Voices Call for MISEDC Chair to Step Down from Council

Councilmember Jesus ‘Jess’ Malgapo has violated the Vallejo City Charter as chair of the unsanctioned ad hoc Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee, and the penalty called for under Section 503 is immediate forfeiture of his seat on the City Council.  Correspondence released through public information requests reveal a series of egregious violations of the prohibition against individual Councilmembers giving orders to city employees or coercing the City Manager to take administrative actions.  The Charter language is unambiguous and the written contemporaneous evidence of a pattern of interference is plain.

Vallejo City Charter Section 503, Noninterference, reflects an amendment adopted by electors of the city in November of 2000.  It reads in part:

“Except for the purpose of inquiry into the affairs of the City and the conduct of any City department, office or agency, the Council or its members shall deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager solely through the City Manager and neither the Council nor its members shall give orders to any officer or employee either publicly or privately nor shall they attempt to coerce or influence the City Manager in respect to any contract or purchase of supplies or any other administrative action...Violation of the provisions of this Section by a member of the Council shall be a misdemeanor,  conviction of which shall immediately result in forfeiture of the office of the convicted member.”

MISEDC correspondence provides numerous examples of a pattern of repeated violations of Section 503.  The City Manager must also take responsibility for failing to insist that the Charter be respected in this process and for cooperating in an improper relationship between Councilmembers and City staff.  Here is a sampling  of the internal MISEDC documents that show Mr. Malgapo engaged in giving instructions directly to city staff to further the goals of an unsanctioned committee that three Councilmembers didn't even know existed.
 
From: Kathleen Diohep - Economic Development Manager for the City of Vallejo
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2014
To: Mark Sawicki - Community & Economic Development Director for the City of Vallejo
Subject: Minutes of Today's Conference Call with Tamara Ward, of MikeThompson's Office,Wash. DC
Attachments: Conference Call With Tamara Ward of Mike Thompson's Office WashingtonDC  09082014.pdf
Expires: Friday, November 07, 2014 12:00 AM

Dan and Mark - You all weren't copied on this. Turns out this call wasn't that "small".  It included Councilmembers Malgapo; Dew-Costa and Verder-Aliga; Mel Orpilla; Tom Sheaff; Chris Snyder; Kathleen Diohep; Tom Bartee, Belinda Smith, and Tamara Ward.   We should discuss this.

The Congressman's office has identified a program to apply for dredging funds.   The City would need to be the applicant.  I don't know yet the complexity of the application; or what would be involved if the City takes the lead with the Corps (I know there can be matching funds).

I did not expressly agree to the City staffing this application, especially without knowing the scope of obligations.  However, Councilmember Malgapo has written up that I will be doing this.  There is a complicated dialague between who is leading this from the Task Force and the Congressional team and I need coaching on how to handle assignments coming to me in this manner.   I did say that we may need a specialist that really understands the Corps to compete well for this grant and asked if I can have technical call with Tamara once we see the regs.
Kathleen

jcmalgapo  9/18/2014
Mark, Kathleen,

FYI.   Thank you for your continued support.  The next step is drafting the Section 216 letter for Corps review.  Kathleen, please take the lead with Mark's concurrence.  We can share the draft letter to the committee at our next meeting on October 15th.  It will be an agenda item.

Sincerely,  Jess Malgapo

From: Mark Sawicki | Community & Economic Development Director
Sent: Thursday, September 18, 2014
To: Dan Keen,  City Manager
Cc: Kathleen Diohep
Subject: Mare Island Strait Dredging project

Dan -

As we discussed, I believe the direction of staff and allocation of resources for this project is really something that should come from the whole Council through you.   Staff's participation in the "ad hoc committee" to date has already diverted our limited ED resources from our other priorities.   The Councilmember is further committing the City and staff to this project, without us fully understanding the implications.   The Congressman's office has also.

Perhaps Councilmember Malgapo should agendize this for discussion and determine where it fits in Council (and staff's) priorities?   If it is a priority, it may likely require contracting with an outside resource that can provide better focus and attention, including understanding the implications for the City.

Mark Sawicki | Community & Economic Development Director

From: Mark Sawicki
Sent: Friday, January 9, 2015
To: Daniel Keen; Craig Whittom
Cc: Kathleen Diohep
Subject: Fwd: Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee Est. 4/30/14

Dan/Craig

As Councilmember Malgapo pushes forward with his Straits Committee, we remain concerned with:
1. Councilmember rather than staff being point of contact with USACE
2. Indication that "we will be taking on new initiatives for 2015"
3. His directly asking additional city staff (Fiona, Roland) to attend without clearing with you and David, or clarifying what their role or need is.

Mark Sawicki

In addition to these flagrant violations of Section 503, MISEDC Chairman Malgapo also violated the prohibition against attempting to coerce or influence the City Manager in respect to any administrative action.  One example is described in an Oct 18, 2015 email that went out to the full MISEDC as follows: “ I also met separately with the City Manager - specifically about adding"Dredging" MI Straits as a City of Vallejo Federal Project Priority.  City Manager Keen submitted a formal COV letter to STA last September.  Dredging MI Straits is now part of the Solano County Federal Projects Priority giving it greater visibility in Washington with the help of the STA Lobbyist.”

There is a compelling reason why Section 503 appears in the City Charter and why the penalty for violation is so stringent.  A pattern of violation indicates a disqualifying fundamental misconception regarding the proper role of elected officials in a representative democracy.  The Open Meeting Act implements a provision of the California Constitution which declares that "the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny", and  also reaffirms:

 "The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.   The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."
 
When individual Councilmembers and ad hoc committees operating in secret are directing City staff to pursue a private agenda in the name of the City, the people have definitely lost control.  It's time we use the instruments that our City Charter provides to put political power back into the hands of the citizens of Vallejo.  We call on Mr. Malgapo to do the right thing and step down from the City Council immediately.