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City Attorney's Pay Raise, Role & Related

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Mon, 11 Mar 2019 17:12:44 -0700

Hello Council,

I'm writing about your closed door session to evaluate the City Attorney. I
see from this staff report
<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/20843/F1---20190312-City-Atty-agree-amend-SR-CC?bidId=>
that you plan to give him a raise and maybe even a bonus later. (This
report wasn't linked to the public notice of the Closed Door session. I
think these kinds of reports should be linked to the agenda topic so the
public can be more informed. I had to search for the report.)

During your last closed session, I raised some concerns and suggestions
pertaining to the City Attorney's role. The City Attorney's upcoming
retirement in the next year (or so) offers MP an opportunity to consider
role changes. I said I would follow up to put my verbal input into writing.
My comments:

1) When the City Attorney retires, I think the job should be posted and a
broad search conducted. I would not just appoint the Assistant City
Attorney into the role. That could lead to maintaining the Status Quo in MP
and also limit our possibilities. You've already received or heard concerns
about the MP hiring practices of just appointing people into key roles and
the need for posted requisitions. I agree with these concerns.

2) The City Attorney's role seems to focus on serving the "City." The
"City" in practice seems to mean staff and MP's financial interests. Our
City Attorney's upcoming retirement offers Council the opportunity to
revise the role into a more proactive one, and one that focuses more on
serving the public good or the residents of Menlo Park. I suggest that the
City Attorney's office develop a Strategic Plan
<https://www.cacities.org/Member-Engagement/Professional-Departments/City-Attorneys-Department/Documents/Strategic-Planning-for-City-Attorneys-pdf.aspx>
with
goals related to promoting the integrity of the City and preserving the
public's trust. I like the Portland City Attorney Office Strategic Plan
<https://www.portlandoregon.gov/attorney/article/581493>Goal #4: To Ensure
Accountability for Good Stewardship of Public Resources and Compliance with
Law. An evolved role for our City Attorney's office offers MP an
opportunity to help our local government to move towards a robust culture
of ethics -- to prevent or minimize the risk of corruption scandals that
have occured in smaller cities that typically have inadequate or limited
transparency, oversight and accountability. A City Attorney Strategic Plan
also offers a way to evolve the role into one more aligned with overall
City priorities. The Denver example
<https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/728/documents/Peak_Performance/CityAttorney/City%20Attorney%20Strategic%20Plan%202013.pdf>illustrates
this idea as also does the Tacoma
<https://cms.cityoftacoma.org/finance/budget/2017-2018/Perf_Measures/Q2.2017.Report.pdf>example.
There are other online examples.

3) MP has about 50 Public/Private Partnerships according to the City
Attorney. He made this remark during the candidates' forum held before our
last City Council election. However, I can find no overall list with the
specifics for each deal. The public has a right to know at least snapshot
information for each public/private partnership. Right now, we have no way
of evaluating if these partnerships are actually benefiting the public
good. Any time financial information is not supplied, there is great
potential for mismanagement or actual corruption. The specifics are needed
so the public can determine if these public/private partnership deals are
actually serving the public good. The City Manager and Council also needs
the details so you can be informed. The City Attorney seems to be the
person with the most historical knowledge of these deals. So, I suggest
that he and his office start documenting these deals into a written record
in a table format that would, at minimum, include: Name of Private
Agency/Company, Contact information, Original Date of Deal and Last
Revision, Overview of Deal, Financial Details, Lead MP staff member who
negotiated the deal/is responsible for deal. There will be blanks or
missing information that can be added later. Just starting to get written
details down would be a most helpful start.

Compliance with the laws of our land is also considered the minimum
threshold of ethics. I've written the City Attorney about possible MP
non-compliance with laws, but I've not gotten a formal response based on
his investigation. When the public brings notice of broken laws to the City
Attorney, we deserve a response. I think it's important that our Council
members and staff follow the law. Unfortunately, my lack of getting a
response to legitimate concerns sends a troubling message to me about the
MP culture and the role of our City Attorney regarding residents. For the
record, I've written the City Attorney about:

A) California Laws
<http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=EDC&division=1.&title=1.&part=11.&chapter=5.&article=2.>governing
Muncipal Libraries. I've written to ask if he thinks the role of the MP
Library Commission needs to change to conform to California law. I first
wrote at the request of the Library Commission when I was still serving as
a Library commissioner. I have yet to get a response.
B) Misuse of Public Resources. I wrote and then met with the City Attorney
regarding a misuse of public resources that I inadvertedly learned about. I
had ample evidence. All I wanted was the practice stopped, more
ethics-related training and an easy-to-refer manual such as an example from
the City of LA. I even offered to write the draft of the manual. The Deputy
Director of the City of LA's ethics Commission also told me verbally that
MP could leverage any of the LA ethics-related materials. (My background
includes public relations and marketing communications at a major computer
company, and you could consider me a professional writer of business
materials. I could certainly write the draft.) However, I never heard back
from the City Attorney with the outcome of his investigation of the matter.
C) Ticket Distribution Policy. <http://ccin.menlopark.org/19619.html>The
FPPC requires one and I don't believe that MP has the required policy. I've
never heard back in response to my email on the topic.
D) Concentration of Affordable Housing in Belle Haven. District 1 has a
pronounced concentration of affordable housing. The evidence is more than
there. Many members of the public continue to voice concerns about the
concentration. According to my research, this concentration violates the
Fair Housing Law and is putting MP at risk of a potential lawsuit. More
importantly, we need to follow the law, comply with the reasons behind the
law and work to spread affordable housing fairly across all of MP. I have
yet to hear a response from the City Attorney's office regarding steps MP
is taking to follow the Fair Housing Law.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Mon Mar 11 2019 - 17:09:19 PDT

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