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Conflict of interest complaint filed against council member Foust over Saltworks project

Daily News, 4/19/12

A complaint against Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust’s call for an advisory ballot measure on the controversial Saltworks project has been filed with the state.

The complaint by Redwood City resident Marsha Cohen comes almost two years after Foust was warned by the state Fair Political Practices Commission to avoid participating in discussions or voting on the controversial mixed use development proposed on Cargill’s salt flats.

According to Cohen’s complaint to the same state agency, filed Tuesday, Foust has no business talking about the project because she is a paid executive of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, which has endorsed it.

“She’s using the bully pulpit of her position to put forward her opinions on this particular project, and she’s been warned about that,” Cohen said.

Cohen is a member of Save The Bay, an organization that has long fought against the 1,400-acre development, which originally envisioned as many as 12,000 homes, office buildings, schools, play fields and restored wetlands. The project developer, DMB Pacific Ventures, currently is revising the proposal.

During her nine-minute pitch at an April 9 council meeting, Foust said she believes the council should get the public’s opinion on the development before proceeding with an environmental study because the polarizing project is “overshadowing” other city efforts. “I come at this from a very pragmatic business decision,” Foust said Wednesday. “There are millions of dollars being spent on every side of this. And I’ve known the Cargill land owners for a long time and they’re an incredibly philanthropic company,” Foust said.

Foust said that in calling for a vote of the people she was not promoting the project and noted that she prefaced her comments by saying she was speaking as an individual.

“I’m not voting, I’m not advocating in any way,” Foust said.

In a July 2010 letter to Foust, the state commission wrote that the Political Reform Act “prohibits a public official from making, participating in making, or in any way attempting to use her official position to influence a governmental decision in which the official knows, or has reason to know, that she has a financial interest.”

The letter stated that it would not penalize Foust for any past actions, but warned that if she participates in any future decisions affecting the Saltworks development she could face fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

Email Bonnie Eslinger at


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