News - December 22, 2010

Rich Cline re-elected mayor of Menlo Park

• Council leaves policy behind in wake of Brown Act violations.

by Sandy Brundage

The man who put down the gavel on Dec. 7 has now picked it back up. In a unanimous 5-0 vote on Dec. 14, and counter to tradition, the Menlo Park City Council elected Rich Cline to a second term as mayor to fill the vacuum left by Kelly Fergusson's resignation from the position.

Kirsten Keith retained her position as vice mayor, thanks to an equally unanimous vote.

Elected mayor Dec. 7 by a split 3-2 vote, with Peter Ohtaki and Mr. Cohen dissenting, Ms. Fergusson resigned on Dec. 10 following the revelation of Brown Act violations committed as she lobbied at least two council colleagues for the position.

City residents had plenty to say during the public comment period preceding the Dec. 14 vote. Some suggested Councilman Andy Cohen pick up the gavel, others Rich Cline, but all expressed dismay over the violation of public trust.

"I'd say the theme for this evening is disappointment," Ed Moritz told the council. "For those who recommended following the policy, for the council members who voted based on the policy. All this disappointment is the result of at least one council member."

By the city's non-binding policy, Ms. Fergusson and Mr. Cohen were the members of the council most eligible to pick up the gavel, as members must serve at least one year on the council before becoming mayor.

If the candidates have all served as mayor before, then the one with the longest time elapsed since holding the position gets priority, which left Mr. Cohen as the front-runner had policy been followed.

Former council member Heyward Robinson spoke at the meeting on Tuesday night, saying that despite holding great respect for Mr. Cohen, the councilman's erratic behavior led him to reluctantly conclude Mr. Cohen should not serve as mayor.

The mayoral policy was ignored at least twice by previous councils since its enactment in 1993. At the Dec. 14 meeting, Ms. Keith nominated and Mr. Ohtaki seconded Mr. Cline as mayor, and the vote proceeded without debate.

Ms. Fergusson said little during the re-vote besides nominating Kirsten Keith as vice mayor.


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