News

Menlo Park City Council meeting canceled for mysterious reasons

City attorney says 'issues' came up that need further analysis

The Menlo Park City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 21, has been canceled, with little explanation as to why.

City Attorney Bill McClure told The Almanac in a written statement that "some issues came up end of last week/over the weekend that require some additional analysis and evaluation, so we decided to cancel the meeting since we don't have time to address by tomorrow night. We will be issuing an information item for next week’s agenda addressing those issues."

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton and Vice Mayor Ray Mueller said McClure told them there would be an explanation in the council's upcoming Aug. 28 agenda packet. Mayor Peter Ohtaki confirmed this.

"I wish we would have the meeting tomorrow, and don't know why there is a delay," Carlton added in a written statement.

“My understanding is the City attorney is working through a legal issue that arose late last week," Mueller said in a written statement. "Out of fairness to the parties involved, before providing comment, I will wait to review the City Attorney’s report out on the issue in an information item that will be attached to the August 28th City Council agenda packet," Mueller said in a written statement.

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The Almanac has not received further explanation as to what the issues are that caused the meeting's cancellation, and has requested further information and comment from McClure, all council members, and City Manager Alex McIntyre.

The council's entire meeting Aug. 21 was expected to focus on potential next steps for making improvements to the city's main and Belle Haven branch libraries.

The draft of a needs assessment for the Belle Haven library was recently completed, and the council was scheduled to discuss that report's finding and work on a plan to catch the Belle Haven branch library up to speed with research that has been done at the main library by conducting a space needs assessment.

The council was also expected to vote on a site for a new proposed main library. Staff has recommended the council select Laurel Street as the site of the new library, and that it include a large community room, which could double as City Council chambers. Staffers also recommended that the council direct them to start working on schematic designs and explore ways to fund future plans for the main library and Belle Haven branch library.

The city of Menlo Park has received an offer from billionaire developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga to help rebuild the main library, if the city comes up with the first $20 million for the project and covers its soft costs, estimated to be about $10 million.

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The proposal has been the subject of ongoing debate and controversy. Some say the city should accept the offer and figure out a way to raise the needed funds; others say that Belle Haven has greater capital needs for its library, and there are more pressing priorities when it comes to the city's funding.

McClure said the upcoming explanation will also include recommendations for when the matter should be rescheduled for council consideration.

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Menlo Park City Council meeting canceled for mysterious reasons

City attorney says 'issues' came up that need further analysis

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 5:44 pm

The Menlo Park City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 21, has been canceled, with little explanation as to why.

City Attorney Bill McClure told The Almanac in a written statement that "some issues came up end of last week/over the weekend that require some additional analysis and evaluation, so we decided to cancel the meeting since we don't have time to address by tomorrow night. We will be issuing an information item for next week’s agenda addressing those issues."

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton and Vice Mayor Ray Mueller said McClure told them there would be an explanation in the council's upcoming Aug. 28 agenda packet. Mayor Peter Ohtaki confirmed this.

"I wish we would have the meeting tomorrow, and don't know why there is a delay," Carlton added in a written statement.

“My understanding is the City attorney is working through a legal issue that arose late last week," Mueller said in a written statement. "Out of fairness to the parties involved, before providing comment, I will wait to review the City Attorney’s report out on the issue in an information item that will be attached to the August 28th City Council agenda packet," Mueller said in a written statement.

The Almanac has not received further explanation as to what the issues are that caused the meeting's cancellation, and has requested further information and comment from McClure, all council members, and City Manager Alex McIntyre.

The council's entire meeting Aug. 21 was expected to focus on potential next steps for making improvements to the city's main and Belle Haven branch libraries.

The draft of a needs assessment for the Belle Haven library was recently completed, and the council was scheduled to discuss that report's finding and work on a plan to catch the Belle Haven branch library up to speed with research that has been done at the main library by conducting a space needs assessment.

The council was also expected to vote on a site for a new proposed main library. Staff has recommended the council select Laurel Street as the site of the new library, and that it include a large community room, which could double as City Council chambers. Staffers also recommended that the council direct them to start working on schematic designs and explore ways to fund future plans for the main library and Belle Haven branch library.

The city of Menlo Park has received an offer from billionaire developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga to help rebuild the main library, if the city comes up with the first $20 million for the project and covers its soft costs, estimated to be about $10 million.

The proposal has been the subject of ongoing debate and controversy. Some say the city should accept the offer and figure out a way to raise the needed funds; others say that Belle Haven has greater capital needs for its library, and there are more pressing priorities when it comes to the city's funding.

McClure said the upcoming explanation will also include recommendations for when the matter should be rescheduled for council consideration.

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Comments

Silence
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm
Silence, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm

Any one else notice that neither of the library subcommittee members, Kirsten Keith or Rich Cline, are quoted in the article?


Block party
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:12 am
Block party, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:12 am

Potential brown act violation.


Lynne Bramlett
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm
Lynne Bramlett , Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2018 at 2:36 pm

When the library-related meeting is rescheduled, I would like to see a different approach. The cancelled meeting's agenda combined five separate issues into one agenda topic, which limits public input. Instead, each item should have its own agenda topic. I would also like to see agenda topics added to address the following questions:

1) Why do we need a new Main Library? (A new one might be a “nice to have” but why is it a “need to have?”)

2) Why should a new Main Library be MP’s highest spending priority? (With housing on top, and a new Branch Library added, the bond measure could be $100M or more.)

3) How does a new Main Library fit into current Capital Improvement Project priorities? (We want to evaluate these projects as a group and in relation to each other.)

4) The currently approved CIP projects do not include enough financial information, available to the public, to allow us to evaluate our overall CIP obligations. What are those financial obligations? (We also need the obligations for the CIPs on the “futures” list.)

The Main Library project has raised serious concerns as to how we make decisions in MP. After researching the topic, I’ve become convinced that MP would benefit from a community-based strategic planning process. Among other benefits, a strategic plan would reduce the influence of special interests in our decision-making process. So that we can have a healthy discussion on the topic, I hope that others will join me in reading “Elevating Trust in Local Government: The Power of Community Based Strategic Planning” by Rick Davis and Dan Griffiths.


No Longer Mysterious
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 23, 2018 at 11:12 pm
No Longer Mysterious, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 23, 2018 at 11:12 pm

Keith violated the Brown Act by asking Ohtaki to vote for the Library outside a City Council meeting, after she had already been talking to Cline.

"Uninentional" Brown Act violation is what the City Attorney called it? Kirsten Keith is a lawyer with eight years experience and we are to believe she doesn't know the rules?

Just another example of why Keith needs to go.


serial meeting
Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 3:35 am
serial meeting, Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 3:35 am

Actually, the report doesn't say that Keith asked Ohtaki how he was going to vote, but that she made a comment that she hoped he would support moving forward. That can still be considered a serial meeting. The report reads,

"Based on the investigation above, while it appears there was an unintentional serial meeting before the originally scheduled August 21 City Council hearing, there was no action taken nor any collective decision, commitment or promise by a majority of the City Council to make a positive or negative decision regarding the library improvements and therefore nothing to be cured and no criminal violation."


No Longer Mysterious
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 24, 2018 at 7:36 am
No Longer Mysterious, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 24, 2018 at 7:36 am

From the staff report:

"During their brief conversation on other topics not at issue,
City Councilmember Keith made a comment to Mayor Ohtaki that she hoped he would support moving
forward with the library system improvement projects. Mayor Ohtaki responded in a non-committal manner,
stating that he was not sure how he would vote Tuesday."

Kirsten Keith violated the Brown Act. A serial meeting is a violation of the Brown Act. Her conduct was illegal.

The staff report refers to her conduct as an "inadvertent" violation of the Brown Act:

"Staff recommends that the City Council reschedule next steps for Library System Improvement Project and
incorporate information regarding the inadvertent Brown Act violation into the agenda materials for the
rescheduled meeting."

Though the staff report calls the conduct inadvertent, the staff report describes a scenario that makes it sound like Kirsten Keith ambushed Peter Ohtaki with the topic:

"During their brief conversation on other topics not at issue, City Councilmember Keith made a comment to Mayor Ohtaki that she hoped he would support moving forward with the library system improvement projects. Mayor Ohtaki responded in a non-committal manner, stating that he was not sure how he would vote Tuesday."

Kirsten Keith is lucky Peter Ohtaki had the integrity to report the matter and respond the way he did.

Kirsten Keith must go.



Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 9:16 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2018 at 9:16 am

Hasn't Keith committed at least one Brown Act violation before?


Ferguson
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 24, 2018 at 9:31 am
Ferguson, Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 24, 2018 at 9:31 am

The last Councilmember to commit a Brown act violation was Ferguson. Voters promptly kicked her out of office.
They should do the same to Keith.


disclosure
Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 7:59 pm
disclosure, Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 7:59 pm

We could argue that any time a council member replies-all to the city council inbox, that is a Brown Act violation. Andy Cohen and other former council members have been known to send emails to the city council inbox, asking for then not to respond to respect the Brown Act, but that could also be considered a Brown Act violation. When a resident contacts a council member and inadvertently describes a conversation with other council members, that can certainly be a Brown Act violation.

In all of these situations, the resolution is to provide a disclosure before any vote. That is how the Brown Act works. In this situation, there was no collective decision, commitment or promise. The staff report provides this disclosure.


No Longer Mysterious
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 24, 2018 at 8:12 pm
No Longer Mysterious, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Aug 24, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Just read the article, not the spin from the troll trying to help Keith.


order of magnatude
Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 8:29 pm
order of magnatude, Menlo Park: other
on Aug 24, 2018 at 8:29 pm

During the DA's investigation, Fergusson chose not be interviewed as is her right under the 5th ammendment. This is a different situation.


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