When asked about the complaint and possible investigation by the D.A.’s office, most commissioners said they hadn’t been clued in.
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They had received a letter from the city attorney representative addressing the Sept. 19 meeting, however, said City Manager Steve Rhodes.
“I don’t know anything about complaint filed, absolutely have no comment at this point in time,” said Commissioner Clifford. “I absolutely have to wait to see and hear something more official.”
Commissioner Evans also said the complaint was news to him and he’d have to defer to the city attorney representative in commenting.
Commissioner Josh Gordon, the vice-chair of the Planning Commission who ran Sept. 19’s meeting in Campbell’s absence, said that if any violation occurred, he would do anything in his power to make it right.
“I’m a big believer in the Brown Act and all of the principles that underpin the Sunshine Laws (public disclosure laws),” he said. “And to the extent that there’s been any violation, I am in favor of doing anything in my power to cure it.”
Chair of the Commission Richard Campbell seconded Gordon’s sentiment that if a mistake was made, it ought to be corrected, even though he was not at the meeting. He also said that he believes the complaint to the D.A.’s office was politically motivated.
“To my understanding, to the extent that this was a Brown Act violation it was a minor violation and the complaint is to make the proverbial mountain out of the molehill,” Campbell said. “There is a contingent of folks out there still smarting over the loss of Measure L (which would have allowed the City Council to approve the construction of mixed-use residential and commercial developments in the Quarry) and they’ll stop at nothing to try to score political points on a minor issue like this.”
Commissioner Leon, who began the discussion at the meeting that led to alleged Brown Act violations, said he would not comment on the issue at this time.
Commissioner Langille did not return a phone call nor respond to an email, and Commissioner Mike Brown could not be reached.
Although Planning Director George White returned a phone call about the complaint, he could not be interviewed before publication.
There is no set of punishments for the commissioners if they are found to have indeed violated the Brown Act.
If the D.A.’s office investigates and finds that they have done wrong, then it might recommend that the commissioners “cure” any votes they made while violating the Brown Act. This would mean voting at an upcoming meeting to undo the votes made on Sept. 19 and declaring any testimony by commissioners at that meeting null and void.
After recent , this was the solution District Attorney Wagstaffe recommended and what the council ended up doing.
Consequences for violating the Brown Act can be more severe, however, as was evidenced when a Menlo Park City Councilmember .
Being that the Planning Commissioners are appointed by the City Council, that body could decide to, in essence, fire them from their positions.
It is also quite possible that the city will be sued if Stechbart and Wagner’s allegations are found to be true.
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