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Four of five Menlo council members skipped ethics training

Original post made on Dec 29, 2010

Of the five Menlo Park City Council members who served from 2004 to 2010, only one obeyed state law by attending an ethics training session every two years, according to the city's records.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 3:37 PM

Comments (46)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

"It's a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system," Mr. Wagstaffe agreed. "For every act, there must be a consequence. If there's no consequence, why would anyone fear committing the act?"
I agree with Mr. Wagstaffe and recommend the following:

The law states:
AB 1234 Section 53235.

(b) Each local agency official shall receive at least two hours
of training in general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to
his or her public service every two years."
**************
No penalty is specified in the Act for failure to comply. I would argue that since this is a requirement for holding office that failure to comply could mean automatic forfeiture of office when the two year period expired. If you do not renew your driver's license then you can no longer legally drive.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Thats the answer SLOW the training down.

"I really don't think this is a reflection of the importance of AB1234 more than it is a reflection of how fast certain training can get away from you," Mr. Cline said.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Council members apparently DON'T NEED TO WORRY about sanctions for skipping the sessions. Mr. McClure said there are no stated sanctions for failing to follow the law in a timely manner.

And this from the one person who is legally charged with the responsibility for making sure his council is acting legally.

Nice to know that the City Attorney is really watching out for the citizens of his city.


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Yet Cline violated the Brown act when participating in a PCC meeting with more than one other board member; at least in that case, his training didn't stop him from a violation.

With all the attention being focused on Fergusson, don't forget, that Keith may also have violated the Brown act, since she talked with Cohen and communicated (somehow) with Fergusson. The DA may have a hard time being neutral with her, since her professional job is as a public defender, and she must know everyone in the whole DA's office.[Portion removed. Stick to the topic.]


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm

"It's a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system," Mr. Wagstaffe agreed. "For every act, there must be a consequence. If there's no consequence, why would anyone fear committing the act?"

I've said it before, the Brown Act is a paper tiger. It has no teeth, especially when those charged with enforcing it don't see it's importance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Dec 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Well hows this for a question. As I understand the law, Bill McClure can conduct the Annual Training Session. So why did he not?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Any public official can take the required ethics training in 2 hours online anytime they wish.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 29, 2010 at 9:51 pm

[Post removed. Personal attack.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm

{Post removed. Personal attack.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Truth(less) states:"we all found out that three mayors met to discuss the route to take to show the HSR Authority the right of way on the tracks."

Precisely and they did that in private without public notice, without public participation and without public input - which is against the law. What else doesn't Truth(less) understand about the law.

[Portion removed. Personal attack.]


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Posted by Personal Attack
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 30, 2010 at 8:07 am

Have you noticed the heavy hand the Almanac takes in its over the top censorship. You would think we are reading Itar Tass rather than a western newspaper. Now, we are all big boys and girls. The Almanac editorial board should lighten up and allow the free expression of ideas.

That is what a free society is all about. The free exchange of ideas, even those that are contrary to your beliefs.

Almanac Chill Out!

[The Almanac welcomes vigorous discussion of issues in the community but when posters stray to personal attacks or make unsubstantiated charges, those posts will be removed. See our terms of use.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 9:32 am

Unfortunately some anonymous posters persist in postig personal attacks and they usually do so on weekends and evenings to temporarily avoid deletion by the Forum monitors. Responses to the personal attacks are also incorrectly labelled by the Forum monitors as "personal attacks" rather than "self defense" or "response to a personal attack". I would prefer to see the Forum monitors simply ban anyone who has more than X number of warnings about posting original personal attacks from any further postings.

I find this Forum an excellent place for sharing of information and opinions and wish that the Forum monitors would be more proactive in eliminating these personal attacks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 30, 2010 at 11:42 am

Almanac, Peter gets to use part of my statement, but you get to take out the context? That is fair game?

Peter accused local mayors of unethical behavior that now his sheep echo over and over again, when the facts played out and proved that Carlsen, Burt and Cline were conducting a meeting of mayors (not of the PCC) and were simply discussing where the cars would drive for the rail tour. That is a fact that the Almanac overlooked. Peter manipulated the spirit of the law, something that would disgust his uncle, the author of the Brown Act.

In his attempt to manipulate it further, he takes my statements out of context and you allow it.

That is also a fact.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Burt, Cline and Carlson represented a majority of the PCC whose purpose included HSR lobbying. They ALL admitted that their private meeting with HSR representative violated the Brown Act - end of story.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Would help if the Almanac clarified the exact requirement. My reading is officials are required to attend in the first year of their first two year period. Then once during every two year period. An official who took a course in 2007 wouldn't have to take the course again until the end of 2010.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brown cont.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:52 pm

If my previous post is accurate then Boyle and Robinson have until tomorrow to take the course online.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 12:56 pm

As already posted above:
The law states:

AB 1234 Section 53235.

(b) Each local agency official shall receive at least two hours

of training in general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to

his or her public service every two years."

additional language states:
"The law states:

AB 1234 Section 53235.

(b) Each local agency official shall receive at least two hours

of training in general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to

his or her public service every two years."

Additional language in the law states:
(b) Each local agency official who commences service with a
local agency on or after January 1, 2006, shall receive the
training required by subdivision (a) of Section 53235 no later
than one year from the first day of service with the local agency.

Thereafter, each local agency official shall receive the training
required by subdivision (a) of Section 53235 at least once every
two years.
********
A course taken in 2007 would require another course within 2 years of the date of the 2007 course.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Brundage, Almanac Staff Writer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Brown:

John Boyle and Heyward Robinson were due to take the course in 2009, within two years from the date they first took the course in 2007.

Mr. Robinson responded today saying that we were correct and he should have taken it in 2009, but failed to do so. We will add his comments to the story shortly.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:27 pm

The relevant section is:

53235.1. (b) Each local agency official who commences service with a local agency on or after January 1, 2006, shall receive the training required by subdivision (a) of Section 53235 no later than one year from the first day of service with the local agency. Thereafter, each local agency official shall receive the training required by subdivision (a) of Section 53235 at least once every two years.

Haven't seen the legislative history but my interpretation of this is that training must be taken once during every two year period of a term of service, except that during the first two year period the training must be taken during the first year. Your interpretation is also possible but not clear from the text.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2010 at 1:36 pm

"at least once every two years." is unambiguous. It does not say within two calendar years but within two years period. If I took the test in Feb 2007 then I would have had to retaken the test by the same date in 2009. There is no other possible interpretation of "at least once every two years."

In any case the individuals involved far surpassed the two year requirement.

And the requirement can be fulfilled on line from home in two hours 24/7.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 31, 2010 at 9:25 am

In the Real Estate industry we had to take continuing education classes in order to keep license active. If an agent did not comply, he/she was not allowed to practice. The Broker was responsible for any violation.

This might be a good time to look at the laws for public officials.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 31, 2010 at 11:59 am

Peter, it also does not say "within two years of previously completing training" which is what it should have said if you are correct. Legislatures are often sloppy in drafting laws. I can see an elected official interpreting the law as I have suggested. And under one of the provisions of the statute, unless a court has ruled on the issue anyone's interpretation is as good as another.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by NotaLawyer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2010 at 12:22 pm

The elected officials in question didn't interpret the law your way Brown. They've agreed they should've taken the classes within two years, the city attorney agrees, the city clerk agrees, so where exactly is your point of confusion??? Everyones misreading the law except you??


 +   Like this comment
Posted by AHSO
a resident of another community
on Jan 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm

In my entire life or that of my father's or grandfather's, none of us have heard it referred to as the "REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY".....
Even in Manhattan, the lowest ranking firm has never had the nerve to refer to their "trade" as an "industry".
Tells so much about this entire "SUBJECT" and especially opens my eyes to how picayune Peter Carpenter gets into it when discussing and mostly DEFENDING most of these useless gripes.
Like Chicago, gangsters ran this Peninsula much better and kept the workers happier and more highly paid. Of course, they were not known to be crooked or even mentioned the word "illegal" ways of doing business, but then,those dollars went into the wallets of the "fat cats" who became today's bankers and politicians....oh..lawyers too.
Today, a city council can create a stir for not putting in two hours worth of "boring or burdensome" work.....AND there is good ole Pete with the facts, the pages, and the b.s. (it really is) to say we are a working government that lives by the rules of the laws as written.
Peter....horse pucky....You should, even at your age, be reprimanded for hanging on our forefathers'coat tails even at this time.
Admit, just to hear it, that there is a LOT of corruption here in billionaire's alley which used to be 'millionaire's' until the dollar disintegrated. Play the game like a child would...None of your fancy "jive". 2011 will unlock the key of imagination when it comes to finding out who are the crooks and why we never bothered to wonder why we ignored them.....well, they had honest friends like you to guide them down baloney alley.
CMON....THE RIGHT LETTERS WERE ENTERED.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

AHSO - if YOU want to live in a country where the rulers operate in secret and ignore the laws then move to Nigeria, Columbia or the Sudan.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm

And we should obey the speed limit at all times (no 26 in a 25 mph zone), come to a complete stop at all stop signs, brush (and floss) our teeth at least twice (preferably three times) a day and make sure we're "regular" by eating our daily recommended allowance of bran.

Oh, and sing kumbaya every day.

La de da, de da!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:46 pm

"AHSO - if YOU want to live in a country where the rulers operate in secret and ignore the laws then move to Nigeria, Columbia or the Sudan."

Wow - just January 1 and we already have a clear winner in the "most-over-the-top" comment made on this forum for 2011!

Congratulations, Peter - now go buy yourself a lunch, as you are wont to do.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Peter:

AHSO is clearly R Gordon. You can tell from his bizarre closing and his bizarre logic and reference to the corupt people that used to be in San Mateo County, as if that excuses it. Consider the source. Oh, and Editor, you need to pay more attention if you're going to delete posts form those posting under multiple names. This one's so obvious even a ten year old could figure it out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maria Bard
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 1, 2011 at 10:25 pm

So does this mean that our council members are above us "regular folks"? I work in Silicon Valley, for the 4th largest software company in the U.S. We are required to complete ethics training EACH AND EVERY YEAR. No exceptions. Sounds like the council members are just lazy, IMO.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 2, 2011 at 6:59 am

I'm not sure I would equate driving 26 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone to an elected official deliberately and consistently conducting official government business in secret. I for one prefer to observe my government officials.

It doesn't matter how trivial the issue, it shouldn't happen. And I don't consider the selection of the Mayor - who will set every agenda and select every committee for the coming two years - to be a trivial matter at all.

So whether it's George Bush holding secret meetings about his energy policy or Barack Obama telling us that his legislative negotiations will be on CSPAN and then holds them in secret, I'll condemn them.

More to the point, Ms. Fergusson is a repeat offender who never misses an opportunity to tell us how important open government is to her. Her arrogance and ineptitude are equally appalling.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2011 at 10:40 am

So, "Menlo Voter" does that mean that my point is irrelevant or are you just having fun with your new Sherlock Holmes Jr. detective kit.

My point and any of them I do write, are well documented and backed up if you ever want to test their credence.
Why, I may even have YOUR name among the wrongdoers who hide behind dignified aliases like yours.

I still say, the Peter is there like a tornado when it comes to overstating a point that has little or no pertinence and that I do agree that anyone going 26 mph in a 25 mph zone, be held accountable like officers who kill people with a laser gun.

Thanks, "Your Wondering" for understanding what hogwash most of these petit jousts end up being.(wave flag here).
SECOND TIME


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 2, 2011 at 11:28 am

Mr. Gordon:

just read the post. It means exactly what I said.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

When an elected official deliberately and repeatedly conducts official government business in secret, in direct contravention to law, it is a very serious matter.

They don't get to determine what is important or not important and neither do you.

I suppose if these officials were meeting secretly to discuss how they would vote on one of your applications, you might feel differently.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

The actual law says it best:

"In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards, and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's
business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good
for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."

"The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny."

"All meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:24 am

Ridiculously overblown as usual. Is there a charge for treason coming?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:35 am

""All that is necessary for the forces of evil (=UnTruth) to succeed/triumph is for enough good men to do nothing."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 3, 2011 at 8:51 am

Truth: I suppose if these officials were meeting secretly to discuss how they would vote on one of your applications, you might feel very differently.

Open government isn't just a tenet of a republican democracy, it is THE central tenet. You underestimate its importance at your own peril.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Riff Wilkins
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:09 am

While ethics training is a good thing -- all the more so since the law requires it -- ACTING ethically is a choice. No amount of training is going to help the actions of those who make the choice to act unethically. We should appreciate those Council Members who have acted with high ethics and integrity. I believe ex-councilman Boyle is a great example of such a person, even if he didn't take his refresher course.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:28 am

[Post removed. Stop the personal attacks and stick to the topic.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:39 am

Riff Wilkins states:"While ethics training is a good thing -- all the more so since the law requires it -- ACTING ethically is a choice"

I agree and here are some words of wisdom from the ethics training course for local officials that I just completed:

Public officials are stewards of the public's trust. Consequently, officials' conduct in office affects both the public's trust in their institutions and in their leaders. Conscientious attention to laws and principles of public service ethics will help you as a leader pursue both good means and good ends.

*******

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once observed that "...all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people, and for the people all springs . . ."

*******

Fundamentally, what public officials do is transact the public's business.

Conducting oneself and transacting the public's business in a transparent fashion gives the public an opportunity to monitor and participate in the government agency's decisions.

Also, the public trusts a process it can see.

******

A person who acts with ethical considerations in mind goes beyond the law's minimum requirements.

Ethics is what we ought to do--not just what we have to do.

Also, just because a course of action is legal, doesn't mean that it is ethical.

In short, public service ethics is not only about doing the right thing, but also about the public's confidence that indeed the right thing has been done. The "right thing" in terms of public service ethics is for the public to know that the public's interests (as opposed to public officials' narrow personal or political interests) are the sole motivating factor in a public official's action.

With personal cost ethical dilemmas, the answer is relatively simple, but certainly not easy. The bottom line is that being ethical means doing the right thing regardless of personal costs.

*********

Speaking of situations in which one agrees to do "this for that", keep in mind that state law also prohibits public officials from trading votes with one another ("if you vote yes on my issue, I will vote yes on yours").

*******

Although I consider myself well informed on the issues covered in this training I still learned a lot by repeating the training. In fact, I had to repeat some sections of the training to get all of my answers right - except on the Brown Act section where, thankfully, I scored 100% the first time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:44 am

[This and siimilar comments have been deleted. Please stick to the topic and stop the personal attacks.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by info
a resident of another community
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:34 pm

It is a lot cheaper for the tax payers to have the council members take the Brown Act training online, than going off to a conference. Out of town Conferences should be cut back during this recession.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 3, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I did my ethics training online at zero cost to the Fire District.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 3, 2011 at 9:33 pm

[Post removed. Please stick to topic.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jan 4, 2011 at 8:22 am

Personally, I have a problem with the idea that the penalty for violating the Brown Act by someone whom has already taken a training course on the law AND is on a second term in office is simply to take a refresher course. I understand the purpose of the requirement to do training every two years. As court rulings and new laws get passed, a person needs to stay current. However, the portion of the Brown Act that Furgesson violated isn't new. If her memory is so short that she can't remember what she learned in her initial training, if I were a MP resident I would question her fitness for serving on the council. If, indeed, the end result of this is that all she gets is a "do over", then I would say, save everyone's time & money and forget about it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by coastside resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I am on an elected board and an official can save taxpayers' money by taking this Ethics training online. Thanks Peter for illuminating the importance of the Brown Act.


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