The Infamous City Staff Email
What really sparked last night’s City Council slugfest?
At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council was discussing the Henry Mayo Campus Expansion, when the fight took a new twist.
For those not fully familiar with the Henry Mayo Campus expansion, it has been a hotly contested issue in Santa Clarita life for almost two years.
Henry Mayo’s expansion originally included four medical office buildings, five parking structures, and one hospital inpatient building. The campus itself is only 30 acres in size, so residents in the nearby area first spoke up about the tremendous density of the project.
Other concerns include major traffic problems that would be caused by the project, as well as the fact that the hospital jointly filed for the project, which exceeds many of the City’s own regulations, with G&L Realty. G&L Realty is a company which bought one third of the Henry Mayo campus land and is hoping to build, own and operate the medical office buildings on site, which are the reason for the incredible density.
Henry Mayo recently cut one Medical Office building from the plan, which was the only one they would have owned, as well as a significant portion of the planned hospital.
So the fight came before the City Council last night, and TimBen Boydston made headlines when he passed out an email between two City Planning Department staff, and one former staffer who now works for Henry Mayo.
The email caused quite a stir with the crowd, as it was interpreted by many, including Boydston, that the City Planning staff were working with the Hospital to try to plan the City Council meeting around when potential “no” voters would not be in attendance.
The email of reference was sent from Senior Planner Fred Follstad to Planning Manager Lisa Hardy. The email was a list of items for Hardy to cover during her upcoming meeting with Jeff Lambert. Lambert himself used to be a City Planning Department employee, and knows both Hardy and Follstad. He now works for Henry Mayo Hospital as a consultant.
One note for the meeting reads as follows: “July 11th is the CC meeting, Marsha is usually absent from this one. And if Bob doesn’t vote, then all they will need is two votes.”
Click below to see the full email of reference:
Boydston said that, to him it “seemed like collusion” between City staff and the hospital, and he asked if Hardy felt that behavior like that was appropriate.
Hardy claimed that the emails were internal memos, and while they are indeed public record, they were meant to be read by her or Follstad. Therefore they would know what each other really meant, and the public, just by reading the emails wouldn’t.
A ten minute recess was called immediately, but not before Councilmember Frank Ferry stood up and began shouting angrily at Councilmember Boydston saying that “You don’t get to attack City staff,” and “you’re not even elected.”
Boydston was appointed by the council…unanimously in December to fill Cameron Smyth’s seat after he was elected to the State Assembly.
After the recess, City Manager Ken Pulskamp went on record to say that the charges of collusion are “offensive and not accurate.” He went on to say that the staff was trying to schedule the issue when the Council members would be there, rather then when they would not. He said that they do not want an issue as big as this one going before a three person council.
He also noted that “We’re not here July 11th,” meaning that if the staff had really worked with Lambert to bring the item before the council when Mayor McLean was gone, then it would have been scheduled for that day, and not last night.
The only problem with that is that the emails were from February of 2006, so the staff was obviously referring to July 11th, 2006, when the issue could have gone before the City Council. July 11th 2006 was a Tuesday, which is the normal meeting day for the City Council. July 11th this year would be a Wednesday.
Follstad also made a note at the bottom of the list that said “August 22nd is the second CC meeting if needed. I hope not!”
There is no doubt that Lisa Hardy and Fred Follstad have put in countless hours to build and preserve the integrity of Santa Clarita, and have, by most accounts done a fantastic job. However, this issue sheds light on just how much power City staff really has, or really could have in the issues behind the scenes.