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Updated: Menlo Park councilwoman pays for D.C. trip -- for now

Kelly Fergusson will ask council for reimbursement later

No stranger to raising eyebrows, Menlo Park Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson did it again when she mentioned staying at a $400 per night hotel while in Washington D.C. for two nights this week on council business.

Ms. Fergusson, who will accompany the city's high-speed rail lobbyist Ravi Mehta and Palo Alto Councilman Larry Klein on the trip, told the council the purpose is to "educate members of Congress."

Rushing to her own defense, Ms. Fergusson released a memo on March 3 written to City Manager Glen Rojas stating that she will pay for the trip herself, until reimbursement can be placed on the agenda for approval at the next council meeting on March 15.

The memo also outlined the city's stance on high-speed rail, which Ms. Fergusson will present as a member of the city's HSR subcommittee: Build high-speed rail right or not at all; publish a credible ridership study and business plan; oversight deficiencies must be addressed; and investment in electrification will benefit both Caltrain and Menlo Park.

The team hopes to meet with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, Rep. Anna Eshoo D-Menlo Park, and Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, according to Ms. Fergusson, to discuss those topics and ask for $1 billion in funding to electrify Caltrain.

But does Ms. Fergusson need to go?

"I don't think it's necessary. We've hired a lobbyist, and that's the goal or the purpose of the lobbyist," Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith noted during the March 1 council meeting. "Anna Eshoo has an office in Palo Alto, Jackie Speier has one in San Mateo. I don't see the need for it."

Ms. Fergusson responded that the meetings are "a lot more powerful if elected members from affected communities are there carrying the message as well."

Who decides who goes where and how, anyway? Mr. Rojas explained the council travel policy: A $10,000 fund covers travel costs for all five council member as part of the city budget. They can either ask the city to pay in advance, or ask for reimbursement.

When the trip involves traveling out of state, the reimbursement must be approved by the council during a regular meeting.

Political players, such as former mayor Lee Duboc, questioned whether a potential conflict of interest exists between Ms. Fergusson's service as a councilwoman and as an employee of Siemens, a global corporation that may bid for a high-speed rail contract.

City Attorney Bill McClure said he hasn't seen any facts indicating that Ms. Fergusson's employment presents a conflict of interest as defined by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

That could change if Siemens bids on or wins a contract, he said, at which point Ms. Fergusson would need to recuse herself from high-speed rail discussions conducted by the council.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Does not matter if the city has the money or not, but since there is a budget line item

= MUST SPEND IT!!!

I will remember this next time I am asked to reduce MY budget to pay for yours!!!

= Government FAIL!!!


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm

I go to Washington, DC frequently and usually stay at the beautiful Dupont Hotel on Dupont Circle. It's a great location, very popular with politicians and celebrities and very posh... and just $260 a nite.


Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm

What a waste of time and money.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

This is a total waste of city money - why - because the three people they wish to meet with are all California Representatives.
They can get in a car and drive a few minutes to see Eshoo and Speier and they can take a commuter flight to San Diego to meet with Issa.
If they wish to meet the three together then fly Issa up here for a meeting.
No expensive DC flights, no hotels and a huge meal allowance.
Enough of this bs!
Fergie - it's time to step down and stop wasting our hard earned tax dollars!


Like this comment
Posted by MenloJim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Talking and delivering a message talking in person is invaluable: Build high-speed rail right or not at all; publish a credible ridership study and business plan; oversight deficiencies must be addressed; and investment in electrification will benefit both Caltrain and Menlo Park. Take a trip that costs $Thousands if it will save us $Billions. Go Fergie!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 5, 2011 at 12:05 am

behavior
1. a person's actions as they constitute a means of evaluation by others.

trust
1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.




Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2011 at 1:19 am

So Kelly is now willing to pay for her $400-a-night hotel bills. At Tuesday's council meeting, when council discussed this late in the evening after everybody left, she was planning to have the City pay her $400-a-night hotel bills. What changed? Did that story in the Daily Post nudge her?

She still has a conflict of interest. She works for a company that desperately wants the HSR contract. How can she represent a city that's against HSR while work for a company that is for it? And she's captive to organized labor, which controls the staff at City Hall but has been booted out of almost every private company in our country.

[Portion deleted. This historical reference is not likely relevant to today's discussion.] But the rest of us need to oppose this [portion deleted.] company as it contends for a contract to put down a railroad the width of a freeway through our communities.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2011 at 7:27 am

Siemens should be paying for the trip. Kelly Fergusson should be registered as a lobbyist and should recuse herself from all HSR and Caltrain electrification matters. [Portion deleted. This attack seems gratuitous.]


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

For an elected official who appears to have even higher political aspirations, Ms. Fergusson is remarkably tone deaf.

Not a particularly strong asset.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2011 at 9:32 am

[Post removed. Off topic.]


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

[Removed because it was response to post that was removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2011 at 10:03 am

Council Don't reimburse this trip!!! Ferguson is the last person who should represent the city.


Like this comment
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2011 at 11:22 pm

[Post removed. Off topic.]


Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

The level of disrespect from a bunch of do nothings never ceases to amaze me in this city.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2011 at 9:09 am

Truth:

you complain of disrespect. How about some complaint of Kelly's obvious disrespect for the citizens of this city. This is such a blatant conflict of interest that if she had any moral compass and any respect for the people that elected her she would recuse herself from anything to do with HSR. Respect is a two way street truth. I haven't seen too much respect coming from Kelly. Until I do, she gets none from me. Respect is one of those things that has to be EARNED.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

Truth - "conformity with fact or reality"


Like this comment
Posted by henry
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 6, 2011 at 11:45 am

I agree with most of the comments:

1.Kelly should not go to DC, period, as a representative of any governmental group.
2.Paying her own way does not cover the conflict-of-interest problem.
3. As one person wrote: "I used to wonder at all the time she took off from work to attend meetings. I now realize that attending those meeting and networking the political scene is PART OF HER WORK.

Too bad.


Like this comment
Posted by looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm

To get the real essence of this you must view the video.

Web Link

Starting a little after 5 hr 39 minutes into the meeting of March 1 of Menlo Park Council, you can view as bad a sequence of incompetence of a legislative body as you should ever want to view.

Fergusson on questioning about her trip to DC utters nonsense. Only Keith (sort of ) took her to task. Rojas unable to defend the trip, which is about the height of stupidity. Sending Ravi Mehta is also in the same category.

Why didn't Cline, the only council member who has any understanding ( staff knows little to nothing either) about the project voice his objection. What a council.

BTW, is there going to be a public discussion on whether Rojas should be retained as City Manager? His contract expires this August. It really time for him to move on.

Note the way Kelly is trying to take credit for all the work that has been done by the private groups.

In the City's email log, she and council are taking a beating from the public about this.

Kelly better try another tactic to regain any kind of public support. She should resign, but she won't.




Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm

looking on -

THANK YOU for bringing us the web link and pointing us to the proper spot on the May 1 video. It was quite revealing.

First, kudos to Ms. Keith for asking excellent questions. Too often, elected officials like Ms. Fergusson "feign" that what they are doing has already been approved by the Council or that everyone knows about it. Ms. Keith assumed nothing and asked tough, pointed questions - who is the lobbyist, what do we pay him, why is Kelly Fergusson going, why not visit Congressional representatives at their local offices, when are your appointments, who are you seeing, etc. Ms. Fergusson did a great job imitating King George VI before his stuttering lessons took hold. And for those who thought Ms. Keith might be in the pocket of Ms. Fergusson, this video should dispel that notion.

Ms. Fergusson recently dodged a bullet when she was not charged with a crime for her repeated violations of the Brown Act. Based on this video tape, I think she should be indicted for ineptitude. Her lack of fluency on this, her signature issue, was horrifying.

Holy smokes. Menlo Park really elected this person?


Like this comment
Posted by The Queen's Speech
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 6, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Assuming for a moment that the city should send a council member on this boondoggle, why Kelly Fergusson? Kelly is the least articulate council member, having repeated problems in expressing thoughts in public or private. The transcript of the council meeting discussing Kelly's request amply illustrates her poor articulation - compared to Rich Clines.


Like this comment
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 6, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for the video. That is a brilliant display of intelligence.

Wish more people would actually watch these videos, then we might not re elect these types again... ugggg. FAIL>>>>


Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2011 at 9:35 pm

What's the process for the recall of a council member in Menlo Park. It's time to replace Fergusson and we can't take the risk of having her continue on the council until the next election.


Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Linda is a registered user.

I have always maintained that a Councilmember or public employee can spend what they wish on official travel BUT the City is only obligated to pay or reimburse a reasonable, and budgeted cost for the trip. This includes basic airfare, a basic room rate -- no taxis or rental cars if shuttle is available, and a fixed amount for meals, not including drinks. The rest is at the option of the spender for their own convenience or comfort, but not an obligation of the City.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 7, 2011 at 4:32 pm

POGO is a registered user.

I'm not sure I agree with you, Linda.

If the organization I'm working for WANTS me to travel somewhere on their behalf, then they are going to have to foot the bill. My expenses should be reasonable, of course. Coach airfare, standard hotel (Sheraton, Marriott, Hilton) and normal ground transportation such as a taxi or standard car rental are all required.

A trip to Washington, DC can be quite challenging. Reagan Airport is a short cab ride to downtown but Dulles and BWI are VERY LONG rides and I'm not about to wait 45 minutes for an airport shuttle so I can get downtown, sorry. Hotels there aren't cheap, either.

Now, if the organization I'm working for doesn't want me to go and I'm taking this trip on my own volition, that's a very different story...


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Linda and POGO:

both of you beg the question: should Kelly be having anything to do with ANYTHING associated with HSR? She has a MAJOR conflict of interest in this regard and has NO business having ANYTHING to do with anything associated with HSR. Kelly has a demonstrated lack of ethics and it is obvious she has a conflict of interest with HSR. Why the City Council thinks she is an appropriate person to send to DC with regards to HSR is totally beyond me.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

POGO is a registered user.

MV -

Judging from the video tape of the May 1 meeting of the Menlo Park Council, I'm not sure the City Council supports Ms. Fergusson's visit to Washington, DC either!

I agree that she has a conflict of interest - something that has never concerned her before...


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

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