Menlo Park: Anonymous ethics complaint filed against City Council candidate


The California Fair Political Practices Commission has received an anonymous complaint against Menlo Park City Council candidate Cecilia Taylor, FPPC spokesperson Jay Wierenga confirmed Oct. 10.

The complaint alleges that Taylor violated the California Political Reform Act by not reporting on her Form 700 that the nonprofit she founded, Belle Haven Action, received a $75,000 donation from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; the state requires candidates and elected and appointed officials to fill out a Form 700 to disclose sources of potential ethical conflicts.

The form requires only that the person filing describe the source of his or her income -- not necessarily where that income source derives its funds. In this case, Taylor reported that she received her income from UnaMesa Association for her work as founder and executive director of Belle Haven Action.

Taylor also indicated on the same form that she plans to step down from the position when a successor is found.

Belle Haven Action is a project of the broader nonprofit UnaMesa. The Belle Haven nonprofit does advocacy in the neighborhood and in the past has supported a campaign to rename Market Place Park after World War II hero Karl Clark, started a breakfast program for children who are bused to other school districts through the Tinsley program, and promoted safe routes to school for local children, among other projects.

Whether the omission of the Chan Zuckerberg donation from Taylor's form represents a conflict of interest is another question.

Menlo Park's City Attorney Bill McClure has already written a legal opinion stating that Belle Haven Action receiving a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative does not constitute a conflict of interest. "There is no direct impact on a source of income since Chan Zuckerberg would not be an applicant or affected by decisions, so the effects would not be foreseeable or material," he wrote in a statement to the City Council. "That being said, we would request an opinion from the FPPC to confirm this conclusion if she is elected."

A $75,000 grant would appear to represent a comparatively substantial amount of funding for the UnaMesa Association, considering its overall budget. According to federal documents the nonprofit filed in 2015, its single-year revenues totaled about $233,062. It's not clear what portion of Belle Haven Action's total funding the grant represented that year.

Wierenga explained that the FPPC receives a number of urgent campaign related complaints from around the state before elections, and indicated it's hard to say if the complaint will receive a response before Election Day. The commission typically evaluates each complaint to see if it has merit, he said. If it does, the FPPC launches an investigation.

Taylor was not immediately available for comment.


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24 people like this
Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 11, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

The article makes it clear that there is no conflict.
Taylor has worked with the City Attorney and the FPPC to answer & settle this allegation.
And by the way anonymous allegations don't merit public electronic or print space.
A credible complaint would have a real name behind it.

20 people like this
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 11, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Steve Taffee is a registered user.

An anonymous complaint. Unless there is a significant risk to the complainer of life or limb, this just seems to me to be an entirely political move to attempt to discredit Ms Taylor. The donation is old news and, as the story states, not a conflict of interest according to the City's attorney.

For more information on Belle Haven Action see their web site at: Web Link.

UnaMesa Association, website: Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Margo
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 11, 2018 at 9:44 pm

The fact that the issue was raised anonymously makes it highly suspect. Why would anyone cite this unless he/she had a political ax to grind??? If the person wants any credibility at all, he/she was reveal. Otherwise it's just mud slinging and we have enough of that in Washington. Don't begin that @$#$ in Menlo Park. Let's at least pretend that we are civilized people.

8 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 12, 2018 at 8:46 am

Brian is a registered user.

This does not seem to warrant the attention it is getting. Seems like a politically motivated desperation move. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not Facebook nor is it part of Facebook. The money was not given to her but to a nonprofit that she started. Anyone who thinks this is an issue didn't bother to read the article.

It is sad to see "dirty political tricks" in the local council election. There has been lot of misinformation being intentionally spread. I am just happy that the voters in this city are educated enough to see through the smoke screen that some people are trying to throw up.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 12, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Ms. Taylor should have reported it on her 700 form period. Conflict or not, either she is concealing it from reporting or just plain dumb. Easy form to fill out too. Either answer, gets a no vote from me.

Almanac wrote something factual and not politicial. Good for the Almanac.

6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 12, 2018 at 8:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Ms. Taylor should have reported it on her 700 form period."


The FPPC instructions are clear that such a financial relationship is NOT required to be reported.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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