Menlo Park Fire Protection District board member Virginia Chang-Kiraly says she believes she was intentionally excluded from a recent district meeting she had requested with Atherton and San Mateo County officials, even though she is the district's appointed liaison to both entities.
At the end of the July 18 fire board meeting, Ms. Chang-Kiraly, who is serving her second term on the fire board, read a statement about her exclusion from the meeting and reminded the district's chief and board members "that every director's vote is equal. No single director is more important than another."
The statement also took exception to board President Peter Carpenter's recent public-records requests to the town of Atherton.
"The fire board has not directed anyone from the fire district or fire board to submit a PRA (Public Records Act) request to the town of Atherton, nor was the fire board put on notice that a PRA request was going to be filed by the fire district," she said.
"I understand the town and the town council will be viewing the board president as one-in-the-same as the fire board and fire district, which is unfortunate. Our fire board's collective goal should be that we will regain the trust of (Atherton) and the fire district constituents we serve," she said.
Mr. Carpenter filed the public-records requests as a fire board director, but later asked to have the requests "relabeled" to be from him as a private citizen.
After the meeting Ms. Chang-Kiraly said she has worked hard as the liaison with Atherton to try to repair the district's contentious relationship with the town but has been stymied by Mr. Carpenter's actions.
The July 17 meeting with county and Atherton officials had been set up after an earlier meeting between Atherton and fire district officials which Ms. Chang-Kiraly had presided over. "To my surprise, I, as liaison for both jurisdictions, was not notified nor invited to" the meeting, she said. "I'm not convinced this was a mere oversight or mistake," she said.
Instead, Mr. Carpenter and board member Rob Silano attended the meeting. (If more than two board members attend a meeting, the public must be notified in advance of the meeting and its agenda, which did not happen in this case.)
When asked by the Almanac why Ms. Chang-Kiraly was left out of the meeting, Mr. Carpenter did not answer but instead forwarded an email he had sent to Ms. Chang-Kiraly that says: "Virginia, I screwed up -- I thought Rob was the County Liaison and that is why I joined in this meeting."
The July 17 meeting, which took place behind closed doors at the fire district, came just days after Mr. Carpenter sent an email to a number of local reporters that complained about a similar meeting held in Atherton with Redwood City and Menlo Park officials.
"Why was the media excluded from this meeting?" Mr. Carpenter's email asks about the Atherton meeting.
• Related story: Peter Carpenter asks Atherton for years of public records.
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