Almanac

News - September 11, 2013

Presidential fundraisers: Atherton plans to charge hosts for costs

by Barbara Wood

Here's a heads-up for Atherton residents: If you plan to host a fundraiser for Paul Ryan, Hillary Clinton or any other future presidential contender, the town plans to charge you if the town provides extra police protection, closes down streets, or otherwise spends public money in connection with your event.

At the Sept. 4 City Council meeting, City Manager George Rodericks admitted that town employees blew it in April by not warning the residents who hosted two fundraisers with President Barack Obama about special-event permit requirements and the need to repay the costs of any required town services.

"The town's ordinances require that if you have a private event on private property ... you are obligated to pay any extraordinary public safety police or public works costs that are associated with that event," Mr. Rodericks said. "We should have engaged the residents at the very beginning (and) informed them."

Mr. Rodericks said the town knew in advance from the Secret Service that President Obama would be in town. After the event, "we sent invoices to the White House, to the Secret Service, to the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and to the residents and didn't receive any remuneration," he said. The town's costs totaled just over $8,000, he said in a staff report.

However, because the town hadn't warned the residents — Marcia and John Goldman, and Liz Simons and Mark Heising — in advance, that debt is being written off, he said.

But it won't happen again, Councilman Cary Wiest said. "We're now taking the position of educating the people in town, saying that if you are going to throw an event you do have to pull a permit and do expect to pay a bill so the other taxpayers in town are not going to have to pay for enhanced services."

The policy applies to all special events, from weddings to charity fundraisers, if the town has to provide anything beyond its usual services.

City Manager Rodericks promised in his staff report that the town "plans to step up the education" by rewriting the town's laws and policies that govern special events and to educate residents through press releases and the town's website.

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