Updated Thursday, 12:15 p.m.
KQED filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court Wednesday demanding that the city of Hayward produce public documents potentially related to the sudden and unexplained removal of Police Chief Diane Stuart three months ago.
A late-evening announcement on Aug. 29 that Stuart was forced on leave “for a personnel issue” and that “the details of the issue are confidential” constitute the city’s first and only official explanation to date about the police chief’s forced departure.
KQED made several inquiries with city officials and filed two public records requests on Aug. 30. One sought documentation of investigations into Stuart’s conduct. The other sought records surrounding contracts between Hayward and Virginia-based firm Trident Professionals, based on indications in City Council documents that Hayward contracted in 2014 with the company, which was run by Clark D. Stuart II. In summer 2016, it appears that he married the police chief.
In early September, the Mercury News reported on an anonymous letter Hayward officials and the newspaper had previously received, alleging “that police Chief Diane Stuart showed favoritism toward a contractor who later became her husband.”
That allegation's bearing on Stuart’s removal remains unknown, the newspaper noted.
But it drew attention to previous dealings between Hayward and Clark Stuart involving other companies he's been affiliated with: Global Trident, Global Trident II and a now-shuttered nonprofit, Stop Child Trafficking Now.
The city’s concerns about the chief didn’t emerge just this summer. According to correspondence with city officials, investigations into Diane Stuart stretch back to 2015.
"KQED is informed and believes that Chief Stuart's suspension is related to Trident's dealings with the City," says the petition Wednesday to Alameda County Superior Court.
But it’s unclear when or how the city’s dealings with Clark Stuart’s companies were negotiated and whether city leaders were required to consider other vendors. Diane Stuart’s role, if any, in steering city contracts to her husband is also unknown.
"The City of Hayward fully intends to comply with the Public Records Act as it relates to your request and as allowed by law," Hayward City Manager Kelly McAdoo wrote in response to KQED's notification of the filing and request for comment. "However, we want to ensure an impartial and fair investigation and as such, will not be releasing records prior to the conclusion of the investigation."
McAdoo wrote that "the Police Chief is still under investigation, still employed by the City, and has not been 'ousted' as your article suggests."
However, Stuart has not been in charge of the Police Department since Aug. 29, when McAdoo appointed Hayward police Capt. Mark Koller acting police chief.
What We Know
Archived city documents available through a web portal indicate at least three agreements between Hayward and companies run by Clark Stuart.
The first, initiated on Dec. 2, 2011, grants the Hayward Police Department access to a sexual exploitation network database owned by Clark Stuart’s company, Global Trident II Inc. The “Sexual Exploitation Network Analysis Tool” was reportedly created by a nonprofit called Stop Child Trafficking Now, which lists Clark Stuart as head of the organization’s “operations team” in a 2011 letter to donors.
The agreement was signed by the chief of police, whose name then was Diane Urban, as well as Clark Stuart, then-City Manager Frances David, City Attorney Michael Lawson and City Clerk Miriam Lens. It was executed about four months after Diane Stuart left her position with the San Jose Police Department to become Hayward’s police chief.
About two months later, all of the same city officials signed another contract -- this time to solidify the loan of a specially equipped 2002 Ford Focus from Global Trident II to the Hayward Police Department. The surveillance vehicle was to be used “in connection with HPD’s efforts to investigate violations of and enforce laws regarding human trafficking.”
SCT Now has not filed federal tax documents since 2013, after Stuart and the organization came under scrutiny for their business relationship, and after several law enforcement agencies raised questions about the usefulness of the sexual exploitation network database it offered.
Watch a Stop Child Trafficking Now promotional video below, featuring Clark Stuart.
The nonprofit appears to have become a project called EMPOWER: End Human Trafficking, but its financial records are far from clear. Efforts to reach former directors of SCT Now and current ones from End Human Trafficking were unsuccessful. Clark Stuart’s Global Trident appears to have become Trident Professionals and shifted focus, from international crime fighting to motivational speaking.
But that didn’t appear to change Clark Stuart’s business opportunities in Hayward. In May 2014, Hayward’s City Council voted unanimously to approve a contract of up to $75,000 with Trident Professionals “to provide customer service and executive communications training.” The city manager’s recommendation for the two-year contract notes that Hayward “has utilized Trident Professionals over the past year in order to provide a variety of training and professional development opportunities to staff,” but no record of other contracts was available on the city’s website.
City Manager McAdoo responded to follow-up inquiries from KQED on Sept. 7, writing that the city would be “releasing additional information as soon as the investigation is complete.”
"Ms. McAdoo issued a news release that acknowledged '[t]his is of course a matter of public and media interest,'" the petition says, "but once again, did not provide any more details regarding the reason(s) Chief Stuart was placed on leave."
In the following days, representatives from the Hayward City Attorney’s Office officially responded to KQED’s public records requests and self-imposed the first of several now-broken deadlines. The city invoked a two-week extension to identify the records and said more information would come no later than Sept. 26.
That day, nearly a month since Stuart was placed on leave, KQED received confirmation that city staff had identified records pertaining to both the Trident and investigation requests.
“We are acting expeditiously in producing the responsive documents,” said letters from the City Attorney’s Office.
Nearly a month later, no documents had been produced. On Oct. 21, KQED began to threaten legal action for Hayward’s failure to produce documents under the California Public Records Act.
City Attorney Michael Lawson responded on the same day to a letter from KQED’s attorney.
“The City understands its obligations under the [California Public Records Act], and we have been working diligently across several departments to compile the records responsive to the multiple inquiries received from news media,” Lawson wrote.
For the first time, he indicated that records pertaining to “2015 and 2016 internal investigative reports related to Hayward police chief Diane Stuart (formerly Urban) are confidential personnel records which cannot be disclosed.”
The investigation would be complete “within the next few days,” Lawson wrote, “at which time we will further advise KQED regarding the status of the city’s disclosure of the 2015 and 2016 reports.”
As for documentation surrounding the contracts with Clark Stuart’s companies, they would be provided “no later than 5 p.m., Wednesday, October 26, 2016.”
However, KQED has yet to receive the documents, despite further promises that their release was imminent.
"KQED alleges on information and belief that Respondents will continue to refuse to permit members of the public, including KQED, to inspect or obtain copies of the requested public records in violation of the [California Public Records Act]," the petition says. "Respondents are preventing KQED from informing the public about Trident contracts and chief Stuart's role in the negotiation, bidding, execution and performance of these contracts -- matters of substantial public interest."