News

Rich Cline re-elected mayor of Menlo Park

Council leaves policy behind in wake of Brown Act violations

The man who put down the gavel last week has now picked it back up. In a unanimous 5-0 vote, and counter to tradition, the Menlo Park City Council elected Rich Cline to a second term as mayor to fill the vacuum left by Kelly Fergusson's resignation from the position.

Kirsten Keith retained her position as vice mayor, thanks to an equally unanimous vote.

Elected mayor last week by a split 3-2 vote, with Peter Ohtaki and Mr. Cohen dissenting, Ms. Fergusson resigned on Dec. 10 following the revelation of Brown Act violations committed as she lobbied at least two council colleagues for the position.

City residents had plenty to say during the public comment period preceding the vote. Some suggested Councilman Andy Cohen pick up the gavel, others Rich Cline, but all expressed dismay over the violation of public trust.

"I'd say the theme for this evening is disappointment," Ed Moritz told the council. "For those who recommended following the policy, for the council members who voted based on the policy. All this disappointment is the result of at least one council member."

By the city's non-binding policy, Ms. Fergusson and Mr. Cohen were the members of the council most eligible to pick up the gavel, as members must serve at least one year on the council before becoming mayor.

If the candidates have all served as mayor before, then the one with the longest time elapsed since holding the position gets priority, which left Mr. Cohen as the front-runner had policy been followed.

Former council member Heyward Robinson spoke at the meeting on Tuesday night, saying that despite holding great respect for Mr. Cohen, the councilman's erratic behavior led him to reluctantly conclude Mr. Cohen should not serve as mayor.

The mayoral policy has been ignored at least twice by previous councils since its enactment in 1993. At the Dec. 14 meeting Ms. Keith nominated and Mr. Ohtaki seconded Mr. Cline as mayor, and the vote proceeded without debate.

Ms. Fergusson said little during the re-vote besides nominating Kirsten Keith as vice mayor.

Comments

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2010 at 12:56 am

You just can't please Andy Cohen.
From the San Jose Merc News this morning -
Web Link
"Cohen who urged voters not to re-elect Cline and Robinson this year, sat quietly after the votes were taken Tuesday and Cline and Keith mingled with well-wishers.
When asked how he felt about the vote, Cohen said, "don't ask.""
If he's so displeased and bitter why did Cohen vote for Cline as mayor last night?


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 15, 2010 at 1:09 am

I wasn't there last night, but did Ms. Fergusson really have nothing to say about this fiasco?

After all, this was her doing. Perhaps an apology to the citizens of her city???


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Looking In
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

POGO: I attended last night's meeting. Fergusson had very little to say and attempted a half-hearted apology that was very insincere, in my opinion.

Most of the public comments centered around breaching the public's trust. In my opinion, there was an attempt to discredit Ohtaki, who was the ONLY one who issued a gracious statement so that the Council could move forward and work together. Even with his statement, Fergusson managed to interject a ridiculously petty remark about how she "recalled" a "different conversation"-- something like that. It just proved that she, like Heyward Robinson, is unfit to hold public office.

Then, there was shameless promotion of Kirsten Keith for Vice Mayor. She was leading the meeting and did a fine job, until the nominations for mayor opened up. Instead of asking for and allowing her fellow council members to speak first and make nominations, she dominated the floor and immediately nominated Cline. And, breaking with protocol, Cline, who can't make a decision if his life depended on it, opened the floor for nominations for Vice Mayor, even though the Mayor is supposed to make the nomination. Fergusson nominated Keith, of course. Last week, Cline nominated Keith when Fergusson was Mayor. How convenient that the "three musketeers" will now form a new block.

The bottom line is that I feel the Council will break protocol to suit their own political agendas. That was very clear when Cline, as Mayor, did not nominate a Vice Mayor, who is normally nominated by the Mayor. Breaking protocol was also very clear when Ohtaki was completely passed over to be the Vice Mayor, although he was the top vote-getter in the election-- by a fairly large margin.

The public was voicing their desire for a completely transparent process. Unfortunately, for a "nonpartisan" elected body, partisan politics is very much alive and, quite frankly, getting in the way of the public trust.

Perhaps, Menlo Park residents should vote for their Mayor in an at-large election. Maybe, then, the will of the people will be heard and respected. It's a real shame that Ohtaki is not the Vice Mayor, especially since Keith's nomination-- both last week and last night-- seemed very planned. It was as if she were being shoved down everyone's throats.

Given that this new "block" of Fergusson, Cline, and Keith will be leading Council meetings, I think we, as citizens, should keep an ever watchful eye on them to make sure there will be transparency to the fullest. I fear that somehow Measure L will be haphazardly enforced because Fergusson and Cline-- a majority of this voting block-- did not support Measure L. I hope I am proven wrong.


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Posted by council watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

I think Andy Cohen was pretty diplomatic after what amounted to a public slap in the face. He's easily the smartest guy up there and he's doing this as a volunteer job. How much public flogging is a volunteer supposed to take and keep smiling and offering congratulations?

There are good reasons for rotating the mayor position every year. I agree with Outside: expect pension reform efforts to evaporate. Peter Ohtaki is a wonderful addition to the council, but the bloc is going to dominate.


Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:32 am

I watched the meeting on TV. I was very impressed with the quality and content of most of the public comments. I was also impressed by the council's quick and unanimous vote. To me, it demonstrated a real desire to put this behind them as a council and work together (though I wish Kelly would have not made her childish remark after Peter's statement-it wasn't necessary and served no purpose other than to demonstrate that she still doesn't "get it". I do think it is worth mentioning, and deserves watch closely, that during his report on the preceeding closed session, Bill McClure reported that, with regard to the upcoming union negotiations, the council did vote to appoint a sub-committee to participate in forming the City's position in those negotiations, that subcommittee to be the then undecided Mayor and Vice Mayor (now Mr. Cline and Ms. Kieth). My guess is to select "players to be named later" to the subcomittee was
an attempt on Council's part at depolitcizing the selection. I hope it worked.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:41 am

Awww, Andy's friends are upset.

Outside Looking In has just proved his/her lack of understanding and while I can do little to prove that any better, let's just say that the Mayor is not required to nominate the Vice Mayor. The Mayor only runs the selection of the Vice Mayor. Now that we have that fact put to rest, let's focus on the other aspects.

Andy denounced everyone on the last council. He burned his own village. He is responsible for his own behavior and I can put half a dozen links of embarrassing Andyisms if you need it. If his little pack of no birds wants to blame the Mayor, go for it.

To try to make this into a block only a week after the council is sworn in just proves another point. Give Keith and Ohtaki a chance to prove you wrong. You couldn't see past your own desperate need for nastiness to give anyone a fair chance.

So fight all you want. Make derogatory comments and grind your teeth. That is all you have to offer anyways.


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Posted by Council Watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

This was an upside down election. The third place finisher in the Novemeber 2nd general election vote count becomes Mayor. The second place finisher in the vote count beomes Vice Mayor and the person receiving the most votes gets nothing. This is an obvious orchestration by the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee to overturn the will of the people for its own political advantage.

As far as Cline is concerned the only thing I can say is SOPORIFIC. Cline is as dynamic as walrus napping on the beach. I will now Tivo Cline's speeches to watch at bed time. It is much better than counting sheep.


Like this comment
Posted by ?!
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2010 at 11:21 am

You are all so busy attacking each other and believing all the he said she said crap in the papers that the issues have been completely lost. Move on!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 15, 2010 at 11:21 am

Elections should have consequences.

The citizens of Menlo Park could pass a referendum which required that the Mayor first be the person who in the previous two elections received the most votes and that each successor be the person with the next greatest number of votes in those elections.

The mayor's position is not simply ceremonial as he or she has a great deal of influence over the agenda setting process and the conduct of council meetings.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 15, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Look at all these upper class society types using words like soporific to insult...really? I guess I have one for you council watcher and Andy cabinet member, poltroonish. Look it up. And make sure you thank Hank for stealing one of his favorite words.


Like this comment
Posted by Melody Pagee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

Children,

The council has selected Rich Cline to serve as our new Mayor.

Let's start off this fresh new year and focus on the issues in front of us and close the door on the items we can no longer change (ie last weeks mess).

We have a new team, and they have selected a new leader unanimously.

Move on!



Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

I fell out my chair laughing when I heard Robinson described Andy as erratic. If there's anyone on the previous council who was erratic, it was Robinson.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

One more thing -- Despite Kelly's numerous apologies, I urge the DA to prosecute her. Not that I want to see anybody go to jail, but if she broke the law, her prosecution and sentencing would possibly persuade other elected officials to obey the law.


Like this comment
Posted by Favorite
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Hands down favorite moment of the night was when that guy spoke briefly about obesity and then then said something to the effect of, ".....if you don't think obesity is a problem, take a look at our Menlo Park Dispatchers."(again paraphrased) I about fell out of my chair. A fat joke at a council meeting, gotta love it!


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Kelly's comment at last week's Council meeting when she said other communities would be saying what the heck if we didn't follow the policy and elect her mayor.

Despite the ensuing fiasco, I do think other communities say what the heck anyway. Given the diatribe of the Council and all the comments (mine being one of them) written in threads such as this one, one has to wonder do we (Menlo Park citizens) really strive for better or are we content to stay in mediocrity?


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I want my money back!


Like this comment
Posted by James Madison
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 16, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Hat's off to Peter Carpenter and Melody Pagee for having the courage to put their names to their comments, and a pox on those unwilling to do so.

On the merits, it is a tragedy for Menlo Park that, if Kelly is not to be mayor during her second term, Andy Cohen also will not be mayr during his second term. No one on the Council is more analytical, more devoted to maintaining our quality of life or more concerned about the City's fiscal future.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim Long
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Dec 17, 2010 at 11:53 am

While I am fine with Ms Keith being elected to Council and Mr Cline being Mayor again I think it is very poor judgment on their part to keep the biggest vote getter, Mr Ohtaki, from BOTH being vice mayor and on the labor subcommittee particularly since Mr. Cline more or less opposed Measure-L (passed by almost 75%) and has yet to admit, like Mr Boyle, that, with the benefit of hindsight, the 2007 pension decision was a mistake. I hope Mr Cline comes around to listening to the voters and not the special interests. Unfortunately this first move suggests he does not respect the voters.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

IF the citizens of Menlo Park want to elect their mayor then this is how to make that happen:
California Code § 34900. At any general municipal election, or at a special election held for that purpose, the city council may submit to the electors the question of whether electors shall thereafter elect a mayor and four city councilmen, and whether the mayor shall serve a two-year or four-year term. In cities presently having elected mayors, the city council may also submit to the electors the question of whether the mayor shall thereafter serve a two-year or a four-year term.

§ 34901. The questions shall be printed on the ballots used at the election in substantially the following form: "Shall the electors elect a mayor and four city councilmen?" "Shall the term of office of mayor be two years?" "Shall the term of office of mayor be four years?" The words "Yes" and "No" and "two years" and "four years" shall be so printed on the ballots that the voters may express their choice. The term of office of mayor shall be that preferred by a majority of those voting on the proposition.

§ 34902. (a) If a majority of the votes cast on the proposition is for it, the office of mayor shall thereafter be an elective office, except as provided in subdivision (b). At the next succeeding general municipal election held in the city one of the offices of city councilperson, to be filled at the election, shall be designated as the office of mayor, to be filled at the election. The person elected at the election as mayor shall hold office from the Tuesday succeeding his or her election, and until his or her successor is elected and qualifies.

In the case of a vacancy in the office of the mayor for any reason, the council shall fill the vacancy by appointment. If the council fails to fill it within 30 days, it shall call an election to fill the vacancy to be held on the next established election date to be held not less than 114 days thereafter. A person appointed or elected to fill a vacancy shall hold office for the unexpired term of the former incumbent.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Another memorable moment of the night was when Rich Cline didn't know if Peter Ohtaki was supposed to leave the chambers after Ohtaki declared he had a conflict of interest. Cline's the mayor, right? He's been on council four years. Yet he doesn't know if you're supposed to leave the room or not. Ohtaki, who had been on council for maybe 10 minutes, knew the law (probably from his experience on the fire board). Ohtaki stated he was supposed to leave the room when council discussed the item with which he had a conflict. And then he left. Ohtaki should be mayor and Rich should be attending Brown Act classes with Kelly.


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Peter Carpenter, self-proclaimed truth sayer, can you please tell your people what this subcommittee does? I have now stated more than once the fact that this is a subcommittee to create a more open process and not a negotiation subcommittee.

Does anyone care about the truth any more? [Portion removed, terms of use.]

Ohtaki's vote count is irrelevant as it was when Duboc stole the mayorship for herself years ago. This is only a matter of debate from a small group of folks who want nothing more than to whine and complain.

I personally wish Cline would go after Duboc [Portion removed, terms of use.] But he just won't play the political game.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Hey truth -

You complain about others lack of detail. Yet you say:

1. The subcommittee is "to create a more open process and not a negotiation subcommittee." Just how do they create that more open process if they are not involved with negotiations?

2. Ohtaki's vote count is irrelevant. Why? Don't you think their is any significance that a candidate received more votes than any others? Why is it okay for Ms. Fergusson's supporters, including you, to state this fact about her status (which in her case is somewhat dated)?

3. Cline going after Duboc? Isn't Ms. Duboc a private citizen? Isn't she entitled to her opinion?


Like this comment
Posted by Doctor John
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Dec 18, 2010 at 2:10 pm

[This and subsequent posts removed; stick to the topic and don't attack other posters.]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm

[Post removed. Please refrain from personal attacks.]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Truth asks:"Peter Carpenter, self-proclaimed truth sayer, can you please tell your people what this subcommittee does?"


Truth - do your own work and don't ask me to make a case that you cannot make.




Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Note to the Editors:
In the wee hours of the evenings and on weekends when you are not policing this Forum a lot of cheap personal attacks remain up for hours if not days. When you fail to act on these long posted personal attacks then you should recognize that posted responses to personal attacks on this Forum are not also personal attacks - they are justifiable self defense - and for you to label those acts of self defense as personal attacks is poor journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Truth,

I don't know whether or not you were in attendance at last weeks Council meeting or had a chance to tune in via TV, but I'm sure you can go back and check the video. In the first few minutes of the meeting, Bill Mclure reported out on the content of the closed session preceeding the public meeting. He reported that the Council, while giving no direction to Staff regarding the upcoming negoitations (good for them), voted unanomously to appoint a subcommittee to work with Staff and counsel with regard to preparing for and conducting the upcoming negotiations. The selection process they set for that subcommittee was essentially "two players to be named later", specifically whomever was elected Mayor and Vice Mayer in the yet to come public session. Sure sounded to me like those two, whomever they turned out to be, would be involved in the negotiation process.


Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

In December 2004, Winkler was voted Mayor with a 5-0 vote. That really says a lot about how everyone following protocol. Oops wait, then Jellins was voted Vice Mayor (with a 3-2 vote), while Fergusson was the top vote getter of all time (until she topped that in 2008).

Given that Lee Duboc (along with Winkler and Jellins) voted to pass over Fergusson, it is odd that Lee now describes last week's 5-0 vote for both Mayor and Vice Mayor as "corrupt" in her latest email blast.


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

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