The Daily Post ran an article reporting that the City of Los Altos has already spent $30,000 fighting the release of a memo Kim Cranston Los Altos wants made public. Full Article is below. Daily Post reporter Kristen Peters quotes Megan Saterlee saying she agrees with withholding the memo…because to release it would have “chilling effects” on employees.
Hear and see incumbent city council candidate Megan Satterlee say NO to releasing the memo in the link to the video after the article. You can also see and hear city council candidate Jerry Sorensen say, YES, the memo “should have been released already … but certainly before the Nov. 6 council election.” The quotes are from a Sept. 27 Election Forum, moderated by Dave Price of the Daily Post and Diego Abeloos of The Town Crier.
Daily Post, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012
City fights to keep memo secret
Los Altos’ legal fees hit $30,000
by Kristen Peters
The city of Los Altos has spent $30,000 in legal fees in an attempt to keep secret a memo that might reveal whether more than one bidder was interested in developing city-owned property at First and Main streets. The city spent the thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight a lawsuit by downtown Los Altos property owner Kim Cranston, son of the late U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston, to get a memo by former city economic development director Anne Stedtler released.
While Cranston hasn’t won the suit, he said that the hefty legal fees and staunch resistance to the release of the memo are indicative that the memo exists and that there were indeed other developers interested in the project.
In the May 8 suit, Cranston claims that a memo provides evidence that other developers, including Chris Bryant of West Valley Properties and Amanda Tevis of Passarelle Investment Company, were interested in the available parcel at First and Main streets, which Jeff Morris, son of Mervyns department store founder Mervyn Morris, is now developing.
The City Council unanimously approved Morris’ plans on September 25.
Public records request
Cranston argues that the memo should be released under the state Public Records Act and will serve as evidence that city employees misled the Council and the city’s residents when selecting Morris as the developer of the lot.
“I am not seeking monetary judgment, just release of the public document that proves the city was misled,” Cranston said yesterday.
The six candidates battling for the three available seats on the council all had different views regarding the release of the memo at debate on September 27.
“The principle of not releasing the memo has nothing to do with the contents of the memo, “incumbent Megan Satterlee said. “It has to do with encouraging a trusting environment for staff.”
A chilling effect
“I believe releasing memos from lower-level employees to senior-level employees will have a chilling effect,” Satterlee added, noting that employees might not be so apt to share their ideas if they knew that information could be released to the public.
“If I knew that all my questions would end up in the press, I would stop asking them,” Satterlee said.
Former League of Women Voters president Jan Pepper, former planning commissioner Jeannie Bruins, San Francisco State University professor Anabel Pelhem and developer Jerry Sorensen disagreed.
“There’s only a few things that could happen with the release of that memo; the staff could be embarrassed, which is what they are concerned about, the council could be embarrassed, or Kim Cranston could be embarrassed,” said Sorenson. “So if Kim Cranston’s going to be embarrassed, let’s embarrass him.”
Planning and transportation Commissioner Jon Baer said that he “believes in following the law, so whatever the law said, is what the city should do.”
Video of Sept. 27 Election Forum
Megan Satterlee can be heard, saying, No don’t release the memo, at 02:15 minutes. Jerry Sorensen, can be heard saying, Yes, release the memo, at 05:10 minutes. LALAHPOLITICO OPINION: Jon Baer can be heard sidestepping the issue at 06:15. He seems to say he will listen to the city lawyer.
If you want to view more parts of the video, you might want to go to this link, which has a a timetable of “jump to the time”markers for the Forum Questions in the Description. The question asked by Dave Price of the Daily Post at 13: 20 – “What should the City do to help the district find a 10th site? Is Hillview out of the question?” is very interesting.