In the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 18, Menlo Park Councilman Andy Cohen e-mailed a copy of a handwritten letter on city stationery to a list of recipients, including The Almanac, that asked, "What is ethical for politicians and consultants in their respective roles?"
The letter slammed two of Mr. Cohen's fellow council members, with the most pointed remarks directed at Kelly Fergusson for requesting $500,000 in landscaping for the Bohannon Gateway project before supporting it.
Two days later, Mr. Cohen told The Almanac the letter had been sent to the media by mistake. Others copied on the distribution list include residents known for taking public stances on controversial issues, such as City Council candidate Chuck Bernstein, Morris Brown, Planning Commissioner Vincent Bressler, and ex-mayor Paul Collachi.
Mr. Cohen made passing reference to Councilman Heyward Robinson and ex-mayor Gail Slocum, along with Ms. Fergusson, as "not all that different from consultants who sell their professionalism for money."
When asked for a response to that statement, Ms. Fergusson said: "That's a tough one. Those are some dark thoughts."
As for Mr. Robinson, he appeared to take the letter in stride, saying that he and Mr. Cohen mostly approach issues from a similar set of values.
"But there are going to be issues where we don't see things the same way. Menlo Gateway is one of these," Mr. Robinson said.
"Even though Andy had expressed support for Gateway and I had expressed concerns over its impacts, he ended up at 'no' and I ended up at 'yes," he said. "I respect his vote and I hope that he would respect mine."
He urged the council to remain focused and put aside disagreements.
Mr. Cohen explained that he occasionally loses his temper when observing "politicians, bureaucrats, and consultants all in a feeding frenzy at the public trough."