Redwood City Councilman Jeff Gee’s participation in votes pertaining to two Stanford University development projects are currently under review after a complaint filed Jan. 5 alleged his relationship with his employer and general contractor for one of the projects, Swinerton Builders, presents a potential conflict of interest.
Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the Fair Political Practices Commission, confirmed the commission’s enforcement division has opened an investigation of the filing, whose author has chosen to remain anonymous.
Self-identified as a Redwood City resident, the author alleged Gee’s votes to approve a parking garage for the Stanford Health Clinic at 420 to 450 Broadway on Nov. 28, 2016, and to deny an appeal of the first phase of the Stanford in Redwood City project planned for 405, 425, 475, 500-585 Broadway and 1228 Douglas Ave. on Dec. 12, 2016, gave him an opportunity to benefit financially because Swinerton Builders, his employer, had applied and received approval for building permits for the Stanford Health Clinic parking garage as early as Aug. 10, 2016, just days before it was approved by the Planning Commission on Aug. 16, 2016. Permitting documents and minutes from the Nov. 28 and Dec. 12 City Council meetings included in the author’s filing indicate that in 2016 Swinerton was approved for work at the site and that Gee voted on these issues.
“I feel that with the specific insight into the progress and requests for this project that Councilmember Gee possesses, he is not only benefiting financially but also has an inside edge to bidding on the work proposed at the site for his company, thus creating an unfair advantage over other potential bidders of the projects as they arise,” the author wrote in the filing.
Bordered by Douglas Avenue and Second Avenue on the north and south and Bay Road and Highway 101 on the east and west, the two developments occupy acres of space in what was previously an industrial area on the east side of the city. The new Stanford campus is expected to bring 2,400 employees to the area and demolition is currently underway at the site.
The author alleged that by not finding instances where Gee recused himself from key decisions related to Stanford University’s plans to build facilities in the city since the university began working with the city to plan them in 2008, his participation in these votes presents a violation of Section 87100 the state’s Political Reform Act, which states: “No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.”
Gee said he was informed by the FPPC that the complaint was filed and is ready to fully cooperate with the commission should they contact him in the future.
“I take my role as an elected official very seriously, and follow all conflict of interest laws,” he said in an email.
City Attorney Veronica Ramirez said her office does not comment on matters under investigation by the FPPC and that the city does not have information about construction contracts between developers and their contractors. She was able to confirm Swinerton Builders is the general contractor for the Stanford Health Clinic parking garage and Devcon Construction is the general contractor for the first phase of the new Stanford in Redwood City project.
“Public officials, including city councilmembers, are required to recuse themselves from matters in which they have a disqualifying conflict of interest. The FPPC is the agency tasked with enforcing these regulations,” she said in an email
Wierenga confirmed the commission is not able to comment on open investigations.
The complaint also mentions that the two projects are included in the Stanford in Redwood City precise plan approved Sept. 9, 2013, and that Gee owns stock in the company. Gee indicated he owned $100,001 to $1 million of the stock on the statement of economic interest he filed most recently with the commission.
“I feel the city of Redwood City cannot fully expect city interests to be properly represented when the representative is inclined to accept and or solicit work from the parties they are expected to require contingencies from to alleviate any issues affecting the city,” wrote the author of the filing.
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