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In The News

Official seeks counsel on conflict of interest claims

BY BONNIE ESLINGER
Daily News, 8/26/10

Redwood City Council Member Rosanne Foust said she is pursuing legal counsel following a state political watchdog agency’s conclusion that she should not participate in discussions about the controversial DMB Saltworks project because she has a conflict of interest.

“ I am in the process of seeking legal advice and an independent review on the scope of the Political Reform Act,” Foust said at a city council meeting on Monday She also recused herself from taking part in decisions this week related to the project.

In a July 28 letter, the California Fair Political Practices Commission said Foust had a conflict of interest when she participated in a vote to authorize an environmental review of the Saltworks project, due to her job as president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, or SAMCEDA, which endorsed the proposed development.

The state commission warned Foust that if she took part in future Saltworks- related decisions, she could face fines up to $ 5,000 for each violation. At the time, she said she was “ disappointed” in the ruling but would accept it.

Foust on Wednesday said she hired an attorney with her own money to review the state law, which requires public officials to stay out of decisions in which they have a financial interest.

The state commission noted that because the Saltworks developers are duespaying members of S-AMCEDA and others might join in the hopes of see-ing their projects advance under Foust’s council influence, the association’s rev-enue could increase due to additional membership fees.

Foust said she did not seek indepen-dent legal advice in an effort to restore her ability to vote on the Saltworks proj-ect.“ That’s a very narrow issue, it’s not the primary issue,” she said, declining to elaborate “ at the advice of my attor-ney.”

The Saltworks project calls for the construction of 1-2,000 homes, office space, stores, schools, parks and wet-lands restoration on 1,436 acres east of Highway 1-01. Opponents say the entire site should be restored as wetlands.

During public comment at Monday’s council meeting, a Redwood City resident asked whether Mayor Jeff Ira, Council Member Jeff Gee and a plan-ning commissioner had any conflicts of interest since they belong to the Red-wood City/ San Mateo County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber voted in March to endorse “ further study” of the Saltworks project.

Ira told the resident that the three city officials had recused themselves from the vote. In addition, a city staff member noted the chamber of commerce does not employ either the commissioner or the two council members.

The council on Monday, absent Foust, approved several contract amendments related to the environmental review of the Saltworks project.

 

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