Redwood City Councilwoman Rosanne Foust
The Fair Political Practices Commission agreed Thursday to let Redwood City Councilwoman Rosanne Foust pay a $3,000 fine for violating its conflict of interest rules over the now-shelved Cargill Saltworks development by heading an economic group that endorsed the mixed-use plan.
Foust, who is president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, suggested at an April 2012 meeting that Redwood City residents through an advisory vote be asked if the city should scrap the stagnant Saltworks proposal or continue waiting for a new plan.
In its decision, the FPPC found that Foust “attempted to use her official position to influence a governmental decision in which she had a financial interest by proposing that the City Council place the Saltworks development project on the November ballot.”
Both Cargill Corporation and DMB Pacific Ventures, the Saltworks project proponents, were paying dues members of SAMCEDA. SAMCEDA, minus Foust, also endorsed DMB’s “50-50 Balance Plan” for retail, housing and open space on the former 1,436-acre Saltworks site just off Highway 101.
The FPPC could have rejected Foust’s settlement and headed to a full administrative hearing on the alleged violation but instead accepted the disposition after Commissioner Gavin Wasserman pulled the item from the consent agenda to question the connection between Foust’s position and any “reasonable foreseeable financial aspect.” He also noted that the case might have had an impact on other actions by other municipalities. The commission agreed that if the matter was disputed there would have been more interesting analysis but Foust stipulated to the facts.
Foust noted Wasserman’s comments and said elected officials throughout the state have jobs like hers that could be questioned but that don’t actually have any financial connection. She pointed out that the FPPC in its decision stated there is no finding that either she nor SAMCEDA actually ever financially benefited.
Foust said the Saltworks item was not on the agenda and the plan was on hold at the time she made her suggestion.
“The price of democracy for me was $3,000. It cost me that much to say that the citizens of Redwood City should have a vote,” Foust said.
A Redwood City resident filed the complaint with the FPPC in May 2012 about the same time Saltworks backers opted not to submit a new proposal.
The FPPC investigation was Foust’s second linked to her dual roles as SAMCEDA head and councilwoman. The FPPC warned Foust to abstain from Saltworks-related matters from that point forward. The FPPC also noted Foust acted on the counsel of then-city attorney Roy Abrams and issued her a written warning that future violations would carry up to $5,000 in fines.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102