News

Menlo Park fire district incumbents face last-minute challengers

The board faces a retiring chief, growing traffic and the possible exit of Atherton from the fire district

The race for a seat on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board is heating up, with incumbents Virginia Chang Kiraly and Rob Silano facing a challenge by longtime former board member Peter Carpenter and Sean Ballard, who was the resident representative of the district's finance committee last year and the strategic planning committee in 2018.

Carpenter and Ballard said they are running because of board dysfunction and micromanagement, which they claim is stifling the district. The board "needs to be refreshed," Ballard said.

The fire district serves Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and surrounding unincorporated communities.

Peter Carpenter. Michelle Le

Carpenter previously served on the board for 16 years and retired in 2018. The current board has gotten "too deep in the weeds," which is causing projects such as fire station improvements and innovations to languish, he said.

"The purpose of the board is to provide broad oversight," he said. The board instead has haggled over smaller expenditures that hamper the district and the fire chief, rather than focusing on policy decisions.

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"What disturbs me is not that we are on a wrong course, but we've stopped moving forward," Carpenter said. He noted the board has deferred rebuilding Station 4 and Station 1. If he is elected, he wants the board to continue to execute a long-term strategy to rebuild fire stations and upgrade and diversify its stations, equipment and technologies.

The challengers see a board that micromanages to the point of hindering important and even economically sound decisions. The strategy of purchasing property adjacent to the fire stations for future growth is one example, Carpenter said. The district typically fixes up the homes and rents them out until starting fire station expansions. But at Station 77, the board has let a home languish for two years without so much as a coat of paint and won't let the fire chief take care of it.

"We're basically a trash landlord," Carpenter said.

Chang Kiraly said she agreed with Ballard and Carpenter on that issue. "We cannot micromanage," she said.

In July, the board wanted staff to get permission to redo the front counter in the fire station, Chang Kiraly said. She also wanted the district-owned house on Chilco Street to not look as blighted, but the board "voted on not going forward with a coat of paint," she said by phone this week.

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Silano took exception to the characterizations.

"We do not micromanage the chief. Our fire board president and our entire board work together. I do not understand what Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Ballard are referring to involving their criticism."

He touted the public safety credentials of the current fire board, saying that two board members are retired public safety managers with the combined experience of over 75 years. The board has a former CEO of a nonprofit, and two former financial administrators, calling it "a great combination to oversee a governmental organization," in an email.

Among the board's achievements are building a $45 million training facility and eliminating costly top division chief positions, Silano said.

But Chang Kiraly, Carpenter and Ballard said Chief Harold Schapelhouman is often hamstrung by the board. They said he has done a superb job, and replacing him will be difficult. To that end, a micromanaging board would be a liability in hiring and retaining a new chief. While that process could involve an internal search, it might also mean casting a wider net. Carpenter noted that in the past, hires from outside of the district didn't last long, but Schapelhouman, who has worked for the district for many years, brought stability.

Hiring a new chief is one reason why Chang Kiraly said she is running again.

"We need to have continuity and an institutional history" to choose the right chief, she said. She also supports involving public stakeholders, police departments and volunteer leaders in the process.

"The fire chief is the chief for the whole community and is the public face of the district and interacting with the public," she said.

The candidates said they want to work closely with the cities to make it easier to get permits to rebuild fire stations and to take part in the early stages of development proposals so traffic and other safety concerns will be addressed up front.

"The district does not have a seat at the table a lot of times," Ballard said.

Chang Kiraly agreed, saying neighboring cities should work with the fire district. "It comes down to: We have a say in building permits in terms of fire safety, but if cities really care about residents and the safety of residents, they should be working collaboratively with us."

Most concerning is the growing impact of traffic on emergency response times.

Silano said that traffic is a problem, and will remain a problem, but he disagreed that the district is being left out of development planning.

"All construction plans are reviewed by our staff. Any problem areas are addressed and are worked on by the chief and his staff. We are at the table with the communities we serve, working together."

Sean Ballard. Courtesy Jay Ackerman.

Regarding emergency response times, Ballard is for continuing to develop plans to shift equipment strategically, as Schapelhouman has done, to locations where the response times are the longest and communities are most at risk, in order to mitigate traffic congestion. A truck with a ladder capable of reaching the tops of tall buildings is located at Station 2 in East Palo Alto, for example, where it can reach tall buildings quickly in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, he said.

As people come back to work when the economy reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpenter said people won't be carpooling or using public transportation, and that could further impact emergency response times. Finding solutions to congestion will take creative thinking. There might need to be smaller but more plentiful stations where responders won't have to travel far, he said.

On board spending and transparency, the candidates also agreed. The district is very well financed and is sound, said Ballard, who chairs the district's budget finance committee.

Silano said that the current fire board is very transparent. "We have a balanced budget, strong reserves, and we pay down our CALPERS (California Public Employees' Retirement System) debt yearly. We could presently pay off our CALPERS with our strong reserves," he said.

The new fire stations, 2 and 6, were paid for from tax dollars set aside for them, and the Station 4 construction project has funds already set aside, Silano said.

But there's one looming concern that could deeply affect the district's bottom line: the town of Atherton splitting from the fire district, which some on the Atherton City Council are considering.

Separating Atherton "would never be allowed. It's contrary to state law," Carpenter said.

Ballard said he had great concerns about it. "It would be a significant blow for the district," he said. Atherton's property taxes are significant and losing that revenue would impact the district's ability to provide its standard of services.

"We're one fire district, we're one community, so I'm not for any detachment. We provide service to the highest and lowest income communities in the county," Chang Kiraly said.

Silano said the consolidation of fire services and public safety services makes more sense.

"No detachment, period. It's like a house of cards. One town withdraws, the entire public safety response system is affected in San Mateo County. It will take years to get the system up and running in an effective and operational way. The other communities in the fire district and San Mateo County will be damaged by (Atherton's) move to detach," he said.

All four candidates agreed that the district institutionally is well-prepared for emergencies, except where volunteer programs are concerned. The Community Crisis Management program needs a lot of work, they said.

"It is too big and does not address the representation of all the volunteer groups within our fire district. It is not a fair group. Many times, it does not share the volunteers, training and equipment with all the other volunteer groups," Silano said. "We need to do more to support all volunteer groups equally."

In turn, some cities need to provide their volunteer groups with support, and all of the district's communities need to find a way to tap into "this great resource of volunteers within our community," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Sean Ballard is chairman of the finance committee. He was the resident representative. Virginia Chang Kiraly chairs the committee.

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Menlo Park fire district incumbents face last-minute challengers

The board faces a retiring chief, growing traffic and the possible exit of Atherton from the fire district

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 4, 2020, 11:58 am

The race for a seat on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board is heating up, with incumbents Virginia Chang Kiraly and Rob Silano facing a challenge by longtime former board member Peter Carpenter and Sean Ballard, who was the resident representative of the district's finance committee last year and the strategic planning committee in 2018.

Carpenter and Ballard said they are running because of board dysfunction and micromanagement, which they claim is stifling the district. The board "needs to be refreshed," Ballard said.

The fire district serves Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and surrounding unincorporated communities.

Carpenter previously served on the board for 16 years and retired in 2018. The current board has gotten "too deep in the weeds," which is causing projects such as fire station improvements and innovations to languish, he said.

"The purpose of the board is to provide broad oversight," he said. The board instead has haggled over smaller expenditures that hamper the district and the fire chief, rather than focusing on policy decisions.

"What disturbs me is not that we are on a wrong course, but we've stopped moving forward," Carpenter said. He noted the board has deferred rebuilding Station 4 and Station 1. If he is elected, he wants the board to continue to execute a long-term strategy to rebuild fire stations and upgrade and diversify its stations, equipment and technologies.

The challengers see a board that micromanages to the point of hindering important and even economically sound decisions. The strategy of purchasing property adjacent to the fire stations for future growth is one example, Carpenter said. The district typically fixes up the homes and rents them out until starting fire station expansions. But at Station 77, the board has let a home languish for two years without so much as a coat of paint and won't let the fire chief take care of it.

"We're basically a trash landlord," Carpenter said.

Chang Kiraly said she agreed with Ballard and Carpenter on that issue. "We cannot micromanage," she said.

In July, the board wanted staff to get permission to redo the front counter in the fire station, Chang Kiraly said. She also wanted the district-owned house on Chilco Street to not look as blighted, but the board "voted on not going forward with a coat of paint," she said by phone this week.

Silano took exception to the characterizations.

"We do not micromanage the chief. Our fire board president and our entire board work together. I do not understand what Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Ballard are referring to involving their criticism."

He touted the public safety credentials of the current fire board, saying that two board members are retired public safety managers with the combined experience of over 75 years. The board has a former CEO of a nonprofit, and two former financial administrators, calling it "a great combination to oversee a governmental organization," in an email.

Among the board's achievements are building a $45 million training facility and eliminating costly top division chief positions, Silano said.

But Chang Kiraly, Carpenter and Ballard said Chief Harold Schapelhouman is often hamstrung by the board. They said he has done a superb job, and replacing him will be difficult. To that end, a micromanaging board would be a liability in hiring and retaining a new chief. While that process could involve an internal search, it might also mean casting a wider net. Carpenter noted that in the past, hires from outside of the district didn't last long, but Schapelhouman, who has worked for the district for many years, brought stability.

Hiring a new chief is one reason why Chang Kiraly said she is running again.

"We need to have continuity and an institutional history" to choose the right chief, she said. She also supports involving public stakeholders, police departments and volunteer leaders in the process.

"The fire chief is the chief for the whole community and is the public face of the district and interacting with the public," she said.

The candidates said they want to work closely with the cities to make it easier to get permits to rebuild fire stations and to take part in the early stages of development proposals so traffic and other safety concerns will be addressed up front.

"The district does not have a seat at the table a lot of times," Ballard said.

Chang Kiraly agreed, saying neighboring cities should work with the fire district. "It comes down to: We have a say in building permits in terms of fire safety, but if cities really care about residents and the safety of residents, they should be working collaboratively with us."

Most concerning is the growing impact of traffic on emergency response times.

Silano said that traffic is a problem, and will remain a problem, but he disagreed that the district is being left out of development planning.

"All construction plans are reviewed by our staff. Any problem areas are addressed and are worked on by the chief and his staff. We are at the table with the communities we serve, working together."

Regarding emergency response times, Ballard is for continuing to develop plans to shift equipment strategically, as Schapelhouman has done, to locations where the response times are the longest and communities are most at risk, in order to mitigate traffic congestion. A truck with a ladder capable of reaching the tops of tall buildings is located at Station 2 in East Palo Alto, for example, where it can reach tall buildings quickly in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, he said.

As people come back to work when the economy reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpenter said people won't be carpooling or using public transportation, and that could further impact emergency response times. Finding solutions to congestion will take creative thinking. There might need to be smaller but more plentiful stations where responders won't have to travel far, he said.

On board spending and transparency, the candidates also agreed. The district is very well financed and is sound, said Ballard, who chairs the district's budget finance committee.

Silano said that the current fire board is very transparent. "We have a balanced budget, strong reserves, and we pay down our CALPERS (California Public Employees' Retirement System) debt yearly. We could presently pay off our CALPERS with our strong reserves," he said.

The new fire stations, 2 and 6, were paid for from tax dollars set aside for them, and the Station 4 construction project has funds already set aside, Silano said.

But there's one looming concern that could deeply affect the district's bottom line: the town of Atherton splitting from the fire district, which some on the Atherton City Council are considering.

Separating Atherton "would never be allowed. It's contrary to state law," Carpenter said.

Ballard said he had great concerns about it. "It would be a significant blow for the district," he said. Atherton's property taxes are significant and losing that revenue would impact the district's ability to provide its standard of services.

"We're one fire district, we're one community, so I'm not for any detachment. We provide service to the highest and lowest income communities in the county," Chang Kiraly said.

Silano said the consolidation of fire services and public safety services makes more sense.

"No detachment, period. It's like a house of cards. One town withdraws, the entire public safety response system is affected in San Mateo County. It will take years to get the system up and running in an effective and operational way. The other communities in the fire district and San Mateo County will be damaged by (Atherton's) move to detach," he said.

All four candidates agreed that the district institutionally is well-prepared for emergencies, except where volunteer programs are concerned. The Community Crisis Management program needs a lot of work, they said.

"It is too big and does not address the representation of all the volunteer groups within our fire district. It is not a fair group. Many times, it does not share the volunteers, training and equipment with all the other volunteer groups," Silano said. "We need to do more to support all volunteer groups equally."

In turn, some cities need to provide their volunteer groups with support, and all of the district's communities need to find a way to tap into "this great resource of volunteers within our community," he said.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Sean Ballard is chairman of the finance committee. He was the resident representative. Virginia Chang Kiraly chairs the committee.

Comments

Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 4, 2020 at 10:32 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 4, 2020 at 10:32 pm
8 people like this

I appreciate the editor's correction noted at the bottom (remedying the initial text stating that Sean Ballard is "chairman of the district's finance and strategic planning committees") -- but I suspect some further correction of Mr. Ballard's title inflation is still required:

My recollection is that Mr. Ballard has indeed served as resident representative on the district's Strategic Planning Subcommittee (see: Web Link), but is it really true that he was also resident representative on the district's finance committee? A brief search doesn't find confirmation. At Ms. Dremann's convenience (with my respect for her excellent reporting, as always), perhaps she can find time to call the fire district to verify.

In any event, I particularly suggest triple-checking the additional claim, half-way through the article, that Mr. Ballard "chairs the district's budget finance committee", which sounds incrementally more questionable still.

These details become more important just before an election, when rather a lot of voters get swayed by (doubtful) credentials and titles. Again, I mean no criticism of Ms. Dremann's fine reporting: Sometimes, sources' claims just turn out to be inaccurate.


Anne
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:44 am
Anne, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:44 am
8 people like this

I thought it was against election rules for a candidate to serve on two overlapping districts in the same county?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:46 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:46 am
6 people like this

"I thought it was against election rules for a candidate to serve on two overlapping districts in the same county?"

Turns out a person can run for two overlapping districts in the same county but if elected to both that person can only be sworn into one of those offices. I f they are sworn into the first and then are sworn into the second they automatically are disqualified from the first office that they were sworn into.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:53 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:53 am
6 people like this

here is the law:

Pursuant to Section 1099, a person may not simultaneously hold two public offices if: either of the offices exercises a supervisory, auditing, or removal power over the other office or body, there is a significant clash of duties or loyalties between the offices, or there are public policy considerations that make it improper. The consequence of holding an incompatible office is that the person is “deemed to have forfeited the first office upon acceding to the second.” (Gov. Code Section 1099(b).) In addition, the California Constitution has provisions addressing the holding of two government positions.


Anne
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 5, 2020 at 10:19 am
Anne, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 10:19 am
5 people like this

Virginia Chang Kiraly serves on two boards and is running for two boards this November. They are Menlo Park Fire District and the San Mateo County Harbor District.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:33 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:33 pm
5 people like this

I thank Mr. Carpenter for _paraphrasing_ part of CA GOV § 1099. Without objection, I'll point out that he didn't quote it verbatim, nor link to it. Here is the law verbatim: Web Link.

This is a part of our legal framework I'm familiar with, because it's come up a few times since I started voting in 1976. The statute's criteria for what are "incompatible" offices are common-sense and explicitly listed, mostly involving pathological cases where one office or governmental body has the power to carry out personnel actions (e.g., hiring or firing) or audits on employees of the other office or governmental body. Alternatively, they're "incompatible" if there's a possibility of a significant clash of duties or loyalties, or public policy considerations make it improper for one person to hold both.

I'm curious if anyone can conjure up even a far-fetched imaginary situation in which a fire district wields such administrative powers over a harbour district, or vice-versa. I've just spent a good portion of my first cup of coffee trying to invent one, and so far my powers of imagination are failing me.

There might be a good science-fiction short story in such a scenario. ;->

I find nothing relevant in California's constitution. Mr. Carpenter might be thinking of CA CONS Art. VII Sec. 7, but that's about incompatible compensation from Federal or foreign government employment on the side. Our state constitution's infamously a bit of an overgrown mess, with thirty-five articles. Unfortunately, a bipartisan effort to rewrite it more clearly and concisely, some years back (cannily leaving the small controversial parts alone), was sunk by, of all things, signature-gathering firms.

In any event, I'm curious what provisions Mr. Carpenter has in mind.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:37 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:37 pm
5 people like this

From a complaint filed by Ullom re holding incompatible offices:

"13. Both Boards on which Defendant CHANG-KIRALY serves govern physical territory and
jurisdiction which directly overlap. (Exhibit C, D.)
14. Each Board on which Defendant CHANG-KIRALY serves has the statutory authority to
use eminent domain in fulfilling the needs of the respective district. (Health and Safety Code § 13861
(b), (c); Harbors and Navigation Code Section 6076.)
15. Each Board on which Defendant CHANG-KIRALY serves has the statutory authority to
pass laws and ordinances relating to public safety, welfare, the protection of property and life, and
anything else that the respective Board feels necessary within the jurisdiction of their District. (Health
and Safety Code § 13862 (b), (f); Harbors and Navigation Code § 6070.)
16. Each Board on which Defendant CHANG-KIRALY serves has the statutory authority to
initiate litigation, to sue and to be sued. (Health and Safety Code § 13861 (a); Harbors and Navigation
Code § 6072)"




Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:18 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:18 pm
6 people like this

I thank Mr. Carpenter for citing some of the statutory powers of the two special districts.

The part I'm still unclear about is what about those statutory powers he feels makes simultaneous office on both districts' governing boards legally "incompatible" within the meaning of CA GOV § 1099 (if that's indeed what he's suggesting). Part of the reason I Web-linked to the extremely clear, novice-accessible legislative wording is so readers can check its application. Perhaps Mr. Carpenter would care to attempt that? I did, and for whatever it's worth found nothing that matched the legislative intent.

Also, if Mr. Carpenter has time to specify what California Constitution provisions he was thinking of, that would also be appreciated.

Last, as an appreciative constituent, I wanted to thank Mr. Carpenter for his past service on the MPFPD Board. Although, come to mention that, it's striking that, to my knowledge, he raised no objection to Ms. Chang Kiraly's dual special-district service when she ran and served before, and prior to them becoming electoral rivals.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:26 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:26 pm
7 people like this

Rick - I am not a lawyer (and I don't think you are) so I leave deciding these issues to the experts. Nor is it my role to legally raise such an objection now or in the past since that can only be done by a member of the California Bar.

Here is my source:
Web Link

The danger is that if someone votes for a candidate who is then elected to what turns out to be an incompatible office then that vote will have been wasted. And I very much doubt that the issue of incompatibility will be resolved before Nov. 3.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm
5 people like this

Didn't Peter Carpenter fill out a complaint against Ms. Chang Kiraly for being on two districts? Hardly an unbiased person in this case. I followed another chain of comments in a different Article about the candidates and there were posts regarding Peter's record and the problems with the MPFPD while Peter was on the board. I will try to find that article and post it. I just remember Peter was making claims that he could not seem to back up.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm
6 people like this

I found the article:
Web Link

It is the comments that I found interesting. I would recommend anyone interested in this race just Google "Peter Carpenter Almanac" and read the articles that come up. They do not point to a person I want to vote for...


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:36 pm
7 people like this

"Didn't Peter Carpenter fill out a complaint against Ms. Chang Kiraly for being on two districts?"

No, I have not filed such a complaint but I have always been clear to Virginia that I felt it was inappropriate for her to hold both offices.

My opinion and the law are not necessarily the same.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:39 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:39 pm
8 people like this

" I would recommend anyone interested in this race just Google "Peter Carpenter Almanac" and read the articles that come up."


Web Link


Please do! I think you will find many endorsements and not a single contradicted statement of facts by me. Another poster attempted to use data to support his positions but failed to properly categorize his search terms.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm
6 people like this

Peter, I am indeed not a lawyer, just a long-time observer of local government matters who grew up around attorneys and respects their professional skills highly. (Having your mom haul a Fortune 50 corporation into Federal court in a wrongful death action over your father's demise will do that.) Speaking for myself, I regard a basic understanding of the law as the duty of all citizens (not something to punt to "experts") -- and also extremely useful in getting to the bottom of many claims about law and policy.

Please pardon me for needing to say this rather sharply, but the suggestion that only a member of the Bar may properly point out a (asserted) violation of the law is simply incorrect. Your odd qualifier 'legally raise' doesn't even change that -- aside from the fact that this isn't a court proceeding and doesn't need to be one.

Anyway, I still find it odd that nobody's been able to cite what about Ms. Chang Kiraly's office-holding can be creditably claimed to violate CA GOV § 1099, yet several people keep trying to suggest it anyway.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:40 pm
4 people like this

"
Please pardon me for needing to say this rather sharply, but the suggestion that only a member of the Bar may properly point out a (asserted) violation of the law is simply incorrect."

Rick - You are entitled to your opinion but here is what I was told by the Mark Church when I raised the issue with him:

"Whether the two offices are "incompatible offices" under California law is a nuanced legal question that is beyond the purview of Elections. If you have concerns about this issue, you may contact the California Attorney General pursuant to Section 1099 of the Government Code and Section 803 of the Code of Civil Procedure as it is the Attorney General's Office that is charged with enforcement of the prohibition against incompatible offices.

Sincerely,

MARK CHURCH
Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder
& Chief Elections Officer
County of San Mateo"

And I was then advised that such a complaint had to be filed by a member of the California Bar.

You ask the AG's Office and report what they tell you.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 4:42 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 4:42 pm
4 people like this

When Mark Church tells me that the issue is "nuanced" then I do "punt" to experts.

"Speaking for myself, I regard a basic understanding of the law as the duty of all citizens (not something to punt to "experts") -- and also extremely useful in getting to the bottom of many claims about law and policy."

Brian - Given your interest/skill why don't you pursue this issue?


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:17 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:17 pm
4 people like this

I wish to also commend Peter for his Web link to the Fair Political Practice Commission guidance page -- the one about holding two public offices without violating the CA Political Reform Act's prohibition against substantive conflicts of interest, and without violating CA GOV § 1099 prohibition against holding "incompatible" public offices. It's particularly useful that the page cites both relevant caselaw and administrative (regulatory) rulings.

In case people aren't clear on the "big picture", the Legislature passes primary legislation to establish state departments or agencies, thereby delegating quasi-legislative authority to enact administrative law AKA regulations within limits set by our Legislature's "enabling legislation". Regulations are thus also law, but subordinate to statute.

In this case, FPPC's page makes reference to some of its regulations and advice letters, on what public officials must do and avoid doing _specifically_. Examples cited are needing to avoid taking votes affecting your own position, never taking out contracts in which you have a financial interest, and not holding "incompatible" offices per CA GOV § 1099's definition.

I continue to see nothing even remotely suggesting the current example comes within figurative miles of violating state law.

And yes, obviously Mark Church is correct that there _can_ be nuances to CA GOV § 1099's application. That's not the question, but rather whether it is for a fire district board and a harbour district one. In my opinion, it suffices to read the statute's wording: It's not even close. It's not even in the same time zone as close.

Likewise, nobody asked what's required to file a legal complaint with the AG. The subject is what's the law. That discussion doesn't require punting to a member of the California Bar, and it seems evasive to pretend otherwise.

Last, Peter, as mentioned I'm definitely not a lawyer, but it's perhaps relevant that I'm a longtime Internet tech (DevOps) professional, and so know how to look up archived snapshots of former Web sites. Is the longstanding public claim here, that you endorsed Ms. Chang Kiraly's candidacy for dual office when she was running some years ago, correct?
Web Link

If that historical listing is correct, why would you have simultaneously endorsed that candidacy and also felt it to be inappropriate? Or do you mean that you used to think it was appropriate (albeit not "always") but later something caused you to change your mind? Some clarification would be appreciated.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:24 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:24 pm
10 people like this

I did endorse Virginia for the Fire District in the 2016 election to the Harbor Board while at the same time I told her that I felt that holding both positions was inappropriate. I anticipated that if she were elected that she would then resign from the Fire Board - she was elected to the Harbor District but did not resign from the Fire Board.

This year I am endorsing Keith for the Harbor Board and Ballard and Carpenter for the Fire Board.


Sean Ballard
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 5, 2020 at 6:21 pm
Sean Ballard, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 6:21 pm
3 people like this

Hi Rick, the article states that I am "the resident representative of the district's finance and strategic planning committees." I am currently the resident representative on the District's Finance Committee. I previously served, by appointment, as the resident representative on the District's Strategic Planning Committee. //SB


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 8:57 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 8:57 pm
4 people like this

Hi, Sean. To clarify, I certainly wasn't suggesting anyone was guilty of misrepresentation. Innocuous errors in these matters happen all the time. I merely suggested Ms. Dremann might check these matters with the district -- and my primary reason for writing was to call attention to the claim, mid-way through the article, that you "chair the district's budget finance committee", which sounded unlikely. Is that claim accurate?


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:01 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:01 pm
4 people like this

Rick - You ask the AG's Office and report what they tell you.
- Given your interest/skill why don't you pursue this issue?


Kit
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2020 at 8:48 am
Kit, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 8:48 am
3 people like this

[Post removed; please link to reliable sources.]


Sean Ballard
Registered user
Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:47 am
Sean Ballard, Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:47 am
15 people like this

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:43 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:43 am
3 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kit C
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:53 am
Kit C, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:53 am
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


Kit C
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:04 pm
Kit C, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:04 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed.]


Liz
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm
Liz , Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm
8 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:59 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:59 pm
8 people like this

First, I'm a little disappointed at the misbehaviour of a few commenters, here. In my view, we should remember that we're all neighbours, be appreciative of this forum Embarcadero Media (and Ms. Gemmet, Ms. Brown, and their capable and professional staff, such as Ms. Dremann) generously gives us, and respect people willing to serve us in public office, regardless of our partisan leanings.

Peter, I appreciate your suggestion I consult the Attorney General, but I truly, honestly cannot see a substantive concern under CA GOV § 1099 that merits official investigation. Just in case I missed something (errare humanum est), I asked under what plausible scenario the fire board and harbour board offices could be "incompatible" under the statute's criteria. Nobody's given a serious answer.

You quoted part of what looked like a legal filing from a firm or person named Ullom. (Was this part of a legal proceeding? Is the case history visible somewhere?) To be honest, that fragment looked a whole lot like legal crackpottery; one doesn't have to be a practicing attorney to spot those. That was the closest I've heard to an answer, and it was just a recitation of some of the two spacial districts' statutory powers, totally failing to address the criteria for "incompatible" offices.

I carefully avoided saying it all was a pile of humbug: The polite way to approach such things is to say "I'm still unclear about what about those statutory powers makes simultaneous office on both districts' governing boards legally 'incompatible' within the meaning of CA GOV § 1099", which is what I said, and then listen attentively to see if there's a real answer.

There hasn't been a real answer. So, absent a surprisingly compelling one arriving in a surprising Agatha Christie-like plot twist, I tentatively conclude the alleged issue is... not serious and not credible.

And I wouldn't chew up Xavier Becerra's time without something of substance. The man has a job to do.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park: Park Forest
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm
8 people like this

Rick - We are each entitled to our own opinion as are the voters when they decide whom to vote for with whatever uncertainty there might be about the incompatible office issue.


Liz
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Liz , Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:14 pm
8 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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