Attempt To Deep Six Voters Will:
Councilman Bukowski Charges City Attorney With Conflict Of Interest
November Ballot May Not Have Effect
Councilman Ken Bukowski has revealed what he says may be an illegal act perpetrated by City Attorney Mike Biddle meant to thwart Emeryville voters should they decide to get rid of the City Attorney in a ballot initiative in November.
Mr. Bukowski alleges that the City Attorney may have lied to the council to assure the failure of the ballot measure against him and improperly used the office of city attorney to influence the council to adjust the employment contract he has with the city, making the outcome of November's election moot.
At the heart of Mr. Biddle's argument against the looming voter initiative is his insistence that he is safe from the ire of the electorate since he is technically not a city employee. Rather, according to Mr. Biddle's novel reasoning, he is an employee of MESA, an arcane Emeryville management authority. Mr Biddle claims that his connection to MESA renders impotent any ballot measure referring to him as city attorney.
Councilman Bukowski, meanwhile asserts that he has found a "fatal flaw" in Mr. Biddle's creative legal opinion, rendering the MESA employment argument bogus.
According to Mr. Bukowski, when former Berkeley City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque first introduced the MESA employment theory before the council on Mr. Biddle's behalf, an employment contract between Mr. Biddle and the city was in existence and in force. Mr. Bukowski posits that Mr. Biddle subsequently took that contract back to the council and requested the MESA Board (the same people as the city council), approve the contract. Such a move would change Mr Biddle's employer to MESA and give credence to his argument that he is not employed by the city.
Councilman Bukowski says the subsequent action is improper because Mr. Biddle used his power as City Attorney to influence the decision of the city council to change his employment agreement so as to be protected from a potential adverse citizen voter outcome: a conflict of interest.
In addition Mr. Bukowski charges that Mr. Biddle at the same time also asked the city council, acting as MESA board, to retroactively revise, amend and approve all of his prior expired employment contracts with the city to erase any evidence that he works for the city or ever did, cementing his MESA ties and flummoxing any attempt by voters to remove him from office.
The Management of Emeryville Services Authority (MESA) was set up in the 1990s by the city council to help city employees avoid social security taxes due to provisions in the federal tax code regarding municipal employees.
Council member Jennifer West also seemed dismayed by the City Attorney's MESA employment argument, calling it a "legal tactic". She told the Tattler, "I don't see any practical distinctions between employment by MESA versus the city of Emeryville except for the social security implications." She agreed the citizens ballot initiative vote, should it turn out against Mr Biddle will be ineffective; "In a legal interpretation, this ballot initiative will have no effect" she cautioned.
Ms West however inveighed against her colleague Ken Bukowski and the whole City Attorney measure, "This is one city council member's attempt to circumvent the [council] majority." She added, "He [Bukowski] has been ineffective in getting what he wants, which is to eliminate the City Attorney. He's manipulating Emeryville voters with this ballot measure."
Attempts to contact the City Attorney, Mike Biddle were unsuccessful Monday.