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Editorial: Woodside council needs to follow the ethics code, conclude investigation process

 

After the town of Woodside spent nearly $27,500 on an ethics-related investigation of one of its longtime volunteers, the Town Council at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 14, may drop the matter cold without issuing a ruling on whether the volunteer did in fact violate the town's ethics code, as alleged by a private citizen. Mayor Tom Livermore is recommending that the matter be formally closed and "no further action be taken on this complaint" -- which is ironic, given that closing the case now, with no resolution, may itself be a violation of the ethics code.

The complaint was lodged by a former council member, Dave Burow, who has been a critic of the town's Architectural and Site Review Board (ASRB), which volunteer Nancy Reyering served on until her term ended this month. Mr. Burow's complaint launched an investigation by a private law firm into various charges centered on an email Ms. Reyering sent last May addressing a project coming before the ASRB -- a project whose architect was Town Councilman Peter Mason.

In the complaint, Mr. Burow accused Ms. Reyering of a series of ethics code violations, some of which the private investigator recommended that the council sustain, others of which he rejected. Among the charges were that Ms. Reyering asserted that the ASRB should apply unequal treatment to council members when they are acting in their individual capacity, that she had reached a conclusion about the project before hearing testimony, and that she suggested that Councilman Mason was using his position to gain special consideration for his client.

Ms. Reyering hired an attorney to help her through the legal morass of the investigation, which she insisted was unmerited. The attorney who investigated the complaint issued a lengthy report recommending that five of the nine charges be sustained.

In launching the investigation, the town followed the protocol mandated by its code of ethics, but now the mayor is recommending that the council ignore an important final step of that mandated protocol, which states: "The report shall be presented to the Town Council at a public meeting of the Council. The Town Council will accept testimony on the matter and determine whether a violation of the Code has occurred."

In his recommendation and the draft resolution he proposes for the council's approval, Mayor Livermore notes that Ms. Reyering has failed to provide dates for a public hearing she could attend. He also points out that she has left her ASRB post, and asserts that holding a hearing "serves no constructive purpose."

We disagree. Conducting a hearing is required by the very code that Ms. Reyering is accused of violating. Equally important, seeing the process to the mandated conclusion would serve the public interest in that it would offer guidance to other town volunteers and the community at large by answering the question: Was Ms. Reyering's email a violation of the ethics code?

If the Town Council doesn't address that question, it will open itself up to charges that the goal of the complaint and investigation was to get rid of Ms. Reyering -- meaning the process was a publicly funded $27,500 charade.

It also would give town volunteers and the public a mixed message: Some will argue that because the outside attorney supported some of the charges, the email violated the code; others will assert that because the council didn't complete the required process by making a determination, no violation occurred.

The claim that the process should be halted now because Ms. Reyering might not participate in the hearing is a hollow one. This matter, at this point, is about more than Ms. Reyering. Some have called it a witch hunt that turned the question of ethical behavior by elected officials and volunteers on its head. These critics have a right to be heard if they choose to address the council. This matter needs a resolution.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by ASRB Victim
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Feb 13, 2017 at 11:35 pm

Let's not forget that the FIRST accusations of an ethics violation, although extremely vague, were made by Nancy Reyering herself against Council member Peter Mason. Repeatedly.

Ms. Reyering has never bothered to substantiate those vague claims although she has repeated them in public several times, leaving them lying there where they continue potentially to damage Mr Mason's livelihood and primary business, that of being an architect.

The charges against Ms Reyering were carefully articulated and largely substantiated by a legal professional. That attorney's report was first published in this newspaper in the same article that described Ms Reyering's press release; the first public airing of this dispute. It seems fair to assume it was she who supplied the report to the press. So in almost every respect Ms Reyering has brought this entire embarrassing mess upon herself.

On the other hand, the charges Ms Reyering made against Mr. Mason have received no scrutiny whatsoever, especially from this newspaper. A major reason this looks "turned on its head" is because the Almanac repeatedly has failed to examine the details and validity of the claims made against Mr Mason. That's typical of the paper's bias in reporting on Woodside. Yet it has been tireless in repeating the publication of the charges against Ms Reyering.

So if we are to see this through as the Almanac suggests, the FIRST thing that should be done is examine the validity of Ms Reyerings claims against Mr Mason. The Almanac has somfar completely failed in that duty of fairness to both sides.



10 people like this
Posted by a woodsider
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Thanks to ASRB victim for calling out the issues so well.
It is time to move on and the Mayor is trying to do just that.


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