3 city employees ensnared in FPPC complaint on Elk Grove's District56 Aquatics Center litigation

Elk Grove city employees Jennifer Alves (left), Robert Murdoch and Jeff Werner have been named in a
Fair Political Practices complaint. | 

Three employees of the City of Elk Grove with involvement with the construction litigation over the city's District56 Aquatics Center have become subjects of complaints filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The complaints, which were filed by David Anderson of Calaveras County, are aimed at the city's public works director Robert Murdoch, assistant city attorney Jennifer Alves, and city engineer Jeff Werner. The swimming facility, which opened over-budget and one year late on Memorial Day, has led to city initiated ligation seeking to recover the costs overruns from Arntz Construction and concrete sub-contractor Big B Construction.

In the complaints, all three employees are alleged to have committed three violations, and one additional allegation against Murdoch. The complaints center on another FPPC complaint also filed by Anderson against the city's former architect, Alvin Wong, who was a former employee of Willdan, the city's public works contractor and designer of the Aquatics Center.

The three complaints against Alves, Murdoch assert that they aided Wong in violating California Government Code 1090 on conflicts of interest. In his complaint on Wong, Anderson said Wong, who served as an employee of both Willdan and the city's architect who was involved in the design and was doing so in a conflict of interest.

Anderson asserts the three employees knew Wong was acting in violation of what he asserts is a conflict of interests. Werner and Alves, Anderson claims, facilitated Wong's alleged conflict of interest, and conspired with other "city officials to withhold evidence of Alvin Wong’s culpability of design errors to protect Wong’s/Willdan’s interest to the detriment of the contractors" 

The two additional allegations in the complaint claim that Murdoch authorized "approximately 74% additional compensation to Alvin Wong and Willdan Group above the anticipated master agreement contract amount of $42,000,000 to about $73,000,000 to date." In the other claim, Anderson alleges that Murdoch misled the public and the Elk Grove City Council (see video below) at the December 12, 2018 meeting.

Anderson wrote that "Statements made by Bob Murdoch in the presentation indicated his intent to pay all the contractors in order to see the project to completion and if any penalties were to be apportioned, it would be done so at the end of the project," but the "only contractor to be paid as a consequence of Willdan’s error was Willdan Group."

Responding to a request to comment, the city noted all three are trusted, long-term employees and said the complaints are without merit.

The statement said: "The City is aware of the complaints filed against City staff with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The City finds these complaints to be meritless. They were filed with the FPPC by a person affiliated with a party to the contentious Aquatic Center litigation. Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Werner, and Ms. Alves are long-standing employees with the City of Elk Grove. The City has full confidence that its employees have at all times worked in the best interest of the City and its residents, and have acted fairly and within the confines of the law throughout this process. The City’s goal has always been to build a lasting project that will be enjoyed for generations to come."

The FPPC has verified the complaints have been filed.

Among the documentation attached to the complaint are several emails acquired from public information requests. One of those emails from Werner seemingly said concrete problems stemmed from Willdan's designs for the aquatics center. 

In emails sent by Werner on July 24, 2018 and August 2, 2018, it was twice noted that it was the city staff's opinion that the concrete problems were due to Willdan's design problems. Werner also said in the "city has concluded that Willdan is responsible for concrete damage at the Commons is the result of design error/omission and that Willdan is responsible for any loss or damage the City incurs as a result."

One of the responses to Werner's July 24 email was from Marco Esposito, principal of Sausilito, Calf. -based SWA Group, the Aquatics Center's landscape architects. Esposito pushed back on Werner saying "we do not agree the cracking or spawling is an error or omission."

Werner's next email on August 2 again reaffirmed to Esposito, Wong, and Daniel Chow, Willdan's chief operating officer, the city's position saying "the city still believes the damage is primarily the result of improper design."   

Big B Construction co-owner Brian Erickson, whose company is at the center of the controversy has promised to appear monthly at Elk Grove City Council meetings advocating that Willdan is the responsible party for the defects. In earlier comments to the city council, Erickson, his wife Dori Erickson and company employees have said the city's litigation is putting put the business' existence at risk.

The next Elk Grove City Council meeting is on Wednesday, January 8. 

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.

Post a Comment Default Comments


D.J. Blutarsky said...

Everything is okay EGN.

Mr./Ms. [fill in the blank] has resigned to spend more time with family. The City appreciates the hard work and service [fill in the blank] has provided.

Respectfully Yours,

[fill in the blank]
City Manager

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Undoubtedly the city has put together an aggressive litigation plan, and of course, they have their evidence to present. Given government entities usually do not respond to request for comments on pending litigation, their response in this article and their statement issued earlier suggests someone in the city hall is concerned.

Perhaps Mr. Hobbs realizes they are on thin legal ice given Mr. Werner's email admissions. Perhaps Mr. Behrmann is afraid the city will have to eat the cost overruns and go after Willdan, which would be awkward given his bosses on the city council have taken generous campaign contributions from them. Or it could be something as simple as city council members under instruction from Willdan are pressuring the city manager and city attorney to protect Willdan.

If it is the latter case, that sounds like a conspiracy that could get the attention of law enforcement.

Josie said...

"Oh! What a tangled web we weave"!

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