A former Alameda County supervisor who championed some of East Bay’s biggest transportation projects in his 24 years of public service has ended a brief retirement by landing a lobbying contract worth up to $197,000 to a multi-billion dollar railroad project he led during his tenure. .
The contract, which was awarded in February, puts Scott Haggerty on the payroll of Valley Link – a passenger rail project linking Stockton to East Bay – which he once led as chairman of the board. and played a key role in raising hundreds of millions of dollars. in taxpayers’ money. It also puts Haggerty in the unusual position of being awarded a major lobbying contract by the former executive director of Valley Link, whom Haggerty helped hire during his tenure as chairman of the board.
According to Haggerty and his supporters, the one-year, $96,000 contract, with an optional $100,800 extension, is money well spent on a project that’s just started and faces a funding shortfall of $3.1 billion, as transit agencies scramble for a piece of the state. Booming budget surplus.
Haggerty, they say, is uniquely equipped to navigate the close-knit world of transportation funding in the Bay Area, where billions of dollars in local, state and federal money are doled out each year by a handful of committees, including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which he was the first person to chair twice. Haggerty has been an integral part of local government for more than two decades – known as a sharp reminder of Tri-Valley interests. He was also closely involved in years of wrangling over East Bay sports teams, including negotiating the sale of Alameda County’s stake in the Colesium to the A’s.
But ethics experts say the lobbying arrangement could threaten public trust, even though it appears the transit authority didn’t break any laws, and Haggerty adhered to a “cooling off” period. a year between public service and lobbying. A day after Haggerty’s mandatory break ended, the rail authority announced its need for a lobbyist.
“The problem is that it appears Mr. Haggerty had an internal lead based on those relationships,” said JoAnne Speers, who consults with local governments on improving public trust through her firm S2 Ethics. Strategies.
Haggerty’s two-person company, Red Oak LLC – consisting of himself and his wife, Patricia – signed the contract on February 28. Since the initial amount is less than $100,000, Michael Tree, the former executive director of Valley Link, approved the deal without board approval.
In a phone interview, Haggerty argued that questions surrounding the lobbying contract are driven by misguided criticism. He said reducing mind-numbing traffic on Interstate 580 was a professional passion and he wanted to “see this project come to fruition.”
“I needed a year off, and I did,” Haggerty said. “Are you telling me I can never go to work again or what?”
Regardless of their position on Valley Link, critics and supporters, including Haggerty himself, agree that he was the area’s main advocate for the new 42-mile rail line spanning the Altamont Pass.
As a supervisor, Haggerty oversaw Measure BB in 2014, an Alameda County sales tax that earmarked $400 million for the construction of a BART extension in Livermore. This extension was meant to bridge a five-mile gap between BART and the Altamont Corridor Express — a low-frequency rail service that already connects Stockton to San Jose. But when BART rejected plans to build the expansion in 2019, Haggerty then played a key role in moving the money to Valley Link, which envisions a rail line with better train speeds, more stations and more frequent service.
In 2020, as chairman of the MTC, Haggerty also approved the transfer of nearly $50 million in Bay Area toll bridge revenue to Valley Link. That money now funds the day-to-day operations of the project, including Haggerty’s lobbying efforts.
The rail plan has received strong support from local leaders, but it also faces a huge funding shortfall and critics deride it as an emerging boondoggle that ignores cheaper public transit alternatives for the benefit of developers and residents of the San Joaquin Valley.
“Haggerty is what ties all of these together,” said David Schonbrunn, longtime Valley Link critic and chairman of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, a transit advocacy group that is suing to stop the project. “We want to prevent Valley Link from becoming a mini high-speed rail debacle.”
In his new position, Haggerty is responsible for securing funds for MTC’s megaproject and also lobbying the Alameda County Transportation Commission, another body that Haggerty previously chaired and which oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in transit funds.
Tree, the former executive director of Valley Link, left the project to run the Santa Cruz Metro shortly after hiring Haggerty. He defended the decision to hire his former board chairman and longtime friend, saying the bid went through the standard competitive process, including evaluating two other competing proposals from the former mayor of Dublin Guy Houston and lobbying firm Townsend Public Affairs.
“It was really an opportunity to let the best man win on this,” Tree said. “Scott has been gone for over a year. So I think it would have been penalizing to think otherwise.
Tree said he communicated with Haggerty “as friends” during his mandatory hiatus from lobbying, but he did not share any details about the upcoming contract proposal.
John Pelissero, a government ethics expert at Santa Clara University, said that while both sides stuck to the letter of the law, the arrangement raises valid ethical concerns from the public.
“There is no arm’s length relationship between his former roles and his hiring by the agency he previously chaired,” said Pelissero, a senior fellow at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. “The shorter the distance, the greater the perception is going to be that a lot of public policy measures have been taken. . . was preparing the ground for eventually being hired as a private lobbyist.