A group of commissioners who are often at odds and struggle to coexist are seeking professional help as the San Mateo County Harbor District looks to hire a facilitator.
This is at least the second time the special district that runs both Pillar Point Harbor in Princeton and Oyster Point Marina/Park in South San Francisco will be looking toward contracting a specialist. The San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury recommend it hire a mediator after being investigated in 2000 and 2001.
The commission is a diverse group and, as with their predecessors, sometimes have trouble effectively collaborating, said Harbor District General Manager Peter Grenell.
“There had been in the past some communication issues amongst the commissioners,” Grenell said. “They decided ‘well we need to try to basically communicate better and work better together so let’s see if we can get some assistance from outside.”
The board convened for a special meeting Wednesday, March 12 and interviewed two facilitators but, after a dispute as to why there wasn’t a third available candidate, it opted to postpone a decision and interview a third candidate. The commission intended to do so on Wednesday’s regular meeting, however, a packed agenda, lengthy closed sessions and with a majority refusing to extend the meeting past 10 p.m., it ended with the commission further delaying its decision to seek a facilitator.
Commissioners Sabrina Brennan and Jim Tucker agree it’s important for the board to work better together and seeking help seems to be the best way to do so.
“God knows that our board, as much as we think it’s good, we need help,” Tucker said. “I know enough to know I don’t have all the answers and I need help to do that.”
Brennan has advocated for seeking professional help and said she went through a helpful state special district program. But she is concerned to learn the last facilitation only entailed interviews with each individual commissioner and a final report no one can seem to find, Brennan said.
“I was thinking more in terms of board dynamics which means learning how to work together, with a group, building trust,” Brennan said. “I’d like to see us go from a dysfunctional board to a successful board.”
Yet, after Wednesday’s four-hour-long meeting, the board didn’t allot time to interview one of the candidates.
“The fact that we had somebody there waiting and we didn’t even get to them, it’s just awful,” Brennan said. “He wasn’t even allowed to speak to the board. That was just so rude and I’m embarrassed to be part of a board that treated someone like that.”
Tucker agreed he felt bad the board voted to end the meeting at 10 p.m. forgetting the candidate had been patiently waiting to speak.
“He drove from Tracy to Monterey to us just for that meeting, so I felt like a horse’s patootie,” Tucker said.
Tucker said he spoke with the candidate, Tracy Mayor Brent Ives, after the meeting and is now leaning toward hiring him because he too is an elected official and should understand the pressure the commissioners face. The other candidates for the facilitator role are former Belmont mayor Paul Wright and Catherine McCracken.
In other business, the commission voted to reinstate videotaping meetings after it was suspended, approved spending $274,515 to engage a consulting firm to create a strategic business plan and is looking at buying property.
Hiring a facilitator will likely be agendized at the commission’s April 2 meeting. The commission will then interview Ives and decide who it will choose.
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