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In The News

State ethics panel to investigate complaints against council member
Conflict­of-interest allegations follow Foust’s call for ballot measure on Saltworks

BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 5/17/12

The state’s political watchdog agency has confirmed it will investigate two conflict-of-interest complaints against Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust for asking her council colleagues to place an advisory measure on the ballot to gauge voters’ interest in pursuing the now-stalled Saltworks project.

The complaints, filed separately by two Redwood City residents, both note that Foust was warned by the California Fair Political Practices Commission in 2010 to refrain from using her position as a council member to influence any action on the project, which has been endorsed by the San Mateo County Economic Development Association that she heads.

State law “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,” Gary Winuk, the commission’s enforcement division chief, wrote to Foust in July 2010. His letter said Foust had violated state conflictof- interest laws by voting on May 24 of that year to proceed with an environmental review of the Saltworks project. She received a warning instead of a fine because the interim city attorney had advised her the vote would not violate the ethics law, according to the letter.

Marianna Raymond, who has lived in Redwood City for 18 years, filed one of the complaints and received a response on May 10 saying the matter would be investigated.

“Please be advised that at this time we have not made any determination about the validity of the allegations you have made,” Winuk wrote in his May 10 letter to Raymond. The state official sent the same letter to resident Marsha Cohen, who also filed a complaint.

Raymond, a retiree and Sierra Club member who opposes the development, said she felt it was important to put city officials “on notice” when it appears they have a conflict of interest.

“We can’t just let it go,” Raymond said.

Foust said “in no way” does she believe her comments at the end of an April 9 meeting violated the state’s conflict of interest law.

“I said I was speaking as an individual,” Foust said. “I didn’t see that I did anything wrong.”

After noting she was speaking as a private citizen, Foust talked for nine minutes at that meeting about why the council should consider putting a measure on the ballot that gives a description of the Saltworks project and asks voters whether they believe the council should keep it alive.

Developer DMB originally proposed to build as many as 12,000 homes, office buildings, schools, play fields and restored wetlands on 1,400 acres of Cargill’s salt flats south of Seaport Boulevard. But it withdrew the application earlier this month and said it would submit a new, scaled-back proposal based on public feedback at a later date.

 

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