News

Woodside agrees to settle ethics code case

Town resident and volunteer to receive $35,000 for legal costs

The Woodside Town Council on Tuesday (Nov. 14) voted unanimously, with one council member absent and two recused, to approve a settlement with resident and town volunteer Nancy Reyering in a town ethics code case.

The council agreed to pay her $35,000 for legal fees she incurred in defending herself in 2016 against allegations that she had violated the town's ethics code.

As part of the settlement, the town agreed to a restart a process to "evaluate and make recommendations to improve the town's ethics guidelines and procedures."

The payment of Ms. Reyering's legal fees, when added to the estimated $33,384 cost to the town of investigating her over the ethics code allegations, brings the town's total cost for this matter to at least $68,384.

Mayor Tom Livermore and council members Anne Kasten, Dave Tanner and Daniel Yost voted for the agreement, the mayor said in reporting on the decision, which was made in closed session. Councilmen Peter Mason and Chris Shaw recused themselves and Councilwoman Deborah Gordon was absent, Mr. Livermore said.

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A federal lawsuit

Ms. Reyering's attorneys had prepared a federal lawsuit that named the town, Mayor Livermore and his predecessor as mayor, Ms. Gordon, as defendants, claiming violations of her constitutional rights to free speech.

At issue were comments Ms. Reyering made as a member of the town's architectural review board to the planning director and other board members concerning a residential design project that was coming before the board.

Ms. Reyering noted in a May 2016 email that the project's architect was Mr. Mason, a member of the Town Council, and said the applicant should refrain from the common practice of asking for exceptions to regulations and design guidelines in light of Mr. Mason's role on the council in forming those regulations and guidelines.

Ms. Reyering's email led former mayor Dave Burow to, eventually, file an ethics complaint against her, leading to a months-long investigation by an outside attorney at a cost to the town of at least $33,384, according to one of Ms. Reyering's attorneys.

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The investigation by the outside attorney included a recommendation that five of nine allegations against Ms. Reyering be sustained: unequal treatment of Mr. Mason, personally attacking Mr. Mason, reaching a conclusion about a project before hearing testimony and before a public meeting had been held, and failing to maintain "a positive and constructive working environment," as the code requires.

Facing a hearing before the council, which the current ethics code requires to determine whether violations had occurred, Ms. Reyering allowed her term on the board to expire in early February 2017 and informed the mayor that she would not apply for reappointment.

The council, rather than determining whether violations had occurred, voted 4-0 to follow a recommendation by Mayor Livermore to take "no further action." In that decision, Council members Mason, Dave Tanner and Anne Kasten were absent.

Councilman Shaw, who recused himself from the settlement decision, was not a party to the ethics code matter but had run a write-in campaign in the fall of 2015 contesting Ms. Reyering's otherwise uncontested bid for a seat on the Town Council. Mr. Shaw won the seat with 53.1 percent of the vote.

Mr. Burow, at the time a council member, contributed about $960 toward a mass mailing in support of Mr. Shaw's campaign.

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Woodside agrees to settle ethics code case

Town resident and volunteer to receive $35,000 for legal costs

by Dave Boyce / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 15, 2017, 11:50 am

The Woodside Town Council on Tuesday (Nov. 14) voted unanimously, with one council member absent and two recused, to approve a settlement with resident and town volunteer Nancy Reyering in a town ethics code case.

The council agreed to pay her $35,000 for legal fees she incurred in defending herself in 2016 against allegations that she had violated the town's ethics code.

As part of the settlement, the town agreed to a restart a process to "evaluate and make recommendations to improve the town's ethics guidelines and procedures."

The payment of Ms. Reyering's legal fees, when added to the estimated $33,384 cost to the town of investigating her over the ethics code allegations, brings the town's total cost for this matter to at least $68,384.

Mayor Tom Livermore and council members Anne Kasten, Dave Tanner and Daniel Yost voted for the agreement, the mayor said in reporting on the decision, which was made in closed session. Councilmen Peter Mason and Chris Shaw recused themselves and Councilwoman Deborah Gordon was absent, Mr. Livermore said.

A federal lawsuit

Ms. Reyering's attorneys had prepared a federal lawsuit that named the town, Mayor Livermore and his predecessor as mayor, Ms. Gordon, as defendants, claiming violations of her constitutional rights to free speech.

At issue were comments Ms. Reyering made as a member of the town's architectural review board to the planning director and other board members concerning a residential design project that was coming before the board.

Ms. Reyering noted in a May 2016 email that the project's architect was Mr. Mason, a member of the Town Council, and said the applicant should refrain from the common practice of asking for exceptions to regulations and design guidelines in light of Mr. Mason's role on the council in forming those regulations and guidelines.

Ms. Reyering's email led former mayor Dave Burow to, eventually, file an ethics complaint against her, leading to a months-long investigation by an outside attorney at a cost to the town of at least $33,384, according to one of Ms. Reyering's attorneys.

The investigation by the outside attorney included a recommendation that five of nine allegations against Ms. Reyering be sustained: unequal treatment of Mr. Mason, personally attacking Mr. Mason, reaching a conclusion about a project before hearing testimony and before a public meeting had been held, and failing to maintain "a positive and constructive working environment," as the code requires.

Facing a hearing before the council, which the current ethics code requires to determine whether violations had occurred, Ms. Reyering allowed her term on the board to expire in early February 2017 and informed the mayor that she would not apply for reappointment.

The council, rather than determining whether violations had occurred, voted 4-0 to follow a recommendation by Mayor Livermore to take "no further action." In that decision, Council members Mason, Dave Tanner and Anne Kasten were absent.

Councilman Shaw, who recused himself from the settlement decision, was not a party to the ethics code matter but had run a write-in campaign in the fall of 2015 contesting Ms. Reyering's otherwise uncontested bid for a seat on the Town Council. Mr. Shaw won the seat with 53.1 percent of the vote.

Mr. Burow, at the time a council member, contributed about $960 toward a mass mailing in support of Mr. Shaw's campaign.

Related story: Volunteer says Woodside's ethics probe violated her constitutional rights

Comments

John
Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Nov 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm
John, Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Nov 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm

One final shakedown for us Woodsiders!


Taxpayer
Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm
Taxpayer, Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Mr. Burrows and his cronies continue to cost the Town of Woodside not just money but [Part removed. Please don't use Town Square for personal attacks.]

It is distressing that the taxpayers must pay the cost for the town councils poor judgments and lack of ethics. How many more times will the residents have to bail the council out. Where was the town manager and town attorney, to stop this from getting to this point? They should held be responsible for their lack of doing their good diligence to stop this. Will the town residents ever know the real cost of the settlement?

I wonder how many more times taxpayers of Woodside will be expected to cover our council’s poor decisions.

Thank you to Ms. Reyering for her courage to fight the bullies on the town council, not just for her but also for all of us.



Rick
Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm
Rick, Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Dear “Taxpayer”: I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you for your comments.


Old Time Woodsider
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:18 am
Old Time Woodsider, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2017 at 7:18 am

When someone lodges a formal ethics complaint against an official whether staff, elected or appointed the Town Council has an obligation to investigate it.

Perhaps you would prefer they ignore it or bury the complaint?

This all started because an ASRB member made some inappropriate comments that went beyond the scope of her review. She was counseled not to do that. And she did it again. And again.


awatkins
Registered user
Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Nov 16, 2017 at 9:06 pm
awatkins, Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Further to Old Time Woodsider’s correct rendition of the history, the claim Reyering made that her free speech rights were violated is further proof of her utter lack of understanding of her role in town government. Anyone who becomes a part of government immediately give up their right to free speech *in connection with their role*. The easiest example is the Brown act, which forbids varios kinds of communication among members of government.

Town government could not function without this kind of free speech restriction since it requires discretion about in-process matters that are before the boards and the council. This should be obvious to anyone with common sense. Reyering egregiously violated her duty of care in the way she spoke about council members themselves and about issues before the ASRB, and was caught “talking out of turn” several times. This is all well-documented.

Her use of the free speech argument is preposterous, and really nothing but a successful extortion of the town government.

That being said, the council at that time was not blameless. They knew she was a notoriously destructive member of the ASRB, and (at least briefly) they had the power to remove her from the ASRB, but took no action. They needed to supervise the various boards (ASRB and Planning commision being the worst offenders) to make sure those bodies are behaving. ASRB was a hotbed of citizen abuse at that time.

That being said, getting Reyering out of town government for $60,000+ would have been a bargain at twice the price. It needed to be done. It is unfortunate that it took such a painful process to achieve the required result but the result is that we have a much healthier ASRB.


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