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July 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 02, 2004

Letter prompted city probe Letter prompted city probe (July 02, 2004)

Husband charges city attorney misused funds, lied about timeline

By Jon Wiener

Allegations by the husband of Pamela Read prompted the Mountain View City Council's decision to form an ad hoc ethics committee and hire an outside attorney to investigate her relationship with City Attorney Michael Martello.

Michael Read's May 25 e-mail to city council members, obtained by the Voice last week, suggests Martello misused city funds and accuses him of lying to council members. Martello informed the council of his romantic relationship with Pamela Read, the general manager of Foothill Disposal and the president of the Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, in an April 16 memo.

After the original story broke in the May 21 edition of the Voice, Michael Read e-mailed council members, alleging Martello had been seeing Pam Read for longer than he had stated publicly and called for an investigation into a potential conflict of interest.

According to the letter, Pam Read had introduced her husband to Martello at a local fundraising event on Feb. 21. She told Michael Read she was in a relationship with Martello on March 13. Less than a week later, Michael Read called Martello at his office. By the end of the month, Martello was preparing to help her move out, the e-mail said.

This timeline contradicts Martello's assertion that he informed the city council "within a week, two weeks for sure, of even casually seeing her." He has since denied making that statement, but council members may still be left to wonder why they were not told sooner.

According to Mayor Matt Pear, concerns about Read's letter are what led to the formation of the ad hoc ethics committee. Pear is on the committee along with Vice Mayor Matt Neely and Council member Nick Galiotto. Galiotto replaced Mike Kasperzak, who recused himself last week, citing his closeness with both Martello and Pamela Read.

"It's to answer some of the concerns mentioned in the letter," Pear said of the committee. "The whole idea was to get a third-party independent neutral perspective."

The committee has already met at least twice and has hired an Orange County lawyer named Michael Jenkins to advise them on legal matters. The committee's meetings are not open to the public. Pear said the committee is taking all the allegations seriously, but perhaps the most salient one is the potential conflict of interest. Martello's office oversees all contracts signed by the city.

Foothill Disposal is in the second year of a 10-year contract extension to haul the city's garbage. (See accompanying timeline.) In early June, the city council adopted a budget that included an 8.95-percent increase totaling over $740,000 for the garbage company to cover a new agreement with the Teamsters Union. As a result of the revenue increase for Foothill, the city increased garbage rates 3 percent for all residents and businesses.

Foothill's contract with the city sets the company's profit between six and 12 percent based of projected revenue. Finance director Bob Locke said the added payment to Foothill was necessary to meet that minimum standard.

Martello said he has had little to do with Foothill Disposal since signing off on the hauling contract in 1993. Under terms of the contract, Foothill must submit an annual rate application to the city detailing its expenditures. City staff then decides whether or not to approve it before submitting it to the council as part of the final budget.

Locke added that no one from the city attorney's office participated in that process this year.

In addition to her job with Foothill Disposal, Pamela Read's duties with the Chamber of Commerce include maintaining a favorable rent agreement with the city. Currently, the chamber occupies its Castro Street home free of charge.

E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]

Timeline of city's contract with Foothill Disposal

On July 1, 1993, the city entered into a 10-year agreement with Foothill Disposal Company, Inc. The contract entitled Foothill to a profit of 6 to 12 percent of revenues annually. It also called for Foothill to submit an annual "rate application" each year to determine city payments. City Manager Kevin Duggan and City Attorney Michael Martello were among those who signed the agreement on the behalf of the city.

Feb. 20, 2003

With the original contract set to expire in late April, the city exercises its option to extend it for 10 more years.

Jan. 30, 2004

Foothill submits its annual rate application to the city, asking for an 8.95 percent increase from the previous year's payments. Foothill said the $740,000 increase is needed to pay for increased health care and labor costs under a new agreement with the Teamsters Union.

June 1, 2004

The city finance department approves Foothill's rate application after reviewing the company's expenditures from the previous year. In order to pay for Foothill's rate increase, city staff includes a 2-percent increase in garbage fees in the city's proposed budget.

June 8, 2004

City council adopts the budget and master fee schedule, with a 3 percent increase in garbage fees. The discrepancy is due to an earlier miscalculation. The new rates impact residents and businesses, and will raise the costs of emptying a 32-gallon can by 41 cents a month.

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