It All Boils Down To: Accountability, Integrity, Honesty
We are a diverse group of San Mateo residents that believe we should have leaders who understand that our City Council and Mayorship are arguably the highest position of authority our community can give. We teach our children not to be bullies and liars, shouldn’t we also expect that of our Mayor? Here is how Mayor Lee has failed us as a community:
Lee’s Defamation of a City Leader and Manipulation of City Council Vote
Explosively, and without offering any verifiable information as proof, Lee made a claim, which she refused to substantiate multiple times (and to date has not substantiated), of a “back door deal” impacting a critical choice for a City Council seat, thereby moving her own preferred candidate to the top of the list.
· Lee said she was first approached with the “back door deal” on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 7th, and then again on Saturday, December 10th. What doesn’t make sense is that Lee did not immediately contact the City Attorney. She informed him at the same time as the public, at the December 7th evening meeting.
· Before Lee made this unproven and unsubstantiated claim of a “back door” deal, Councilmembers Newsom and Diaz Nash had already pledged to vote for Lee to become mayor once the vacant council seat was filled and the fifth Councilmember seated (Dec 7 City Council Meeting). This public promise, along with the certain vote from Councilmember Loraine, guaranteed her the Mayoralty. With this, the “deal” would have been made moot as of Wednesday, December 7th, the same day as she said she was first approached.
· Immediately after showing Cliff Robbins’ name at the December 12th meeting, the City Attorney was asked directly if this had been reported and details shared, and his response was, “I am not aware of who the individuals were who approached Councilmember Lee.” For such a serious charge, it makes no sense that the City Attorney had no substantive information beforehand.
· Lee has repeatedly said she is the most experienced leader on City Council. However, this lack of action shows a huge dereliction of duty. Instead of immediately reporting it to the City Attorney and police, she instead made the charges at a critical moment in City Council history – resulting in a “big reveal” that removed a respected candidate from City Council consideration.
So why did Lee spin this web of allegations about attempted bribery? We won’t really know until we hear from the DA, who is now investigating. But as of this writing, all we have are allegations, without facts or evidence. And Cliff Robbins, the candidate she single-handedly removed from consideration, could seek damages. (December 12 City Council Meeting)
“I have never engaged in any vote exchange or bartering,” he said at the meeting. “I find this an unsupported accusation. I am appalled. I just want to make very clear, my 18-year-old daughter is watching this on TV. I have a reputation of 60 years. I’ve done nothing that anybody is talking about. End of story.” Cliff Robbins SFist
”I had the distinct honor of working with Mr. Robbins as a Park and Recreation commissioner for eight years before he moved on to the Public Works/Sustainability and Infrastructure Commission where he continues to serve. His commitment to the San Mateo community is further evidenced by his service as the president of the San Mateo City Parks and Recreation Foundation and current board chair of Samaritan House. Nothing in my interactions with him over the years has ever revealed him to be anything but an individual of high character, integrity, credibility, honesty and fairness. Reputations take a lifetime to build and, unfortunately, can be lost in a moment of irresponsible action.” Letter to the Editor, San Mateo Daily Journal
Lee’s Lack of Action to Hold Planning Commissioners Accountable
A Planning Commissioner’s role is to provide advice and guidance to the City Council. They are to serve the City Council, and City Council is the sole decision-making body for the City. At least one Planning Commissioner decided to flagrantly violate this structure by contacting the California Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) and sending them a 75 page document criticizing the city’s draft Housing Element.
Even with public comment asking for whoever contacted the state be removed from the Commission, Mayor Lee remained silent and to date, has taken no action and made no statement on the breach. It was Councilmember Rob Newsom who called out the negligence at the February 11, 2023, Blue Sky meeting.
Sources: January 12, 2023, Planning Commission Meeting
January 24, 2023, City Council Meeting
Lee’s Unwavering Support of Rogue Planning Commissioners
Lee fervently protects her cronies, including Planning Commissioners who have gained notoriety by justified accusations of committing criminal acts, jeopardizing the city by overstepping their authority, or allegiance to developers and builders at the expense of resident concerns for overbuilding San Mateo.
With the current City rules about who can serve on commissions, we have at least one Planning Commissioner who works as an executive for a building contractor active in San Mateo. And we have another Planning Commissioner who violates the simplest of ethical norms and oversteps his bounds:
· Lee, along with former Councilmembers Bonilla and Goethals, had no desire to hold Adam Nugent accountable to even a minimal level of ethical conduct for his actions (see detailed background on the crime below). Lee refused to allow even an agenda item to determine if the council should investigate. (November 7, 2022, City Council meeting at about 3:13).
· Planning Commissioner John Ebneter’s employer, Swinerton Builders, is listed as “Partner General Contractor” by one of the subcontractors of a major development project in San Mateo (Pacific Structures). He is a “Project Executive” – a position that he was promoted to the same month he became a Planning Commissioner (John Ebneter | LinkedIn). His financial interests include investment in Swinerton (California Form 700, Statement of Economic Interests, filed by John T. Ebneter on April 4th, 2022, available from the City of San Mateo website).
· Planning Commissioner Adam Nugent overstepped his authority by providing to HCD (California Housing and Community Development) a 75-page document detailing his criticism of the draft Housing Element which was still in revision and had not yet been approved by City Council.
The email Nugent sent to California Housing and Community Development follows. It was obtained through a Public Records Request:
From: Adam Nugent <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2022 9:56 PM
To: Manira Sandhir <email@example.com>; Zachary Dahl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Eloiza Murillo-Garcia <email@example.com>; Housing Elements@HCD <HousingElements@hcd.ca.gov>
Subject: San Mateo Planning Commission Input - Draft Housing Element - Apr 26
Hi Manira and Zach,
Thank you, again, for your team's hard work on the City of San Mateo’s Draft Housing Element. It is a massive undertaking!
Here are my notes and consolidated input from last night’s Planning Commission review of the Draft Housing Element. I spent a few hours following the meeting getting as much of the discussion topics I commented on during the meeting incorporated into my notes as possible.
I hope the additional detail and clarifying elements in these notes prove useful to the team.
Adam Nugent, PLA
Planning Commissioner, City of San Mateo
Integrity and Respect
Lee’s Hand-Picked Candidate for District 5
Adam Loraine moved to District 5 just in time to qualify as a district resident. The other candidate for the District 5 council seat, was a well-respected, community-oriented, long-term resident of the district.
In May of 2022, Loraine told former Mayor and then-Council Member Eric Rodriguez that one of the main reasons he chose to move to the Beresford/Hillsdale neighborhood was to run for the newly created District 5 council. *
*Verified by email from former councilmember Eric Rodriguez
In spite of obvious “Carpetbagging”, Lee did not hesitate to do whatever she could to get her preferred candidate, Loraine, elected. Loraine’s win has resulted in the residents of District 5 being represented by someone who not only has little knowledge of the district and is beholden to Lee and not to the residents of the district. Loraine has also stated he will no uphold Measure Y, approved by a majority of San Mateo residents in 2020, and strongly supported in District 5. Lee also opposes Measure Y despite the facts.
Lee’s intense efforts to affect the outcome of this election demonstrate that she will use whatever disgusting tactics and dirty political tricks are available to get her way. What Lee wants, Lee gets, no matter what is actually good for the residents of San Mateo and not the special interests and radical elements she has embraced.
Lee’s Smear Campaign of Rod Linhares
Lee was part of a team who created “PROCHOICE SMC” (www.prochoicesmc.com), which was created to specifically target and smear Rod Linhares, a District 5 City Council candidate running against her hand-picked candidate Adam Loraine. The site includes a questionnaire purportedly sent to every candidate for office in San Mateo County, asking about their support of Pro-Choice, CA Prop 1, among other questions. Responses are published on the site, with MANY “No Responses.” Why did Linhares receive special attention for being one of these many office candidates that did not answer? Lee and her supporters stopped at nothing to win what they wanted.
Lee sent Linhares an email* on October 20th demanding:
“Did you vote for Trump in the last presidential election? Your immediate response is appreciated. If you choose not to respond by Saturday [2 days later], this will be noted as "no response."*
* Yes, we have a copy.
Lee also turned to numerous party-partisan and non-party-partisan groups to spread misinformation about Linhares. For example, Lee provided misinformation to the leadership of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee, who then repeated it in a mass email labeling candidate Linhares as 'anti-choice, anti-LQBTQ, anti-reach code and anti-climate action.'
Lee’s attacks on Linhares are the core of a hit piece published by the online Climate Online Redwood City, owned by none other than David Bohannon, owners of the Hillsdale Mall and much of the surrounding property. Unsurprisingly, Bohannon and the $250m Private Equity Fund he's teamed up with have hundreds of millions hinging on a generous land use designation in the city's General Plan. The "staff writers" have often turned out to be employees of Singer Associates - Bohannon's PR firm. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article (see: San Francisco Chronicle) detailing Lee’s efforts to destroy Linhares’ candidacy, leaving no element of dirty politics at her disposal unused.
“If I were a City Council member, I would do everything in my power to ensure that there was no interference with the right to choose or the right to access contraception,” Linhares, who is registered as a no party preference voter, responded. “I have a wife and two daughters. I would want them to make the choice as to what they would want to do. They are the best ones to know.” Rod Linhares, San Francisco Chronicle
“Balanced Leadership Needed” Letter to the Editor, San Mateo Daily Journal
Lack of Respect for Staff and Residents at the December 5, 2022, City Council Meeting
Councilmember Lee showed no respect for members of the public when she declined multiple times to agree to continue a Council meeting. At this meeting, she presumed she would be named Mayor, but other council members discussed waiting one week in order that five councilmembers would then be seated and could all participate in choosing a mayor. Lee dug her heels in, causing members of the public to stay until 3 a.m., repeating questions geared to cause concerns that were answered and resolved by staff again and again. It became obvious that Lee was not thinking of the public, but of herself. She never voted to continue the meeting, but at 3 a.m. the three other council members did, out of respect for the public and staff present.
December 5, 2022, City Council Meeting
Political Sign Theft and Lee’s Documented Lies
During the last election, Adam Nugent, a member of the San Mateo Planning Commission, was accused of unlawfully removing campaign signs from public property. Images of the act surfaced; Nugent was identified by those who know him as the person in the images.
In accordance with law and Caltrans Regulations, the signs were not illegally posted. Further, Nugent had no authority to remove them in any event.
Here are several irrefutable facts:
· Both Nugent and Lee admitted he had removed the signs (see email below).
· Nugent was interviewed by the San Mateo Police Department about the incident.
· A police report was written and indicated that a violation of a California Penal Code Petty Theft statute had occurred. If Nugent had been authorized to remove the signs, the crime of Petty Theft would not be present.
· The police report was submitted to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for determination if the case was going to be submitted to the San Mateo County Superior Court. Note that if there was no crime, there would have been no referral to the DA’s Office.
The concern is that our public officials should be held to a high standard of behavior, and as Nugent admitted to the theft, should be held accountable for his actions.
In response to a high number of emails from residents of San Mateo who were demanding action be taken by the City Council, Lee sent this email:
On Monday, November 7, 2022 at 01:58:31 PM PST, Amourence Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for writing in. I agree that integrity is paramount and there should be zero tolerance for election interference that undermines fair democratic processes. Misinformation campaigns are also a cancer to our democracy and I appreciate you writing in directly to voice your concern.
I’d like to address the allegations about Commissioner Adam Nugent by clarifying the facts of this incident:
Mr. Nugent moved a campaign sign that was illegally placed in the public right of way. There was no theft or political motivation; Mr. Nugent has not endorsed or donated to any candidate in that district race. Mr. Nugent emailed the council, City Attorney and City Clerk underscoring his intention was to spare the candidate any penalties or fees for the illegally placed sign. He has since apologized for any misunderstanding. A police report was filed and the investigation concluded. No further legal action is being pursued as there were no laws broken or malicious intent.
Please find Mr. Nugent’s email below:
In response to the accusation of illegal interference or unethical campaigning practices, I unequivocally deny any wrongdoing.
As the president of my neighborhood’s association, which regularly hosts large street clean-up events, I routinely pick up trash on our streets as I walk or ride around town. It is a good neighborly practice.
I am also a licensed landscape architect and am familiar with rules governing classified landscape freeways, which includes Highway 92. I removed two of Robert Newsom’s signs that were in the right-of-way of Highway 92 as I rode to buy a Halloween costume with my son. Caltrans has requirements to remove those signs and will bill the responsible party for the removal.
I like Robert Newsom. We went to the San Mateo City Services academy together in 2019, and I found him to be a thoughtful and nice man. I do not wish for any charges to come to his campaign nor did I want to make a big deal of it. I am not a member of any D3 City Council campaigns, including the opponents of Robert Newsom.
The posts referenced and the person posting them have been removed from the platform by Nextdoor. They contained photos of my 3-year-old son and identifying information. I am not active on the platform, but I am hoping this statement ends the speculation of wrong doing.
For full transparency, I have cc’d the San Mateo City Council, the City Manager, the City Clerk, and the City Attorney.
City Council Member, City of San Mateo
The email contains numerous statements that were simply not true, which Lee did or should have known, and could have been easily fact-checked.
· Lee states, unequivocally, that as no crime was committed and the police investigation and case is closed, that “no further legal action is being pursued”. That statement was simply not true. The San Mateo Chief of Police testified to the contrary when questioned during the November 7, 2022, City Council meeting. The discussion by council members was quite contentious. (see additional information below).
· The Chief of Police confirmed, under direct questioning by Deputy Mayor Diane Papan during the meeting, that the police report of the Newsom campaign sign theft has been completed, but Newsom has not, as of late evening on November 7th, “pressed charges” so the report had not yet been forwarded to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
· Lee’s obligations as a city official should have guided her to inquire about the case status before making an official declaration in email that there was no crime and therefore no prosecution would be forthcoming. Lee’s declarations in the email are false.
Ethics in Public Service Dismissed by Lee
During a contentious November 7, 2022, City Council meeting, Councilmembers Papan and Rodriguez urged for a fact-finding investigation to satisfy the public outcry regarding the theft of the signs. However, they were blocked by Bonilla, Lee and Goethals who tripped all over themselves to minimize this misdemeanor, and Lee ardently defended Nugent.
The sentiment voiced by Papan and Rodriguez at the Council meeting was the judgment and ethics of Commissioner Nugent was in question. Rodrigues specifically pointed out that Nugent had provided at least two conflicting reasons he took the signs.
Lee, predictably, refused to support an agenda item to even discuss if the council would look into the matter. Her unwavering support of a commissioner who admitted to, at the very least, committing an ethical breach is egregious. Her outright lies to residents is unacceptable in any light (see above).
Smearing and Lying About Concerned Citizens
Any true leader will understand that they need to represent and respect all citizens, not just those who support you. Mayor Lee seems to have adopted the deflection tactics of I’m a victim and Those against me are bad people, complete with insults and name-calling, and citing on her website (amourencelee.com) that those seeking her recall are “a small conservative and anti-abortion interest group” which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Her “Amo Army” is posting that we are racists and NIMBYs, which is also flagrantly untrue.
What we are is a large (and growing!) group of individuals who agree with our five former mayors that “we are motivated by our shared love for this city. Leadership that brings our community together is needed more than ever with the many changes and challenges on the horizon for San Mateo.” If you agree, please join us! The cost of this recall is about the price of a cup of coffee for each resident. Isn’t that a price worth paying to get our beautiful city under leadership that has Accountability, Integrity, Honesty, and Respect? We certainly think so!