Council member Kelly Fergusson has resigned as the mayor of Menlo Park as a consequence of Brown Act violations she committed by meeting one-on-one with at least three council members to discuss her desire for the position. The council now plans to re-vote on Tuesday.
In a statement issued today, Fergusson wrote, "My resignation is a symbol of the respect I have for the Brown Act, and of my intention to be completely mindful and aware in the future and to act in full compliance with the law as I always have in the past."
As The Almanac first reported, the councilwoman held private discussions with Rich Cline, Peter Ohtaki, and outgoing councilman Heyward Robinson earlier this week. All three said they were unaware she had spoken with anyone else.
City Attorney Bill McClure said Fergusson may also have asked an intermediary to lobby Kirsten Keith, who was chosen as vice mayor. At his request the council postponed a special meeting on Friday afternoon called 24 hours earlier to re-vote on mayor and vice mayor, and will instead discuss the matter on Dec. 14 at its regular Tuesday night meeting.
The postponement came in the wake of public outrage from local government watchdogs over the timing of the meeting. Open government advocate Peter Carpenter urged the city attorney to properly notice the meeting, after realizing the notice didn't indicate a public comment period at the meeting.
The advocate also sent a letter earlier this week asking McClure to correct the Brown Act violations.
"Specific reference to the public's right to comment on the item was missing from the notice as it turns out -- I had thought there was boilerplate language regarding public comment at the bottom of the notice -- but it turns out that language was not there," McClure said when asked about the reason for the postponement, describing it as a "technical defect" in the notice about the special meeting.
Fergusson, who has served on the dais for six years, said she intends to remain on the council. She was elected mayor by the council in a 3-2 vote, with Andy Cohen and Peter Ohtaki dissenting, only four days ago.
Both the position of vice mayor and mayor pro tem will be filled by Keith until the re-vote, according to the city attorney.