Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bizarre Governance

It is astonishing that in the consideration of an unproven technology proposal from a company with virtually no track record, that the most basic due diligence of delving into the personal qualifications of the leaders presenting the proposal, was not only not done by our city leaders, but was not even considered something that needed to be done.

An excerpt from the Bee, which has—thankfully—done the due diligence for us.

“For several years, a small partnership with no apparent development track record has attempted to do The Big Sacramento Deal.

“First there was a pitch to city leaders to develop a $1.4 billion California International Trade Center. Then came an idea to purchase the downtown railyard from Thomas Enterprises and build an arena and soccer stadium. So far, neither has panned out.

“Now, in their most unusual venture, scientists Lee Shull and Alan Tompkins and government affairs consultant Charles "Bo" Conley have been joined by William Ludwig, the former director of the Rice Growers Association of California. Their proposal: a plant that vaporizes garbage and creates energy in the process.

"This is going to change the world," Ludwig, president of startup U.S. Science & Technology, said in a recent interview. Ludwig's Sacramento-based company is leading a consortium of companies proposing the waste-to-energy endeavor.

“City Manager Ray Kerridge has championed the USST proposal, but the City Council has had growing concerns. A key vote on the matter, originally scheduled for November, is planned for January.

“While the waste-to-energy concept has been on the council's agenda several times, almost nothing has been made public about the people behind the proposal. City officials say they've done little research because no city money will be spent on the project.

"Typically we don't do background checks; I haven't asked for résumés or anything like that," said Marty Hanneman, assistant city manager. "There's no indication of credibility or ethical issues. Nothing to question about these guys."

“But, over the past several years, a Bee investigation found, Ludwig has had a history of failed startups and in October he was ordered by a judge to pay more than $229,000 when he didn't repay a private loan.”