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Kamala Harris says she won't investigate former officials in Hercules scandal

May 1, 2014

Four years ago Jerry Brown was attorney general and running for governor and his office was all over municipal corruption in the Los Angeles suburb of Bell.


Today Kamala Harris is attorney general and on cruise control for re-election and she's told disappointed officials in the scandal-plagued East Bay community of Hercules that her office will take a pass on conducting a criminal investigation of the city's financial meltdown during the tenure of former city manager Nelson Oliva.


Her rationale, as contained in a letter from one of her deputies to city officials who've begged Harris and Contra Costa County district attorney Mark Peterson to act: "Our office respectfully declines your request to conduct an investigation. It is our general policy that local governments are primarily responsible for resolving complaints involving local government employees or agencies."


Oliva and his cronies left Hercules near bankruptcy with a slew of development schemes in which Oliva's family consulting business was paid big bucks for ill-fated city projects while Oliva was city manager. He's agreed to a $3.2 million civil settlement, but it's unclear how much of that Hercules can collect.


It's a case that appeared to scream for the AG to step in, or so current Hercules officials believed. (The state Fair Political Practices Commission found, for example, that after Oliva claimed to have divested himself from the consulting firm once becoming city manager, he used the company's credit card to spend $235,000 for airline tickets, restaurant meals, hotel stays and the like.)


Hercules Councilman Bill Kelly, expressing disappointment in Harris's decision, tells the Contra Costa Times: "I cannot help but wonder what forces are at play which are preventing appropriate action here."


For those keeping score, no one has been held financially accountable in the Hercules scandal and no criminal charges have been filed.


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