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In The News

Foust won't participate in future Saltworks decisions

By Bonnie Eslinger, Staff Writer

Daily News, 7/31/10

Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust said Friday she would abstain from voting on any further matters related to Cargill's controversial Saltworks project, after being rebuked by a state political ethics agency for having done so despite having a conflict of interest.

In a letter to the editor, Foust wrote that she was "disappointed" in the California Fair Political Practices Commission's ruling but would accept it.

"Henceforth I will abstain from voting on issues related to the Saltworks Project," Foust wrote, adding in a subsequent e-mail to The Daily News that she would also recuse herself from discussions about Saltworks.

Foust did not respond to a request for additional comments.

As president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, which endorsed the Saltworks project, Foust had a conflict when she voted with all her council colleagues to authorize an environmental assessment of the proposed development, the Fair Political Practices Commission concluded.

In its July 28 letter to Foust, the 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."

Because the developers of the Saltworks project are dues-paying members of SAMCEDA and others might join

in the hopes of seeing their projects advance under Foust's council influence, the association's revenue could increase due to additional membership fees, the commission noted.

The commission said that although Foust had a conflict of interest, it wouldn't fine her because she acted on the advice of an interim city attorney. But it warned her not to participate in any future decisions affecting the Saltworks development, or face fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

The conflict of interest complaint against Foust was filed in June by Andy Cohen, a member of the Menlo Park City Council, which has voiced opposition to the Saltworks project. On Thursday, Cohen told The Daily News he considered the commission's findings "vindication."

Cargill and developer DMB Associates have proposed building up to 12,000 homes, as well as office and retail buildings, schools and parks, on 1,436 acres of salt evaporation ponds south of the Port of Redwood City. About 400 acres would be returned to wetlands, but critics contend the whole site should be restored.

E-mail Bonnie Eslinger at beslinger@dailynewsgroup.com.

 

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