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Re: Brown Act Violation - Adding H-1-2 Motion to Oct 15, 2019 meeting without 72 hours notice?

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2019 10:05:31 -0700

CAUTION: This email originated from outside of the organization. Unless you recognize the sender's email address and know the content is safe, DO NOT click links, open attachments or reply.

Dear Council,

I didn't see my reply to the City Attorney in the City's email log, so I will resend. I'm not satisfied with the City Attorney's reply as the Staff Report on the Parks & Recreation Master Plan (PRMP) did not include even a suggestion of the offer. So essential action was taken on an offer via Council's comment on the PRMP. Some comments:

  * An essential aspect of the Brown Act<https://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/60873> is that agenda items include a: brief, general description” of items: sufficient to inform interested members of public of the subject matter so they can determine whether or not to participate. The public needed to be alerted, and have time to respond to the below aspects of the matter. There may be others:
     * The motion essentially approved the acceptance of Facebook's offer by forming a City negotiating team. In contrast, whether or not to accept Arrilaga's offer to pay for most of a new Main Library was a formal Council agenda item.
     * The public needed an opportunity to give input regarding the composition of the negotiating team. I believe that Mayor Pro Tem Taylor should have been part of the negotiating team motion. Otherwise, the City Attorney/City Manager are not required to notify her of all discussions, including between the City Manager/City Attorney when they are framing the formal discussions with Facebook. I also believe that the Chair of the Library Commission might also have been invited to participate. After all, what's the point of the Library Commission if not to advocate for the community in these discussions? The public needed to be able to give their ideas as to the composition of the negotiating team.

I also point out inconsistent interpretation of the Brown Act in City meetings. As an example, the Finance & Audit Committee has been told that they could not discuss a minor matter that logically extended from an agenda topic. Staff said that that would be a Brown Act violation and Staff closed off the discussion. The FAC resident members can supply the details. In short, what the FAC wanted to discuss was far more closely related to their agenda topic than the matter that I express concerns about. Yet the FAC was told that they could not discuss the topic. If it's okay for Council to take major action without notifying the public first, why was the FAC so limited?

Lynne Bramlett


On Fri, Oct 18, 2019 at 11:43 AM Lynne Bramlett <lynne.e.bramlett_at_(domainremoved)
Bill,

I am raising questions about the matter and I never once explicitly charged a violation. Please do not go beyond my direct words and use of a question mark in my subject line.

You have also not responded to the substance of my concerns.

Further, I think it is a stretch to say the topic extended from the Parks and Rec master plan where it was added as who negotiated the Facebook offer was an important enough topic to warrant 72 hours notice.

The Brown Act is also considered the "floor" and not the "ceiling" of open and transparent government. This is the minimum for required transparency and the public's right to know.

I also question our culture that would even consider not having direct representation from District 1 on the negotiating team.

Lynne



On Fri, Oct 18, 2019, 10:35 AM William L. McClure <wlm_at_(domainremoved)
Council – In reply to Ms. Bramlett’s email below alleging a Brown Act violation, there was no Brown Act violation in providing direction to the City Manager and the City Attorney to work with Facebook to bring back an agreement or framework for an agreement for future council consideration. This was brought up in the context and under the agenda item for the parks and recreation facilities master plan. Clearly the facility that FB is proposing to build and donate to the city falls within what was outlined in the master plan and it was clear from the staff report and item that the council would be providing direction – the council is not limited in the direction that can be given under such an agenda item. The motion passed by the council does not commit or bind the city to move forward with anything other than discussions with FB. The council can provide additional or different direction at any time and if it desires to do so and can agendize this again for a future meeting if the council would like to reconsider the direction provided. Regards, Bill

From: Lynne Bramlett <lynne.e.bramlett_at_(domainremoved)
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2019 10:17 AM
To: City Council <city.council_at_(domainremoved)
Cc: Lynne E Bramlett <lynne.e.bramlett_at_(domainremoved)
Subject: Brown Act Violation - Adding H-1-2 Motion to Oct 15, 2019 meeting without 72 hours notice?


CAUTION: This email originated from outside of the organization. Unless you recognize the sender's email address and know the content is safe, DO NOT click links, open attachments or reply.
Dear Council,

I was surprised to watch your Oct 15, 2019 Council meeting and see the below agenda item added without the public being given 72 hours notice. The topic is not listed in the original <https://www.menlopark.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/ArchivedAgenda/_10152019-1735> or the amended<http://menlopark.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=menlopark_47b2110cc7229f08af6ff14bf7e95d6c.pdf&view=1> Oct 15 Council Agenda. Both are posted here<https://www.menlopark.org/AgendaCenter/PreviousVersions/_10152019-3343>. I only see the topic in the agenda that is linked to the video of the meeting. <https://menlopark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=2112>
H1-2. MOTION: 4. Authorize staff (City Manager & City Attorney) to work with Facebook to prepare an agreement for Council approval outlining the parameters, process, including community engagement. etc. of Facebook’s offer to build a Multigenerational Comm

The public should have been given 72 hours to know about this topic, so they had time to prepare comments as to who should be on the negotiating team. I listened to Mayor Mueller's justification for adding the topic (i.e. that Staff wanted to move quickly). However, Council didn't need to make a motion to have a team of Staff/District 1 Representation/Facebook to start preliminary discussions. Unless I am missing something, I believe the lack of 72-hour notice violated the Brown Act. <https://www.cacities.org/Member-Engagement/Professional-Departments/City-Attorneys-Department/Publications/Open-Public-IV_-A-Guide-to-the-Ralph-M-Brown-Act-(.aspx>

I request that the Mayor reschedule this topic for the October 29th Council meeting and that the Oct 15 motion be rescinded. Between now and then,District 1 Council Member Taylor should be present at all meetings with Facebook regarding their offer. There is no reason why the H1-2 motion needed to be rushed through at the Oct 15, 2019 meeting so that the City Manager and City Attorney could be the "official" negotiating team. To repeat my prior point, preliminary talks could have begun without the Motion. To me, the purpose of the motion was to restrict the participation to the City Attorney and City Manager, and to formally exclude District 1 Council Member Taylor, or her delegate, as a direct member of the negotiating team. The rushed motion also perpetuates a toxic status quo" in Belle Haven that residents find objectionable. They want a direct seat at the decision-making table, and to have a direct role in City decisions affecting their day-to-day lives.

Keeping Council member Taylor informed as to the City Manager and City Attorney's negotiations with Facebook is not enough. That is no substitute for a direct seat at the negotiating table where she can hear the discussion and speak up directly. Council Member Taylor lives in Belle Haven and knows her district whereas the City Manager and City Attorney (unless they have moved recently) do not live in Belle Haven. As Sheryl Bims so eloquently details in her letter<http://ccin.menlopark.org/att-20633/Building_Community_Together_10-15-19docx.pdf> to council, this project should move forward with the community playing an active role in all aspects. It's more than time for a change in the local government culture in Menlo Park and the Facebook offer could be a big step forwards towards that change. Like Ms. Bims, I also I commend Facebook for recognizing a true need in the community and the way that they first went to the Belle Haven Community to make their offer. I appreciate their approach and that they realize that the Belle Haven residents have stated that they want their new Branch Library at the Onetta Harris Center.

I certainly hope that someone from Facebook is reading this email and that Facebook will not allow negotiations without adequate representation from District 1. Facebook, please stand up for the rights and preferences of the District 1 residents who are bearing the burden of the downside of your extensive presence in Menlo Park. Please insist that Council Member Taylor is part of any meetings on this topic pending Council's re discussion of this matter.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Fri Oct 25 2019 - 13:16:09 PDT

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