E-mails sent between Beaumont City Councilman Lloyd White and Special Council Lena Wade of City Attorney John Pinkney’s law firm concerning the hiring of legal counsel in April 2015 have become a focal point of former Beaumont Mayor Roger Berg’s public comments at the December 2019 and January 2020 council meetings.
Berg told the city council at the Dec. 17, 2019 meeting that he had requested in September from the city clerk’s office copies of emails between White and Wade.
The two had met at an ERICA meeting in 2015 when Wade was general counsel to ERICA, which stands for Eastern Riverside County Interoperable Communications Authority. White was on the board of directors.
Here is the original email from Lena Wade:
April 17, 2015, You may recall that we recently met at a meeting of ERICA.
You recently began serving on the ERICA board of directors and I serve as general counsel to the agency. Recently, we learned that the city of Beaumont may be seeking counsel for general interim city attorney services. Our firm represents numerous public agencies. We are very interested in serving as the city’s interim city attorney.
We would like the opportunity to be a part of the city’s team as we believe that we have the experience and skills required to meet and exceed the needs of the city. Attached are mine and John Pinkney’s biographies.
We ask that you forward them to the appropriate person.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and the other members of Beaumont City Council. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely yours, Lena D. Wade.
White wrote her back a half hour later. “I do remember you. Thank you for your interest and your bios. I am the right person. I will be working with another council member, Mark Orozco, to put together a select list for the full council to interview. If you have any other information about you or your firm that would help, fee free to forward it to me. I will be in touch. Thank you, Lloyd.
On April 20, Wade responded by saying they would put together a package and deliver it.
White wrote back and asked if Wade could call him. That afternoon, Wade responded again with the proposal and she and Pinkney were scheduled to meet with White and Orozco that evening.
Pinkney was cc’ed on that email.
The city council appoints the city attorney so that is why White handled the resumes and interviews..
Berg said that White had talked by phone with Pinkney and Berg wanted emails confirming that.
“I was looking for the transparency and I wasn’t getting it,” Berg told the Record Gazette.
Berg said he kept asking now deputy city clerk Nicole Wheelwright, through public records requests, for emails between White and Wade.
For the emails, White used his personal email, email@example.com, to correspond with Wade.
Berg said that White should have used his city council email to document that information.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, Berg spoke about the subject during public comment, then sat down. White asked to address him and Berg got upset, saying White cannot address the matter. Pinkney said it would be OK for White to speak to Berg.
White said during the meeting that he never spoke by phone with Pinkney. All correspondence was by email.
Berg said that he received the emails from Wheelwright the next day, Dec. 18.
Berg said he had not planned to attend the council meetings. He told the Record Gazette that he spent 21 years on city council and had no intention of running again for office.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, Berg addressed the council and said that he received the emails he was looking for..
“Mr. White, you lied to me. You lied to the city of Beaumont. I’ve got the emails right here. Why did you lie to me? Why did you have to hide this stuff?’’
Berg also questioned the amount of money paid to the firm from September through November and wanted to know why there was not a breakdown of line items.
White did not address Berg at the council meeting after he spoke.
The Record Gazette asked White about the email issue. White said that he went through all of his emails to look for those requested by Berg and could not find the one between him and Wade.
White said he believes he accidentally deleted the email from his personal account.
“It was an email from five years ago. My memory was that I had not even talked with John until he came in for the interview,” White said.
White said he received two calls from two attorneys regarding the open position and they went ahead with the interview with Wade and Pinkney.
As for copies of the email, he believes that Judy Bingham also had requested a copy through a public records request for all emails in April 2015 of former city clerk Shelby Hanvey and six other city employees, said Wheelwright.
White said that transparency was not the issue regarding the emails. “People forget things that happened five years ago,” he said.
Staff writer Julie Farren may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.