No conflicts in Councilmember Gee decisions on Sequoia Station

in Community/Infrastructure

Redwood City Councilmember Jeff Gee, who is also member of the Board of Directors for both the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) and the San Mateo County Transit District (District), does not have a conflict of interest that would preclude him from making council decisions pertaining to the Redwood City Sequoia Station project, which involves property owned by both JPB and the District, according to attorneys for both SamTrans and the city.

Redwood City Councilmember Jeff Gee

The question of a potential conflict in Gee’s service on those regional transit boards was raised in social media posts, prompting Climate Online to request clarity on the matter from the legal teams at both SamTrans and the city.

In separate responses, Joan Cassman, partner at Hanson Bridgett LLP, which provides legal counsel to SamTrans, and Veronica Ramirez, City Attorney for Redwood City, both state there appears to be no legal conflict of interest.

“Rather, Mr. Gee will be in an excellent position to share local viewpoints with his colleagues on the regional District and JPB Boards; at the same time, he will be able to provide regional context to the City Council when contemplating potential future use and development of this area,” Cassman added.

Gee serves on both the District and JPB boards as an appointee from the Cities Selection Committee of the Council of Mayors, per District and JPB regulations, which serves to ensure all cities are represented in the decisions of regional governing bodies.

“It is quite common in regional government for members of city councils to simultaneously serve on boards of multiple regional public agencies,” Cassman said.

Conflicts generally arise in cases where councilmembers have a personal financial interest in their government decision-making, “such as an interest in real property, source of income, business interest or contractual interest,” Ramirez said.

“Councilmember Gee has none of these interests with respect to decisions by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board and the San Mateo County Transit District,” said Ramirez, a determination also made by Cassman. Gee additionally confirmed with Climate he has no financial interest in the appointed roles.

Cassman further states that in many cases the law not only permits “but actually requires multiple offices to be held by a single person.”

“Mr. Gee holding offices for the City of Redwood City, the District and the JPB is a great example of legally-required appointments of a single person to multiple regional positions,” she said.  “Based on this model of government, it is inevitable that Board members of the District and JPB will occasionally be in positions where they are required to make regional transportation decisions that may affect the cities and counties they also serve, whether related to operation of transit services, placement of District and JPB infrastructure, opening/closing/relocating of transit facilities, etc.”

Photow courtesy of the City of Redwood City