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Menlo Park fire district candidates say race hinges on micromanagement versus progress

Original post made on Sep 4, 2020

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 4, 2020, 11:58 AM

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Comments (33)

8 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 4, 2020 at 10:32 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


6 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:44 am

Anne is a registered user.

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


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"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.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:53 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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.


5 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 5, 2020 at 10:19 am

Anne is a registered user.

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.


5 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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)"




6 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:18 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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.


5 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Brian is a registered user.

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.


6 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm

Brian is a registered user.

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...


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"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.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 2:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" 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.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:32 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 3:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"
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.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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?


4 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:17 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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.


3 people like this
Posted by Sean Ballard
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 5, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Sean Ballard is a registered user.

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


4 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 5, 2020 at 8:57 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 5, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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


3 people like this
Posted by Kit
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2020 at 8:48 am

Kit is a registered user.

[Post removed; please link to reliable sources.]


15 people like this
Posted by Sean Ballard
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 6, 2020 at 9:47 am

Sean Ballard is a registered user.

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:43 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Kit C
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 6, 2020 at 10:53 am

Kit C is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Kit C
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:04 pm

Kit C is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Kit C
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks

on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:13 pm

Kit C is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Posted by Kit
a resident of Menlo Park: other

on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:24 pm

Kit is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


Posted by Liz
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood

on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Liz is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.


8 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:29 pm

Liz is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


8 people like this
Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Sep 6, 2020 at 1:59 pm

Rick Moen is a registered user.

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.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

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.


7 people like this
Posted by Liz
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2020 at 2:14 pm

Liz is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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