Amid false rumors – some circulated on The Almanac's Town Square forum – that Menlo Park Councilwoman Kirsten Keith traveled to Galway, Ireland, last year with Facebook executives, The Almanac spoke with various people involved to find out what happened.
Various social media accounts from people who traveled to Ireland at that time showed photos from Nov. 24 and Nov. 25, 2017, of then-mayor Kirsten Keith, Facebook Director of Campus Development Fergus O'Shea, and Facebook Public Policy Manager Juan Salazar, each pictured separately with Ireland President Michael D. Higgins.
That they were all there at the same time was a matter of "happy coincidence," according to Menlo Park's then-housing and economic development manager, Jim Cogan, who coordinated Keith's trip. If Keith had gone to Galway earlier, as originally planned, she and the Facebook employees would have missed each other, Cogan said.
Keith traveled on her own dime to Menlo Park's "sister city," Galway, in November 2017, as previous mayors have done, as a demonstration of support for the official relationship between the two cities.
Keith's trip involved events and visits around Galway, which, she said, she tweeted about. Her Twitter feed from the time of the trip shows photos of activities like planting a tree at Galway's "Menlo Park Hotel," learning about Irish language and culture, and visiting City Hall.
She also attended an event in Galway on Nov. 23 for the unveiling of a bronze sculpture of Padraic O Conaire (1882-1928), an Irish writer and journalist. Ireland President Michael D. Higgins attended the event, as did the two Facebook executives.
Cogan told The Almanac he had learned, probably at a city meeting, that O'Shea and Salazar would be in Ireland at the same time as Keith. He noted that her trip was originally planned to be about two weeks earlier, but was postponed because the Galway government was working on its budget.
"I coordinated with folks in Galway to let the folks from Facebook attend," Cogan explained, referring to the unveiling ceremony.
Salazar said that he had been in Ireland for work meetings at Facebook's Dublin offices the same week Keith was in Galway. "We found out about the ceremony and decided to stop by," he said.
Keith told The Almanac that the ceremony was open to the public, and there were no meetings held with Facebook officials there.
"This trip had nothing to do with Facebook," she said. "It was organized through the city."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated since its original posting.