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Richmond Mayor, City Council Trade Barbs Over Criticisms of City Manager

RICHMOND (CBS SF) -- A day after the Richmond City Council voted to condemn Mayor Tom Butt for criticisms of the city manager and city attorney, Butt called out the council Wednesday for "plotting a coup."

The council voted Tuesday in closed session to approve a "separation agreement" with City Manager Laura Snideman.

The council also voted 5-1 in closed session, with Butt abstaining and Councilman Nathaniel Bates opposed, to direct the city attorney to bring forward a resolution censuring Butt for improperly disclosing attorney-client privileged information in his "e-forum" email newsletter. The vote also directed the city attorney to refer the matter to the Contra Costa County Grand Jury and District Attorney's Office.

In a subsequent regular session, the council voted 5-2, with Butt and Bates opposed, to condemn Butt's comments in his e-forum, in which he has, on multiple occasions, disparaged the job performance of both Snideman and City Attorney Teresa Stricker.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt poses for a portrait outside the City Council building in Richmond, Calif. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News)

Butt has alleged that, among other things, Snideman has overseen the neglect of routine maintenance of city parks and opposed development in the city.

"As a City Council member and mayor, I have a duty to be critical, if warranted, of the city manager, and let her know when and how her actions fall below what I believe the community expects," Butt said in his e-forum Wednesday morning. "I have no qualms about using both my position and my (First) Amendment rights to criticize. Indeed, the (city) charter requires this, stating that the mayor shall be responsible for, 'providing civic leadership and taking issues to the people.'"

Butt has publicly feuded for months with Snideman and Stricker, calling on them to resign in June over allegations that they improperly used public funds to investigate whether Butt or his architectural firm, Interactive Resources Inc., received payment from the city for designing potential floor plans for the redevelopment of the former Richmond Intermodal Transit Center into a visitor center and Richmond-themed merchandise store.

Neither Snideman nor Stricker have publicly accused Butt or Interactive Resources Inc. of receiving payment from the city, and Butt has claimed he heard the accusation from at least one city employee.

The council ultimately voted 5-1 at its June 27 meeting, with Butt opposed, to retain both Snideman and Stricker. Butt, however, has maintained that Snideman, Stricker and the council's four members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance are running the city poorly.

The five council members who voted to condemn Butt's comments argued that a formal disavowal was still necessary to ensure members of the public understand the council does not share Butt's opinions or his method of conveying them.

"This is about protecting the city of Richmond," Councilman Demnlus Johnson III said. "This is not about attacking the mayor, and if we have to distance ourselves from one of us in order to protect the city of Richmond, I hope that we would all be bold enough to do that."

Stricker, Butt announced last week in his e-forum, has already resigned and will leave office on Jan. 3.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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