Menlo Park resident Virginia Chang Kiraly, about to begin her second four-year term on the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, has joined the board of the San Mateo County Harbor District.
Ms. Chang Kiraly, a former investment adviser and stock market trader, was appointed to the five-member harbor district board on Nov. 16 for one year of the three years remaining in the term for that seat. The vote was 3-1, with board member Sabrina Brennan dissenting, Ms. Chang Kiraly said.
When the November 2016 election rolls around, Ms. Chang Kiraly will have had one year in office and will be eligible to run either for the remaining two years of her seat's term, or for a four-year term for one of the other three seats be up for re-election, she said.
The harbor district board meets twice a month: the first Wednesday of the month in Half Moon Bay and the third Wednesday in South San Francisco, one day after the monthly meeting of the fire district board in Menlo Park.
Ms. Chang Kiraly's goals, she said, are to bring financial acumen to the board and to move the board in the direction of "good governance."
The board's problems were outlined in a 2013-14 grand jury report. "There is no way to sugar coat the issue," the report begins. "The commission governing the San Mateo County Harbor District is in disarray."
The report goes on to say that the district operates at significant yearly losses, that board meetings sometimes require police presence, that district financial reporting is "anything but transparent," that records may be being destroyed, that seating arrangements at board meetings can be contentious, and that video recording of meetings are sometimes suspended.
"It is clear to the Grand Jury that the District commissioners are lacking in professional decorum and fiscal oversight, and that a lack of fiscal transparency makes it impossible to determine exactly how taxpayers' money is being used," the report says.
A board that represents the entire county should be well-versed in proper governance procedures, she said. "I have always been a good governance advocate and I think I can help," she said.
Ms. Chang Kiraly is holding two elected offices at the same time. State law prohibits such situations "if the offices have overlapping and conflicting public duties," according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Ms. Chang Kiraly said she talked with officials in the San Mateo County Elections Office and was told that her situation does not embody such a conflict. The harbor district's general manager and legal counsel concurred, she said.
When asked by the Almanac, the fire district's counsel chose not to offer an opinion, and a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office said the Attorney General had not issued an opinion.