State to Investigate Councilwoman’s Potential Conflict of Interest Regarding Saltworks Comments

The Fair Political Practices Commission stated that Rosanne Foust was to recuse herself from all Saltworks discussion while in her official role as a councilmember.

The Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) will investigate whether Councilwoman Rosanne Foust violated state law when she on April 9 regarding the controversial Cargill/DMB Saltworks project.

Two Redwood City residents, Marsha Cohen and Marianna Raymond, filed the complaints. The letter from the Commission acknowledging the filing from Cohen is attached.

“The facts are clear that she has continued to use her official position to influence a government decision while simultaneously holding a paid position,” Cohen wrote.

Raymond added, ““I feel regretful that I would even need to do this because I have a high regard for our councilmembers and all they do for our city. But part of good citizenship is being involved on a very, very big project. We have to be watchdogs over our public officials and make sure there is no impropriety of any kind.”

In 2010, the FPPC said in an advisory letter that Foust could not participate in any council discussions regarding the Saltworks project because of her paid position as President and CEO of the Sam Mateo County Economic Development Association (SAMCEDA,) which formally endorsed the project on January 19, 2010. Foust was not part of the endorsement decision at the time.

The commission said that Foust violated the conflict of interest clause of the Political Reform Act, which ensures that “public officials perform their duties in an impartial manner, free from bias caused by their own financial interests.”

However, because the Interim city attorney at the time advised Foust that there was no conflict of interest that she was warned and not fined.

At the April 9 meeting, Foust prefaced her comments during the Matters of Council Interest stating that she was speaking as an individual and not from her position as a councilmember.

“I don’t feel that I did anything wrong,” Foust said.

“But I respect the process and this gives me an opportunity to get my side out,” she said.

For nine minutes, she elaborated on the enormous impact the project has had on the community and ultimately suggested that the council place an advisory vote on the November ballot.

“I’m concerned because the project has been incredibly divisive in the community,” she said of the 1,436 acre development. “It’s overshadowing every single thing that we do.”

She said the advisory vote would include “a detailed project description listing all the benefits of the development” not simply a question asking the public “yes or no” on whether they support the project.

Raymond said that if Foust wanted to express her opinion like every else, Foust should have spoken during the public comment period for three minutes like all citizens.

“She gave herself a disclaimer saying that she was just a resident, but she was doing it in front of the room in an official capacity,” Raymond said.

The letter from the Enforcement Division dated May 10 states that Raymond and Cohen “will next receive notification from us upon final disposition of the case.”

“However, please be advised that at this time we have not made any determination about the validity of the allegation(s) you have made or about the culpability, if any, of the person(s) you identify in your complaint.”


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Aaron May 18, 2012 at 11:42 PM
see... didn't bother reading. Jumping to the defence of a friend is very admirable Ralph. We could all use more friends like Mr. Garcia.
Aaron May 18, 2012 at 11:44 PM
*twinkle fingers*
David Amann May 19, 2012 at 05:24 AM
It looks to me that those who filed the complaint would have been okay with Councilmember Foust's comments if they were limited to 3 minutes and if they were spoken 8 feet away at the public comment forum. To feel the need to file a formal complaint over 6 minutes is overkill in my opinion. I think a better and more humane course of action would have been a letter to the City Attorney and to editors asking Ms. Foust to make comments as an individual during public comment. It would probably accomplish 90% of what the filers intended and saved a fellow human being some suffering.
Eggbert May 20, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Mr. Amann, why would a polite letter accomplish what a state investigation and admonishment already had not? The six minutes is not the nut of the issue; that's merely symptomatic. Ms. Foust's clear disregard of state regulations - her apparently willingness to provoke action of any kind on an issue where her conflict of interest was well established - plainly goes well beyond the length of her comment alone. In fact, her transparent and near-laughable effort at disguise - "speaking as a private citizen" - indicates a disrespect for both state regulation and her own constituency. As she seemed willing to play both as patsies, we've moved out of polite letter territory and into that of potential state sanctions. As should be.
Sharon Levin May 21, 2012 at 03:56 AM
I must second what Eggbert says and thank Ms. Cohen and Ms. Raymond, for their actions. I do not go to City Council meetings, after dealing (or not being allowed to deal) with them regarding Schaberg Library, it just felt like an exercise in futility. Thank goodness for people like Ms. Raymond and Ms. Cohen who remain ever vigilant and make sure that government works as it should.


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