http://almanacnews.com/square/print/2011/01/15/fergusson-previously-warned-re-brown-act


Town Square

Fergusson previously warned re Brown Act

Original post made by Bob, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park, on Jan 15, 2011

According to an article in today's online SJ Mercury news, Fergusson and other council members were warned in Dec 2009 about serial conversations being violations of the Brown Act.
If that's the case Fergusson's is going to have a problem telling the DA's office "how she didn't realize that asking her colleagues before a meeting last month to name her mayor was wrong under the state law."
The link Web Link

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2011 at 6:56 am

There are two issues here - The first is the Brown ct violation bt Fergusson, i.e. a serial meeting prior to the open session, and the subsequent illegal election of the Mayor. The second issue has been dealt with , as prescribed by law, by the city's response to me "Cure and Correct" letter. That response is summarized below:

"Peter—

This will confirm that the City Council voted unanimously to rescind and declare null and void the elections of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore/Vice Mayor at its meeting of December 14, 2010, in response to your "cure and correct" demand dated December 8, 2010. The link to the City Council Minutes evidencing such action with a link to the staff report that was included in the packet for the meeting of December 7th is as follows—

Web Link

If you should have any questions or require any clarification, please feel free to contact me.

Best regards, Bill

William L. McClure, City Attorney"

The first issue, Fergusson's illegal serial meeting, was NOT addresses by the City (nor should it have been as this is a criminal matter that does not fall within the City's jurisdiction but rather that of the District Attorney.) The Mercury News article makes clear that the District Attorney is seriously investigating this matter -""Was there an incident in the last year when you told people they can't do this sort of thing? Sure, that would be relevant to us; what's on the scale for decision-making," Wagstaffe said."

In response to the DA's comment that "The average case is 'cure and correct,'" Wagstaffe said. "I don't know where this one fits in." I would note that if all elected officials have to do when they are caught breaking the law is to say 'sorry' and then get a do-over then this type of illegal behavior will continue to occur. Breaking the law MUST have consequences.

The Council cured and corrected its illegal action and now is the time for Frergusson to be held accountable for her illegal actions.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2011 at 7:16 am

Peter Carpenter:

I don't agree at all with your writing that the Council council cured and corrected its illegal action. The re-vote allowed Kelly Fergusson to fully participate. She not only voted, she nominated Keith for vice-mayor.

Here we have Fergusson, who corrupted the original vote, being allowed to vote as if nothing had taken place. Is this really a "cure and correct" action. McClure should have never allowed Kelly to participate. Now we see McClure failing in a previous situation to take the proper action.


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Posted by Edward R Murrow
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2011 at 7:44 am

On December 14, we had only one nomination for Mayor, and one nomination for Mayor Pro Tem, and the votes cast for each were unanimous. The term "corrupt outcome" that has entered into this discussion is not any part of the Brown Act, but is in reference to Lee DuBoc's email "The Nature of City Politics" sent on December 16th.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2011 at 8:14 am

The City Attorney has no authority to deny an elected council member the right to vote in a mayoral election or to punish an individual's violation of the law.. This is why it is so important that the DA acts regarding Fergusson's violation


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2011 at 8:19 am

Kelly should resign


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2011 at 8:22 am

Edward R Murrow:

My use of "corrupt" in not in anyway a result of anything that Lee DuBoc (of whom I have no respect ) has written.

I am not writing about the outcome, but rather about the "corrupt" process, which was supposedly the "correct and cure" for the Brown act violation. The "correct and cure", re-vote, was indeed corrupted by allowing Fergusson to participate, thus assuring what the outcome was going to be. Ohtaki abandoned Cohen and Cohen abandoned himself, since to hold out would only be seen as being a sore loser.

Cline seized the opportunity to again be Mayor. Keith snaked her way into the vice-mayor position.

By the way, how many people know that the husbands of Keith and Fergusson play in the same musical group?

Who is the third party that has yet to be identified?

Ohtaki, the only candidate to get over 50% of the votes in the election, got shoved aside by Cline, Keith and Fergusson.

The Almanac seemed to think this was ok, and that no damage to the City had taken place. Hardly the trust, as we now see letters arising talking about the shady or corrupt politics in Menlo Park.


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Posted by olt timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2011 at 10:40 am

The city attorney certainly could have in public stated that Fergusson's participation in the re-vote was not ethical --- that should have been enough for her to recuse herself.

McClure did a terrible job on this whole affair.

Note I just picked up the PA Daily weekend edition and this story is front page with pictures of Fergusson and Boyle.

Get with it Almanac --- the PA Daily is making you look bad.

Menlo Voter -- What Kelly should do and what she will do are two totally opposite actions. What in the world makes you think that anyone who would knowingly scheme to become Mayor in this fashion, would ever voluntarily resign.

If you want her off council start a Recall.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 15, 2011 at 11:14 am

Ms. Fergusson's transgression was holding a serial meeting. The cure was voiding the election.

Voiding the election does not disqualify Ms. Fergusson from voting in the subsequent election, or even being elected Mayor by her peers. Those are not even ethical issues, provided there were no secret deals in advance of the real election.

Many of these posts reflect an understandable disgust with Ms. Fergusson, something she can only blame on her own actions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

The cure and correct dealt only with the illegal election. Fergusson's illegal serial meeting has not yet been dealt with - that is the job if the DA.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

Pogo:

But there was a secret deal on the first vote.If you don't keep Fergusson from voting again, what have you solved. The "cure and correct" should not be considered legal.

The DA should rule and punish Fergusson, but he should also decare the re-vote illegal as a "cure and correct" measure.

This latest artlcle points out earlier transgressions. (Cline also apparently involved there). What about Fergusson dealing directly with Bohannon on the Gateway project. Now your talking real transgressions. What kind of deal did she make with David B. so that he got her vote? It all smells lousy.


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Posted by Edward R Murrow
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm

The preliminary investigation did not uncover any agreements or understanding between a majority of the Council to vote in a certain manner, yet it appears there was a violation of the Brown Act through serial communications by Council member Fergusson with two other Council members.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thank you Bob for the SJ Mercury article.


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Posted by amused, sort of
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Old Timer and Joanna, Seems by the decreasing number of reporters, the Almanac might need some more revenue to do the kind of 24-hour, 7-day reporting you seem to be wanting. Maybe they should start charging for posting comments to this board so they can raise some money to hire more reporters. Would you be willing to pay, or do you just take some sort of perverse pleasure in using this board to attack the paper that's providing it for you free of charge?


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Posted by fred
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 15, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Who thinks that the Bohannon vote could have occurred in the absence of serial communication behind the scenes, with our without Bahannon as an intermediary?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm

There are obviously a lot of questions regarding the integrity of the council's behavior.
I hope that the DA will persistently peel away the layers of secrecy. There is something very revealing in having elected officials give sworn testimony.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Old Timer:

I have no illusions that Kelly will resign, however, if enough of us citizens confront her with her misbehavior perhaps she will understand that a recall is likely. Unless, of course, the citizenry does what is typical - bitch about it and do nothing. Wish the folks that expended time and energy to pass the pension reform initiative would put those energies into this. This is more important. Our elected officials need to understand that business needs to be done in daylight. Unfortunately, I think most people think this kind of misbehavior is "business as usual" and aren't too concerned about it.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

I suspect that Ms. Fergusson is having a few sleepless nights... and she deserves them.

I only hope that Ms. Fergusson's experience does not go unnoticed by her peers on the Menlo Park City Council and by other elected officials. This could just as easily be you.

Government in the sunshine is the most basic tenet of our republic. Respect the public, respect your constituents and respect the laws that you so easily impose on others.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Let me say first that I have no dog in this fight. Like Peter I am only concerned that the Brown Act was violated. But in order for a violation to have occurred, THREE people had to participate in this illegal activity. Why is so much of the venom directed towards Fergusson and not the other two.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Interested asks:"But in order for a violation to have occurred, THREE people had to participate in this illegal activity. Why is so much of the venom directed towards Fergusson and not the other two."

Fergusson conducted a serial meeting with two other members of the five member council - the three of them constituting a majority of the council and hence the serial meeting was illegal. Apparently only Fergusson was aware that she discussed this matter with other members of the council hence the two other council members that she discussed this matter with were not themselves knowing participants in an illegal serial meeting. IF the DA investigation demonstrates that the other two council members were aware that they were participating in a serial meeting then they would be equally culpable.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Interested asks:"Why is so much of the venom directed towards Fergusson"

I perceive anger and disappointment that Fergusson violated the public trust in the comments of others rather than venom. I was one of her earliest supporters and I bear no personal animosity towards her as a person but I am deeply disappointment in her behavior.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

"Why is so much of the venom directed towards Fergusson..."

Because she has shown herself to be totally lacking in ethics. This was not a one time thing. She has violated the Brown Act repeatedly. I suspect a truly thorough investigation of her city email would show a pattern of on-going violations. Her attitude when caught this last time was so cavalier as to lead me to believe she has become quite comfortable violating the Brown Act.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Interested -

As Mr. Carpenter noted, the other two Menlo Park officials appeared to be unknowing participants. This wasn't a single meeting of the three officials; Ms. Fergusson meet with them in serial fashion. Surely you must understand that it is up to the perpetrator of serial meetings to notify others; there is no way a subsequent participant could ever know if Ms. Fergusson held prior meetings with others or not.

There is no venom, just disappointment. The fact that Ms. Fergusson is a repeat offender who even ignores her responsibility to take the required ethics courses makes it even more disappointing.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jan 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Thanks. I guess I had missed the part about Ms. Fergusson being the initiator of the serial meeting


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Posted by anon
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2011 at 9:33 am

[Post removed; stick to the topic and refrain from personal attacks on other posters.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jan 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

This whole thing started with a "cure and correct" letter from a resident of Atherton? Why does a resident of Atherton have any say about the Menlo Park Council? And why did the City Attorney even respond to him? Do we really need an outside agitator mucking up our government?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Bill said "Do we really need an outside agitator mucking up our government?"
You're quite right- our politicians and some of our other citizens do just fine on their own mucking up the local gov't. But we need those outside eyes to let the rest of us know that we're being mucked with.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Hey, Bill, last time I checked, Menlo Park was located in the State of California and subject to its laws. I don't live in MP, but I can guarantee you, if I drove by your house and saw a crime being committed on your property or your person, you would want me to be able to call MP PD and report it.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Nicely said, WhoRUpeople!

It's funny how some people become very defensive about their own town but don't hesitate to criticize others (or ask other taxpayers to pay for their sins).


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I'm surprised Bill isn't saying Thank You to the Outsider who is keeping people honest. As this case demonstrates no one from Menlo Park spoke up.

I'll say it.

Thank You Peter


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Bill - 54960.1. (a) The district attorney or ANY interested person may
commence an action by mandamus or injunction for the purpose of
obtaining a judicial determination that an action taken by a
legislative body of a local agency in violation of Section 54953,
54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or 54956.5 is null and void under
this section.
(b) Prior to any action being commenced pursuant to subdivision
(a), the district attorney or interested person shall make a demand
of the legislative body to cure or correct the action alleged to have
been taken in violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6,
54956, or 54956.5. The demand shall be in writing and clearly
describe the challenged action of the legislative body and nature of
the alleged violation.

Is that cleaar enough?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Bill:

you should thank Peter for writing that letter. [Portion removed. Terms of use.]
WhoRu said it best. If Peter was driving by your house and saw someone burglarizing it, would you want him to call the police? [Portion removed. Please respect other posters.]


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jan 17, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Back on Aug 10 Peter Carpenter of Atherton wrote:

"my recommendations as to the criteria for voters to use in deciding to vote for which of these candidates...independent as demonstrated by neither seeking nor accepting support from anyone who is not a registered voter in their jurisdiction, which means accepting neither money or endorsements from unions, developers, business organization or civic groups." Web Link

Sorry if I think the same type of rationale holds here. I don't want MY city council's membership and agenda set by someone who is not a registered voter in Menlo Park. Menlo Park has more important issues to take up its time than whether one member commited a technical violation of the Brown Act. And I'd say the absence of any Menlo Park resident getting worked up about this matter is a strong indication that no one else in Menlo Park considers it a priority either.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I think it's our duty to keep our elected officials accountable to the people they represent.

Given the unfavorable lightening rod she has become and the cloud which still hangs over the council, has anyone thought of asking Ms. Fergusson to resign during the public comment portion of a city council meeting?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:19 am

Bill - why did YOU not file the "Cure and Correct" letter? The problem is not that I did file such a letter but that no one in Menlo Park did even after the incident was widely know and acknowledged by Fregusson and by the City Attorney.

As citizens we have a collective responsibility to oversee all of our public officials since the quality of all of our governments has an impact on the well being of our society.

And what, Bill do you see as the difference between a 'technical violation' of the Brown Act and a 'technical violation' on the Motor Vehicle Code like speeding, driving without a license, or driving under the influence - all of which are also misdemeanors? Frankly, I believe that elected officials should be held to a higher standard of performance than automobile drivers given the size of the 'public vehicle' which they control and the great damage that it can do if it is not operated in accordance with our agreed upon laws.

And finally, what data do you have to support your statement "that the absence of any Menlo Park resident getting worked up about this matter is a strong indication that no one else in Menlo Park considers it a priority either." The comments in this Forum alone refute your assertion.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

Bill states:"This whole thing started with a "cure and correct" letter from a resident of Atherton."

No Bill, this whole thing started when an elected official broke the law.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 18, 2011 at 8:19 am

Bill:

obviously you haven't been reading this forum if you don't think any Menlo Park citizens are "worked up" about this. I am and I'm not the only one.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:28 am

I agree with Bill that, as I have said repeatedly before, this whole episode is little more than a tempest in a teapot that has caused much more harm to the smooth functioning of our new Council than Kelly's admitted mistake ever could have.
And I agree with his characterization of this as a "technical violation" of the Brown Act in that the issue discussed was primarily a Council issue (which of the two eligible members should be mayor), not a public issue involving taxes, zoning, policy, etc. All Kelly is guilty of is gauging whether there was support among the other Council members for her to be mayor this term. This is is only marginally of public interest and is the sort of politicking that goes on in pretty much every other public organization where one of the members has to be elected to head the organization, be it as city mayor or committee chair.
As I've also mentioned several times in the past, if Kelly is guilty of a Brown Act violation because she talked to other Council members about whether they would support her bid for mayor, then I would wager that every other mayor going back to Charles Burgess was also guilty of such a violation. Anyone who claims they didn't is fooling themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

Steve - beware the society in which someone else gets to decide which laws are important and which ones are trivial.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:22 am

Steve states:"this whole episode is little more than a tempest in a teapot that has caused much more harm to the smooth functioning of our new Council than Kelly's admitted mistake ever could have."

Let us be clear about cause and effect. The cause of the "harm to the smooth functioning" of the new city council was Fergusson illegal serial meeting not the fact that she got caught or that the illegal election had to be nullified. The effect of Fergusson's illegal serial meeting was to require a new election and to increase the distrust of the public in their elected officials.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:48 am

Peter writes: "Steve - beware the society in which someone else gets to decide which laws are important and which ones are trivial."
In this case Peter, you're the one who made that decision. If you hadn't complained, this whole episode would not have developed and I have to think the City Council would have gotten off to a far better start. Collegiality would be better and all members would be focusing their attentions on issues that really matter to the future, not stuck in this do-loop of name calling and distrust all around.
Accept some responsibility for this unfortunate situation please. And while you're at it, tell me what Kelly did that every other mayor-to-be didn't also very likely do prior to their election.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Steve:

trying to blame Peter for this is like blaming a police officer for writing you a speeding ticket.

You sound like a child with your repeated assertions that "everybody does it" so it's OK.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Menlo Voter -
I keep saying it because no one has yet explained why it's been OK for all previous mayors to politic among Council members over the mayorship but Kelly gets called on carpet, her fairly elected mayorship overturned, and her political career threatened when she does it.
One aspect of our legal system that no one seems to want to comment on is that it must be applied fairly. If 30 mayors get a pass and one gets threatened with legal sanctions, I have to suspect that fairness is not at the top of the complainers list of concerns.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Steve asks "why it's been OK for all previous mayors to politic among Council members over the mayorship but Kelly gets called on carpet, her fairly elected mayorship overturned, and her political career threatened when she does it.". If 30 mayors get a pass and one gets threatened with legal sanctions, I have to suspect that fairness is not at the top of the complainers list of concerns."

Steve - you accuse, without any evidence or facts, 30 previous mayors of wrongdoing and yet fail to accept that Fergusson admitted to engaging in a serial meeting and the City Attorney confirmed that that serial meeting violated the law.

Where is you sense of decency and justice? Is charging 30 former mayors with illegal behavior in the absence of facts either fair or just? Is giving Fergusson's admitted and confirmed illegal act a pass just because you think 'every one does it' fair or just?

Sorry, I do not want to live in your world of 'justice'.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Steve:

it wasn't "OK" for teh previous mayors to violate the law IF they did. And that is a big IF, unless you have some evidence to the contrary.


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Posted by Maria
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

It is unfortunate that Fergusson will not step down, but I believe that she has thought of the
Council as a stepping stone to future politics.

Next...I strongly feel that we should get rid of Rojas!! Look at the fact that he is ignoring the voters as far as pensions are concerned. He has certainly gotten a lot out of being City Manager!

With Fergusson, Keith and Clin e on the Council, he'll probably remain.

I, for one, am not happy about Keith being elected, but that she is vice mayor without seeing her perform yet, it is ridiculous (sp?).

As, thirdly, for The Almanac, mostly they do a good job. Was disappointed in there continujing articles that were put-downs of Andy Cohen.

Next...None of us are perfect. I think Andy Cohen should, at the least, been vice mayor.

All this stuff is unfortunately commonly typical politics.

As far as the article in the other paper about Cline and Robinson, I do not believe that Robinson wanted ev erything to be out in the open. I could be wrong.

Fergusson, ther fact that she violated the Brown Act twice is disgusting.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Peter -
You write: "you accuse, without any evidence or facts, 30 previous mayors of wrongdoing".
You're right that I have no evidence or facts but I do have common sense and some experience with how committees elect their chairs. It's only common sense to think that there was some discussion before the elections of the previous mayors to ascertain who might be supporting whom. Certainly such politicking goes on in both the state and national legislatures where committee chairs are routinely decided through behind-the-scenes negotiations, with the vote only serving to ratify these decisions.
As for me accusing them of "wrongdoing" that would only be the case if I thought such discussions were wrong. In fact, I think such discussions are normal and a healthy way for the power of the chair (or mayor) to be determined among those who will be voting on the issue. You see Peter, I read the Brown Act as a way of shining light on the issues of the "public's business" and I support the law in this regard. However, in this case I see the election of the mayor as primarily an issue of the "Council's business" and to my mind the Brown Act really shouldn't apply in this specific instance. To my mind the public is better served if the interpersonal issues that go into such negotiations are dealt with beforehand through private discussions between council members. In the end, the public is included during the actual election process itself, which can still be contentious, as it was when Peter nominated Andy.
Such interpersonal politicking is the procedure that's followed in determining committee chairs in both state & national legislatures and it seems to me the natural way for such "committee business" to be handled. Trying to change the rules of behavior for local governments in these few matters that are clearly of "Council Business" is always going to generate problems since it runs counter to human nature where egos and personalities play such a big role.
Basically, I think the Brown Act either overreaches in this regard, or more likely, didn't think to differentiate between issues of Public business (99% or what the Council does) and Council business.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Steve states:"I see the election of the mayor as primarily an issue of the "Council's business" and to my mind the Brown Act really shouldn't apply in this specific instance."

The LAW states:"54950. 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."

Sorry Steve, the law makes NO exception for the council to have anything called the "council's business". For elected officials there is only the public's business.

And the election of a mayor, who runs the meetings and has substantial control of the council's agenda is clearly the public's business rather than something to be done in secret discussions and back rooms. If being mayor was so unimportant why do people try so hard to become mayor?


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

So Steve by your reasoning just because folks were doing wrong in the past it's ok for someone to do wrong now, and because those people were never punished so why should the current wrong doer be punished.

So I'm trying to think of a similar reasoning - oh I think I've got two for you. Folks in the old days weren't punished for having slaves, but now slave owners are punished in the US. Number two - a bit extreme but with your reasoning and naivety apropos - beating one's wife was at one time acceptable practice in the US, by your reasoning it still is because it once was - no one sees it and why ruin someone's carer just because they beat their wife.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:40 pm

This thread illustrates two common themes.

1. Some people appear to condone or excuse an elected official's wrongdoing... provided they agree with them politically.

2. Some people appear to call out wrongdoing wherever they see it, even if it is not in their city or town.

Each of us is free to decide whose philosophy is more commendable.


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Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Peter writes:

"If being mayor was so unimportant why do people try so hard to become mayor?"

Egos and ambitions.

So true of this case.


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Posted by soothsayer
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm

One thing is for sure. This is the last rung on the political ladder Kelly will climb. She's cooked. She's done!


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:34 am

POGO,

1. Can't speak for Steve or anyone else but I don't agree with Fergusson politically.

2. I think it would be more accurate to say that people who see themselves as political power brokers will attack office holders they don't control when given the opportunity to do so.

When people in Atherton attempt to interfere with Menlo Park politics we all know what is really going on. Maybe it's time to to cut Atherton loose from the MPFD and the MASD.


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Posted by observer
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 19, 2011 at 4:45 am

MPFD has problems mainly over their board and union negotiations. Atherton could look for other partners in fire service.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 6:39 am

Bill states:"When people in Atherton attempt to interfere with Menlo Park politics we all know what is really going on."

Please elaborate.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 19, 2011 at 10:10 am

Peter-
Your wrote: "Sorry Steve, the law makes NO exception for the council to have anything called the "council's business". For elected officials there is only the public's business."
That may be the case but as I indicated in my last comment, I think it's a shortcoming of the Brown Act to make no such distinction between the interpersonal issues that concern primarily the Council and the vast majority of issues that are clearly "public business". The fact that no one seriously argues that every other mayor before her didn't engage in exactly the same sort of politicking that she did demonstrates that such actions are generally not in conflict with the public interest. You've chosen a fairly weak case to hang your defense of the Brown Act on. Why not wait for an issue that is clearly of public interest where the harm to the public is more easily demonstrated.
I still say that raising such a stink over Kelly's minor transgression has clearly caused short-term harm to Council relations and distracted discussions from serious city business - a clear net negative. In the longer term, perhaps it will prove to be beneficial, though not necessarily in the way you expect. I hope it underscores this serious deficiency in the Brown Act and leads to amending what is otherwise a commendable law.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 10:30 am

Steve - we simply disagree. I think the Brown Act is fine the way it is and I know that allowing an exception for procedural or 'trivial' matters would simply reopen the door to back room decision making. And until any law is changed that law is the standard.

The law is the law and Fergusson broke the law. Any problems which were created by her actions are her responsibility.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

Steve states:"The fact that no one seriously argues that every other mayor before her didn't engage in exactly the same sort of politicking that she did demonstrates that such actions are generally not in conflict with the public interest."

Sorry but that logic escapes me. First, there is NO evidence that other mayoral candidates broke the law. Second, there is no evidence that engaging in illegal secret serial meetings does not conflict with the public interest. Third, repeating this false statement again and again does not make it true.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Peter -
Common sense tells anyone who cares to think about it that it's quite likely that most prior mayors engaged in some politicking prior to attending the meeting where their names were placed in nomination. You obviously don't want to acknowledge that because it's inconvenient to your argument but it's just human nature to want to know which people can be counted on if you're going to put up for an important position like mayor or committee chair.
That being the case, the impetus is on you to show that such politicking in any way did conflict with the public interest since a law should be applied to solve a problem - if there's no identified problem, there's no need for the law.
And you say that I'm making a false statement that prior mayors engaged in the same communications as Kelly though you have no more evidence to demonstrate that it's false than I do that it's true. I do have common sense on my side which is more than you bring to your argument.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Steve -

As someone who reasonably skilled in logic and science, you know perfectly well that it is impossible to prove a negative.

You have repeated the claim that, despite no evidence, prior Menlo Park politicians frequently did something illegal.

You made the claim, the burden is yours.

Man up.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Steve - to accuse prior mayoral candidates of breaking the law without evidence to support that allegation is not common sense but calumny. Last time I looked it was innocent until proven guilty.

I have spent over 20 years in elected and appointed positions that are subject to the Brown Act and I can assure you that your allegations are without foundation. The vast majority of public officials with whom I have served have great respect for the Brown Act and are very careful to comply with its requirement that the public's business be conducted in public. The identified problem that lead to the Brown Act was that many local decisions were being made in secret - and that is no longer the case.

If you want the law changed then lobby for such a change;in the meantime stop indiscriminately slandering public officials.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Steve-

Following up on Pogo's comment (he/she must know you because I wouldn't have guessed the skilled in logic and science piece), I have another comment for you. I'll give you the notion that previous mayor's, who wanted the job likely let that be known to their collegues--that is not illegal. Its not even illegal for a candidate to ask ONE other member of a 5 member forum for their support. It is illegal to ask a majority of the other members (in this case 2), and just because you say it, it doesn't mean previous candidates did that. Driving to work today, I may have exceeded the speed limit by a mph or two. I didn't get caught, but if I had been, the issuing of a ticket would have been valid.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Steve. It is not my intent to "pile on" here. But I would like to ask you who do you think should decide what is Public Business and what is Council Business?


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Interested -

The answer to your question "who do you think should decide what is Public business and what is Council Business?" is quite clear... Steve makes that call.

Personally, I think the selection of Mayor is important and clearly the "people's business." It should be done in public without a hint of any backroom ("you scratch my back...") deals.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

<yawn>

Dead Horse = Beaten


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 19, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hardly a Dead Horse truth == Truthless. Just wait until you see who the 3rd party involved in Ferggie Gate was.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jan 20, 2011 at 1:48 am

Pogo....:-)

I am sure you can appreciate that my question was rhetorical.


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:12 am

[Post removed. Unsubstantiated charges violate terms of use.]


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Interested -
You asked who should decide what is Council Business and what is public business. POGO generously suggested I should be the decider and I thank him for his high opinion of me. However, since I was discussing this in terms of creating an exception within the Brown Act, Council business would be defined by the updated law.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Steve states:"Council business would be defined by the updated law."

How exactly would you propose to define Council business as opposed to the public's business in your draft legislative proposal?

Until there is a new law the current law is the law and there is no legislative effort to update the law.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Peter -
You stated: "The vast majority of public officials with whom I have served have great respect for the Brown Act and are very careful to comply with its requirement that the public's business be conducted in public."
I respect the fact that you've served local government for over 20 years and acknowledge that you may well be correct that none of the previous mayors and other elected officials have done any of the pre-meeting politicking that Kelly was found guilty of. It doesn't seem likely to me that that could be so but you're the one with experience in government so I'll give you (and them) the benefit of the doubt.
It does seem a relevant question though and I'd think an enterprising Almanac reporter might want to do an anonymous survey of former mayors in the area to see if, just perhaps, Kelly's behavior wasn't as aberrant as you make it out to be.
And just to be clear, I also have great respect for the Brown Act and am glad that it ensures the public's business is conducted in public. I just happen to think that there is business that pertains to the Council and that the public is just as well served if it isn't conducted in public.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Steve states:"I just happen to think that there is business that pertains to the Council and that the public is just as well served if it isn't conducted in public."

What business could possibly pertain to the council that is not the public's business? Certainly not the election of a mayor who essentially controls the council's agenda.

As the Brown Act states:
"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."


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm

From today's news:
"WASHINGTON - Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, won a hotly contested bid Wednesday to be the top Democrat on a key House panel dealing with high-tech issues. Eshoo and Rush had lobbied fellow Democrats on the committee for weeks for the coveted subcommittee post, a competition that culminated in a secret-ballot vote for Eshoo on Wednesday."
This is how the big boys play. Had Eshoo been subject to the Brown Act, she would have had to resign from her chairmanship and be subject to an investigation by the Sergeant at Arms or the Attorney General.
Of course the Brown Act doesn't apply to state and national offices but it does raise the question of whether forcing all aspects of competition for mayor into the public arena actually results in the selection of the best person for the job. Putting oneself out for such a position as Anna did, requires determination, ego, political astuteness, agression, and other qualities that don't necessarily play well in public. This is the "rough and tumble" of politics that usually results in the most capable leaders being selected. If this behind-the-scenes maneuvering were outlawed and everything had to be done in public I suspect we'd end up with "safe" but mediocre leaders.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2011 at 9:34 pm

WhoRUpeople-
You wrote: "Driving to work today, I may have exceeded the speed limit by a mph or two. I didn't get caught, but if I had been, the issuing of a ticket would have been valid."
Your analogy captures the episode exactly. In terms of the seriousness of the charge of violating the Brown Act, Kelly's 2 phone calls were the equivalent of you driving 2 miles over the speed limit. Technically, the police could pull you over & give you a ticket - he would have been a jerk for doing it but he would have been within the law.
If you chose to fight it though, it is very likely that the judge would have thrown it out since: 1) 2 miles over the limit posed no serious threat to anyone or to respect for the rule of law, and 2) everybody does it - his court would be overrun with cases if everyone would drove 2 miles above the limit were ticketed.
Kelly's guilty of driving 2 miles over the speed limit. Let's hope the DA isn't a jerk.


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Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 6:17 am

Equating politics on the Federal level or State level where the Brown act certainly doesn't apply is nonsense.

Everybody can be raving about Eshoo's appointment but in reality she is a dunce on technical issues and should not have been appointed --- that's politics on the Federal level.

Fergusson's act was outrageous and was typical of her whole term in office. Always wanting to be in the spotlight. After her term as Mayor she lobbied many to get a second consecutive term, claming she had done she should be continued.

Her actions on the Gateway project were outrageous. She as, a council person, directly negotiated with Bohannon effectively by-passing the negotiating team and along with Gail Slocum who was writing numerous emails and lobbying council members to support the project. This was all behind the scenes, where publicly until the last she was saying she had real reservation about the project. Heyward Robinson knew about all of this and there are email to prove this.

Hopefully the DA is looking further than this incident and the previous one about who would get appointed to the transportation commission.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

Looking on -
You wrote: "[Eshoo]is a dunce on technical issues and should not have been appointed --- that's politics on the Federal level."
Apparently the voices that count don't agree with you. That would be the other elected representatives on the subcommittee who voted for her.
And can you please explain why equating politics on the state & national scene to local politics is nonsense. Human nature is the same regardless of position. Passing laws that attempt to control human nature are bound to be problematic - especially when they are applied only at the local level.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 9:48 am

Peter -
You ask: "How exactly would you propose to define Council business as opposed to the public's business in your draft legislative proposal?"
For starters, how about simply excluding the annual selection and election of officers of the council from the strictures of the Brown Act? One sentence. There may be other areas where it would also be appropriate to allow discussions of Council members outside of public meetings (as is already the case for labor negotiations) but let's keep it simple for now and recognize that politicking among Council members for the positions of mayor & vice mayor can (should?) be done away from public view. Use the example of Eshoo's election as chair of the technology subcommittee of Congress that I mention above as the example.
Do you really think the public would be that ill-served by allowing the Council some privacy to sort through the egos, personalities, emotions, and political positions of the individual members to come up with the person they think can best represent the whole group. I frankly don't see where allowing the public into this issue adds anything of value.
And please don't quote from the Brown Act again - I know that's the current law. I'm suggesting it needs amendment and how it simple such a change could be.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 21, 2011 at 10:01 am

Steve proposes to exempt the election of the mayor and vice mayor from the open meeting requirement of the Brown Act. Given that the mayor has a central role in setting the agenda for the council and in presiding over council meetings, I believe that is essential that the elections of mayor and vice mayor be done exclusively in open meetings.

Just try to get an item that you are interested in having the council discuss on the council agenda - it is very difficult (except in the unique case of the Fire District where any citizen can request that an item be placed on the Fire Board agenda - how revolutionary).


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:37 am

Peter -
You write: "Given that the mayor has a central role in setting the agenda for the council and in presiding over council meetings, I believe that is essential that the elections of mayor and vice mayor be done exclusively in open meetings. "
And how exactly does having the election in open meetings make any difference in who gets elected? Don't you think the Council members would take this sort of thing into account in choosing their leader. And who knows the personal quirks and abilities of the members better than the members themselves?
To repeat myself, I don't see where allowing the public into this issue adds anything of value. It only inhibits the full, uninhibited discussion that could occur if selection of the mayor were done in private.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

"inhibits the full, uninhibited"
Redundant!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:45 am

Steve asks:"And how exactly does having the election in open meetings make any difference in who gets elected?"

If it doesn't make any difference in who gets elected then why not have the election in public? For me the default for decisions by public officials is that they should be made in public. Most public officials have learned how to have full uninhibited discussions in public - in some cases it takes practice.

I think that Steve and I should simply agree to disagree.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

Steve

I am always one to give credit where it is due. TooooShay! Great comeback, sir. Next time I'll try to choose my analogies a bit more carefully. BTW, I really wasn't speeding.


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Posted by The Phantom
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 23, 2011 at 12:03 am

Kelly Fergusson should do the responsible thing and resign from the City Council. Then the Council should issue an unanimous proclamation and fill the seat with the only person with the vision and wisdom to allow Menlo Park to flourish. And that person is none other than her eminence Gail Slocum.


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Posted by poster
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 23, 2011 at 10:14 am

[This topic seems exhausted so we're closing the thread.]