Alameda mayor’s nominee to city commission was caught trespassing in city building; used employee’s computer

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | A pending mayoral appointee to an Alameda city commission was caught multiple times last February trespassing after business hours at the Public Works Department’s office at City Hall West. In addition, it is alleged she also accessed a city employee’s personal email and tax records, said a police report.

Carol Gottstein, 59, admitted in a police report to using the city computers for personal use and entering the office through a door left ajar, she told police. In addition, Gottstein said she had a key procured from a member of city board that uses the facility for meetings, she said.

Mayor Trish Spencer recently nominated Gottstein to the Commission on Disability Issues. The city’s Public Works Department staffs the commission Gottstein is being nominated to serve. Her appointment is on Tuesday night’s agenda for approval by the City Council. Gottstein has been a vocal supporter of Spencer, who was elected last November, and a critic of some public work projects on the island.

The mayor’s power under the City Charter to nominate and remove members of city boards and commissions has recently been challenged by some council members. An agenda item referred by Councilmember Jim Oddie tonight asks city staff to study the practice.

According to the police report, a city employee asked to press charges against Gottstein for identity theft. The employee said their computer was accessed by Gottstein, said the report, with a passcode possibly found in a cabinet located in the office. Gottstein told police she entered the city employee’s office and bumped into the computer. The screen then lit up and she accessed the computer without a passcode, she told police. The city employee who alleges their computer was illegally accessed had been away from work for six days prior because of an illness, said the police report.

Gottstein admitted to police that she did not have permission to use the city computers and was aware she should not have been inside the building after hours.

While on the computer terminal, Gottstein allegedly viewed the employee’s tax records and personal email. But, Gottstein told police, the employee’s email was already open and did not view its contents and she only used the terminal for her own personal use because computers at the Mastick Center and Free Library were unavailable.

The first instance of Gottstein seen inside the city office after business hours was last President’s Day, Feb. 16, said the police report, when a witness saw Gottstein inside the City Hall West offices. She was confronted by a city employee who later summoned the police.

Five days later, Feb. 21, Gottstein was again found inside City Hall West offices, said the police report. An Alameda police officer was instructed by the City Manager’s office to issue a formal warning for trespassing and escorted off the property.

UPDATE: The Alameda City Council Tuesday evening chose against appointing Gottstein to the Commission on Disability Issues, but approved the other nominees on the agenda.