: Trench dams prevent bedding erosion and drain excess water to the surface in a trench situated on a steep slope

Explanation: Trench dams are an internal construction in utility (and other) trenches that are placed on steep slopes. Water getting into a trench will form hydrostatic pressure because of the force of gravity on the slope. This pressure erodes and washes the bedding sand which is at the bottom of the trench. Once the sand is washed away, the material above can collapse down and in some instances collapse part of the existing street into the trench. The trench dams are placed at fixed intervals from the bottom of the trench to just below the street surface. On the upper portion of Crest Road they were specified every 75 feet. The trench dams prevent the bedding from eroding by relieving the pressure and allowing excess water to flow to the surface through a drain outlet installed in each trench dam.

Sep 23 2011

View Undergrounding Complaint and Answer Documents

The City of Piedmont has filed a lawsuit against 2 engineering firms to recover monies lost in the Piedmont Hills private undergrounding district bailout.  A copy of the  Complaint filed by the City of Piedmont and Answer filed by Robert Gray & Associates (RGA) is shown below. > Click to read more…

Sep 21 2011

Piedmont’s Audit Subcommittee has released a new draft of its preliminary report.  The new version incorporates changes discussed by committee members at its last  Subcommittee meeting on August 23.  (See video below.)  The report and its recommendations will be discussed, and may be approved, at the next meeting of the Subcommittee, which is set for September 22. > Click to read more…

Sep 16 2011

The City Council Audit Subcommittee will meet on Thursday, September 22nd at 7:30 p.m. to review and approve a preliminary report to the City Council.

The draft Preliminary Report and all the materials used by the subcommittee are available on-line.  The committee may not issue a final report until after litigation involving the District has been concluded and  matters in the  litigation can be explored more fully.

> Click to read more…

Aug 23 2011

A letter from Thomas Clark notes recommendations leave the City on the hook for cost overruns

The subcommittee has labored mightily at producing an autopsy of the  financially disastrous City involvement in undergrounding projects.  But so far as I can determine from reading over the glut of words it has produced, it has not focused on what really matters to me as a City resident and taxpayer.  > Click to read more…

Aug 21 2011

“Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems that the Committee has missed the forest for the trees. The only questions I’m interested in hearing an answer to is whether anyone on the council asked “What happens if there is a cost overrun?“ and, if there is, “Who is going to pay for it?”.  The Council should never have approved a project for private benefit if there was a risk of the public having to pay for it  . . .”

Correspondence has been submitted to the Audit Sub-committee by Sanford H. (“Sandy”) Margolin (excerpted above), Neil Teixeira, Joe Hurwich, and Rick Schiller, members of the community who have followed the Sub-committee’s work and are displeased with the results of the investigation.  Rick Schiller points out a list of items omitted in the draft report and concludes the Committee’s work is a self-examination by two Council members and requires an independent audit to appropriately investigate the matter.  See all correspondence for 8.23.11 meeting. > Click to read more…