Citing concerns about the perception of a conflict of interest, Google employee Rachel Grossman has resigned from the the commission that advises the City Council on land use issues.
In a city where many land use decisions are impacted by her employer, Grossman had come under some scrutiny about the influence of her new job as a Google real estate project executive. She responded by resigning effective March 1, according to a letter to the city clerk.
"I believe I can effectively disassociate my employment with Google from my volunteer service with the Environmental Planning Commission; however, I decided to resign in order to avoid the potential for a perception of bias," Grossman said in an email to the Voice.
Nevertheless, Grossman's influence while being employed by Google caused concern for resident Konrad Sosnow, who wrote in a letter to the editor, "Will Rachel Grossman, a Google executive, recommend plans that are in the best interest of Google, her employer, or Mountain View? How much of Rachel Grossman's compensation at Google will be a function of how she directs the Environmental Planning Commission to support Google's wishes?"
Grossman had been on the commission since December of 2009, and had been selected by the commission to serve as its chair in January, despite having been hired by Google in November.
Fellow commissioner Lisa Matichak said Grossman notified the commission of her new job in September.
"While Rachel was a solid contributor on the EPC, there was growing public perception of a conflict of interest given her employment with Google," Matichak said in an email.
City attorney Jannie Quinn had given the OK to Grossman being on the EPC, saying conflicts of interest would have had to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis for each decision before the commission. Grossman had recused herself from EPC meetings whenever land use decisions for Google's North Bayshore area were on the agenda, said Quinn.
"I will miss Rachel's insight and leadership on the EPC," said fellow planning commissioner Margaret Capriles, who is a City Council candidate for the November election.