The Fair Political Practices Commission will investigate if Redwood City Councilwoman Rosanne Foust violated state law last month for commenting on the proposed Cargill Saltworks development while heading an economic business group which has vocally endorsed the development.
In a May 10 letter to Marsha Cohen, the Redwood City resident who filed the complaint, FPPC Enforcement Division Chief Gary S. Winuk confirmed it was moving forward rather than dismissing the complaint outright.
Launching an investigation doesn’t mean the FPPC has yet to make any decisions on Cohen’s allegations or Foust’s possible conflict. However, both Cohen and Foust see the step as fruitful.
"I respect the decision that they want to look into it. I respect the process and it allows me the opportunity to respond and have my facts put out there,” Foust said.
Cohen said she is "pleased” the FPPC felt there is reason for further investigation.
"They obviously felt there was something to go on,” she said.
The FPPC did not respond to an inquiry.
Cohen filed the complaint after a Redwood City Council meeting at which Foust suggested seeking an advisory vote on whether the city should scrap the pending Saltworks proposal or continue waiting for a revised plan on which it would ultimately vote. Earlier this month, developer DMB formally pulled its application on the heels of a city announcement the City Council planned to deny both the vote idea and the proposal which had sat unmoving for three years.
Cohen and other sections of the public cried foul on Foust’s comments because she is president of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, a private organization which endorsed DMB’s now-defunct "50-50 Balanced Plan” for retail, housing and open space.
In 2010, the FPPC launched a similar investigation into allegations Foust violated the Political Reform Act with her dual roles. 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. Cohen said the previous incident strengthened her decision to file the recent complaint.
"We all make an assumption we are being represented based on officials’ best guess on what’s right or what’s fair,” Cohen said.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.