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Menlo Park council appoints Facebook liaisons

Company negotiating how to develop new Menlo Park campus

The latest council appointments came wrapped in an agreement to not allow Facebook to pressure subcommittee members during negotiations over how the social networking company can develop its new Menlo Park headquarters.

Mayor Rich Cline and Vice Mayor Kirsten Keith were elected by the council at its Tuesday (Oct. 18) meeting to serve on the subcommittee, which is meant to serve as a liaison between the council and the negotiating team, without the subcommittee members doing any actual negotiating themselves. The negotiating team is made up of the Menlo Park city manager and other city staff.

Before the selection, the mayor commented that he was worried about subcommittee members being "buttered up" with goodies from Facebook, such as lunch with the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He said the subcommittee should be "fully invested, but not targeted" as there was already enough pressure from Facebook.

While City Attorney Bill McClure cautioned that the council couldn't prohibit individual council members from holding private meetings with project applicants, he acknowledged that the members themselves could agree not to do so.

"By council members having direct interactions with people on the other side of the table, you in essence potentially emasculate the power of the negotiating team and the authority," Mr. McClure noted, creating a possible "divide and conquer" scenario.

The council agreed to limit the subcommittee members' access to Facebook employees.

Earlier this year the company signed a 15-year leaseback agreement for the 1-million-square-foot, 11-building campus at 1601 Willow Road that used to house Sun and Oracle employees. Facebook also bought two nearby lots on Constitution Drive, linked to the 57-acre Sun campus by a pedestrian tunnel under the Bayfront Expressway. That gives Facebook the growing room to triple the number of employees to 6,100.

Facebook now hopes to get the city's permission to have more than the currently allowed 3,600 employees on site in exchange for limiting the number of vehicular trips to the campus per day to 15,000. Public benefit will be part of the negotiation, as would criteria for future projects, including infrastructure improvements.

Facebook gets social with Menlo Park

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When an elected body appoints negotiators then the elected body can and should stay away from the process.

Here is how the Fire Board handles this situation:

" LABOR RELATIONS COMMUNICATIONS POLICY

MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT

PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to set guidelines for the Board of Directors and District staff, in the interest of promoting fairness and integrity in the process, to avoid actions that would circumvent the District’s designated bargaining teams to ensure that labor negotiations are conducted in good faith.

STATEMENT OF POLICY

It is the policy of the Board of Directors that all of its members and

District staff shall abide by the following guiding principles during any period when labor negotiations are occurring between the District and any District bargaining group.

1. All labor negotiations will be conducted by designated

representatives at the bargaining table. All District

representatives operate upon the direction of the Board of

Directors.

2. No individual Board member will individually negotiate with any

bargaining group member.

3. District representatives commit to keeping the Board fully

informed and advising them of all substantive proposals.

4. Each Board member shall inform the Fire Chief at their earliest

convenience and publicly disclose in open session the general

substance of any communications he or she has had with any

District bargaining group member(s) that has any reference to any

labor negotiations with the District.

5. Consistent with Government Code section 54963, confidentiality

of closed session discussions will be maintained."


Like this comment
Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm

The council subcommittee be present during what appears will be private negotiations between staff and Facebook. They should only act as observers, however. This first-hand role would allow them to better interact with the negotiating team, gain insights into the issues, and ensure that the negotiators are fulfilling the council's direction. A public process would be better, but apparently has been ruled out.

The negotiations must consider that Facebook will be occupying a large portion of the city's M-2 area, where a GM car dealership had been planned. Menlo Park's General Plan expects sales tax revenue-producing businesses in the M-2 area, which Facebook is not


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sounds like the Council does not trust its negotiators and is unwilling to judge any proposed arrangement in public and on its merits after the staff negotiations have been completed. The presence of the Council members at the negotiations makes it very difficult for the full Council to say no.

Previous involvement of Council members in other negotiations did not, to my recollection, turn out well.


Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 10:19 am

I watched the council meeting when the advisory team was selected. I was quite impressed with Mayor Cline's comments prior to the selection. He essentially asked his fellow council members to agree that the two appointees, whomever they turned out to be, would have NO contact with Facebook during the negotiations and that they would only serve to provide a sounding board to the empowered negotiating team to help keep them on track with whatever direction they receive from the full council during public meetings. All council members agreed, then they went through the process of choosing the two. The NO contact limitation included things like lunches, social events, etc. Kudos Mayor Cline and Council!!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

Since the appointment of two Council members to meet with the negotiating team was a formal action by the Council and since the meetings will involve staff members in addition to the two Council members any meetings of such a group are a 'legislative body' and therefore covered by the Brown Act and must be properly noticed and open to the public.

"Any board, commission, committee or other body of a local agency created by charter, ordinance, resolution or formal action of a legislative body is itself a legislative body.
(§ 54952(b).) Generally, this is the case regardless of whether the body is permanent or temporary, advisory or decisionmaking. However, there is a specific exemption for an advisory committee which is comprised SOLELY of less than a quorum of the members of the legislative body that created the advisory body"


Like this comment
Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2011 at 7:40 am

I hope the rest of the Council members will pledge the same "no contact" with Facebook to avoid any potential side negotiations.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 21, 2011 at 8:08 am

Given that two Council members will be involved ANY contact by the other three Council members either with Facebook, OR with the two designated Council 'liaisons' outside of a public Council meeting, would be a serial meeting which is quite clearly prohibited by the Brown Act.

This arrangement has all of the ingredients necessary to bring the entire process to a screeching halt after months and months of what might otherwise be productive negotiations.


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

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