News

Mayor: Public notice should have been given

 

After coming under fire over a likely violation of the state's open meeting law, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline said this week that the consortium of cities he heads to address high-speed rail issues will discuss how to avoid future missteps.

Mayor Cline heads the Peninsula Cities Consortium (PCC), made up of five elected officials from Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Burlingame and Belmont. The coalition advocates for the five cities, which will be heavily impacted by construction of the Peninsula line of the state's high-speed rail project.

On June 10, Mayor Cline, Atherton City Councilman Jerry Carlson, Palo Alto Mayor Patrick Burt, and Mountain View Mayor Ronit Bryant met with Curt Pringle, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board, to take him on a tour of the railroad right-of-way in each of their towns.

The tour, preceded by a brief meeting in Palo Alto's city hall, flew under the radar of public attention until a local newspaper reported several days ago that the meeting occurred, and that no public notice was given.

"It was one of those things where we didn't even think of it as a meeting," Mr. Cline said. "But in hindsight, it was a meeting. … Technically, it should have been noticed."

The technicality was that the tour, organized to give Mr. Pringle a first-hand look at the areas that will be affected, with perspective provided by mayors and a councilman, wasn't a function of the PCC. But because three of the four elected officials who met with Mr. Pringle are members of the PCC, and represent a quorum of that group, public notice of the meeting would have been appropriate under the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law, Mayor Cline said.

The Brown Act requires that official public notice be posted when a quorum of a legislative body meets.

The planned tour had been talked about at a public council meeting, Mr. Cline said, and the PCC members had no intention of trying to hide the information.

He said the consortium will discuss the issue at its July 23 meeting. Members also will try to tackle a "broader challenge" that they face as members of a multi-city coalition of elected officials: When they meet on matters other than high-speed rail, representing their own jurisdictions, and a majority of them happen to attend the same meeting, is there a legal requirement to post a public notice in advance?

"It's really blurry now," Mayor Cline said. "We need to review it (to set a policy) for the PCC to make sure we tighten it up."

Another problem for the group is that there is no official staff member to take care of administrative details and tasks. Because Mr. Cline is the PCC's chairman at this point, Menlo Park's city clerk sends out agendas, and staff members from other towns might take care of other tasks on a rotating basis. But there's no one providing the more complicated administrative support typically given to elective bodies, he said.

Comments

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Posted by peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 15, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Thank you Mayor Cline for your apology and your commitment to reinvigorate the PCC'c compliance with the Brown Act.


Like this comment
Posted by mike mansfield
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Where's Jerry Carlson's apology?


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 7:17 am

Mr. Mansfield:

don't hold your breath waiting.


Like this comment
Posted by Apologies
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

Apologies are fine, just so long as they apply to everyone. I mean by that, if what these officials did broke the law, and they can simply apologize for it, I want the same right to apologize for any transgression I make (such as speeding, rolling through a stop sign, or come to think of it, more serious things than those traffic infractions since it was reported here that the Brown Act violation is a misdemeanor, not an infraction). Fair? Cline and Carlson deserve no better or less than we do.


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Posted by mike white
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:10 am

The Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Atherton city attorneys should all be taken to the woodshed, if not fired.

It is incredible and inexcusable that not one of the attorneys from these three communities would have cautioned the governing bodies of these three communities that they were about to commit a crime.

It is after all the job of a city attorney to keep its client out of trouble. The clearest indication of how badly each of the attorneys representing these communities is the Menlo Park Mayor's explanation for how this illegal meeting was allowed to happen. "I had no idea".

Someone should be held accountable for this debacle. In my view the attorneys for all three of these communities should be given their walking papers.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:11 am

Get to know the law a bit before you bite.

It is a misdemeanor if the elected took action (none here) and did so knowingly keeping the public out (meaning there was evidence that the elected(s) announced the meeting).

That does not apply here no matter how you slice it.

Since we are using irrelevant comparisons, I personally think it is more than a misdemeanor to order your police to pull over hispanics because they "may" be illegally living in our country, but I would guess I am the only one here with that opinion.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:12 am

"no evidence" of an announcement...


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:53 am

Truth said, "I personally think it is more than a misdemeanor to order your police to pull over hispanics because they "may" be illegally living in our country."

I'm sure you're not talking about the new Arizona law because that would reveal that you have not read it. Even the United States Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder abandoned that assertion in their recent lawsuit.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

I stand corrected and offer an apology.

Actually, it is more than a misdemeanor if a policeman pulls over hispanics because they may be illegally in our country.

The officer would be charged with a FELONY under the new Arizona law.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

You're right, it is a great law.

That is why 9 of 41 states support it.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jul 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

I'm very glad to hear you support it, truth. You're just like 57% of Americans! Web Link


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

POGO & Truth,

I've enjoyed the last couple of exchanges between the two of you, but I do want to get back on topic for a moment. First, though, and Truth please take this as just a friendly poke and not mean spirited--I know what you meant, 9 of 41 states (there are 50). Sorry just couldn't pass that up. To the topic, I said this in another posting and I'll say it again. I was very pleased to see Mayor Cline's apology and his commitment to put things in place to avoid such a mistake in the future.Nobody is perfect, and I for one am very impressed when someone admits a mistake rather than, like in Atherton lately, they look for legal counsel to give them "cover" that it wasn't wrong. I didn't read Mr. Clines comments as trying to say ignorance of the law was an excuse, but rather that it was the "reason" for the error. So maybe a point on his driving record, but certainly not a suspension of his license or a fine.


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Posted by judge judy
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm

The violation of Cline et al should be looked at within the context of the behavior of the individual city councils they represent. If this kind of thing has happened before in any of the communities represented (Atherton, Menlo Park or Palo Alto) then throw the book at 'em.

If this truly is an isolated event then give 'em a warning and move on.


Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Oh Dear. Well I guess its up to me to advise Truth and WhoRUpeople that there are in fact on 46 States in the United States.......


Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Oops

Oh Dear. Well I guess its up to me to advise Truth and WhoRUpeople that there are in fact ONLY 46 States in the United States.......


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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