Following an infamously unruly board meeting, county officials agreed additional oversight is needed to determine the fate of the San Mateo County Harbor District.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday, May 19, that the Local Agency Formation Commission should investigate operations at the coastal agency charged with operating the harbors at Pillar Point and Oyster Point.
The decision comes in the wake of an April Harbor District meeting which was unceremoniously disrupted by Commissioner Sabrina Brennan, who broke up board conversations to air grievances with fellow Commissioner Tom Mattusch.
Supervisor Don Horsley alluded to the most recent incident, as well as the long history of dysfunction at the Harbor District, in building his case for allowing LAFCo to scrutinize operations and asses the future.
“Unfortunately, the Harbor District has been unable to address variations of this problem for three decades,” he said, also noting previous LAFCo and civil grand jury reports which have called into question the district’s necessity and functionality.
Under the county’s decision, LAFCo will review Harbor District operations and conduct interviews with staff and elected officials. A consultant approved by both agencies will be brought in to discuss expected behavior for elected officials, and the county supervisors will pay half the consulting fee.
For her part, Brennan said the county bears responsibility for assuring Harbor District commissioner conduct is appropriate. Contention on the district board surrounds Brennan’s sexual harassment allegations against Mattusch, which she claimed yielded an inadequate response from county officials, including Horsley.
Meanwhile, commission President Nancy Reyering said the Harbor District offers critical service, which she questioned whether the county would want to adopt. And rather than investigate the district’s operations, she raised the possibility of the district board moving from elected positions to appointed posts.
Such a perspective seemed to resonate with Supervisor Dave Pine, who acknowledged the district does important work along the coasts. But he balanced that thought against an acknowledgment that uncontrolled outbursts by elected officials diminishes public trust in the district.
Meanwhile, Horsley remained critical of the district, which he believes flies under the radar of public scrutiny due to its limited sphere of influence.
“This is an organization that most people don’t pay attention to and there is not a lot of oversight,” he said.
As a result, Horsley said he believed it would be best for a third party to intervene and assess next steps.
LAFCo should complete its investigation and “make a determination of what is the best way to manage these facilities in the future,” he said.
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