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Publication Date: Friday, December 07, 2001

City committee appointments reviewed City committee appointments reviewed (December 07, 2001)

Faravelli rescinds resignation as appointment committee head Faravelli rescinds resignation as appointment committee head (December 07, 2001)

By Bill D'Agostino

The controversial issue of appointments to city boards and commissions has already spawned a public argument between city council members and a special meeting of the council's appointments review committee on Wednesday; the issue will now return to the council at its Dec. 11 meeting.

At the special meeting, Committee members Matt Pear and Mayor Mario Ambra _ and committee chair Ralph Faravelli, who rescinded his Nov. 27 resignation from the committee _ re-recommended the same slate of appointments to the council, with the exception of their recommendation to the library board, Cecilia Keehan.

Keehan, whose appointment was questioned since it displaced current library board Chair Phyllis Bismanovsky, withdrew her name from consideration after realizing the controversy surrounding her being named to the committee.
Aftermath of the Nov. 27 dispute

During the Nov. 27 council meeting, Faravelli resigned from his position as chair of the appointment review committee, which had spent a few weeks ("over 16 hours," Faravelli said) interviewing and considering candidates for the various vacancies in the city's boards and commissions.

The committee had presented all of its nominees to the entire council at the Nov. 27 meeting and all three of the committee's members.

"Having the council quickly approve their committee's choices has been the procedure for "as far back as I know," Faravelli said.

However, Council members Rosemary Stasek and Mary Lou Zoglin decided to not approve the committee's choices without more information or the opportunity to interview the candidates themselves.

That aggravated the three committee members, who felt Stasek and Zoglin were being inconsiderate to the process, the work the committee members had done, and the nominees.

Vice Mayor Sally Lieber and Council member Mike Kasperzak agreed with Stasek and Zoglin, and the nominations for Library Board, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and Human Relations Commission got thrown back to the council sub-committee by a vote of those four against the three council members on the committee.

Zoglin said she did so partially because the process had been different this year than in years past, since the committee had not been made up of the mayor, vice-mayor, and former mayor, as was normal procedure.

On Wednesday morning, the three-member committee _ responding to that council direction _ met again.

Faravelli was again at the helm of the committee despite his resignation. He said his decision to resign was made "in the heat of the moment" so "for the better of the community," he decided to resume his post.
Library board controversy

One of the nominations the committee discussed in depth at the meeting was the selection for the library board.

Faravelli said that during the interview and decision process, the committee felt that Keehan was "better qualified" than other applicants based on the "information we had at the time."

By selecting Keehan, the committee snubbed Phyllis Bismanovsky, the current library board chair, who was up for reappointment.

Stasek said that one of the big reasons she could not approve the initial list of nominees at the Nov. 27 meeting was that the committee did not recommend reappointing Bismanovsky.

Shirley Pearson, a current library board member, said her jaw dropped when she heard the news that the committee had not chosen Bismanovsky for reappointment.

"I just assumed she was a lock," Pearson said. "I didn't understand why she wasn't reappointed."

Pearson pointed out that Bismanovsky is the commission's representative to both the city's centennial commission and the local South Bay consortium of libraries. "She's been doing a yeoman's job," Pearson said.

Keehan, by contrast, was a library board member in the late 1970s and early '80s, and has served on numerous other committees. She described herself as a "professional volunteer."

Among other roles, she was president and vice-president of the Mourning Forum of Los Altos for four years in the late 70s and four years in the late 80's. She also won an ACE Award for her work on "Before the Council," a public affairs program that discussed issues on Mountain View television station KMVT prior to council meetings.

Pear called Keehan's qualifications "stellar" and said her withdrawal was a "real blow to the city."

Keehan, who endorsed Ambra, Pear and Faravelli in their last council elections, said she was humiliated by the council's actions to send her a letter telling her she had been chosen and then not be chosen at the meeting.

"It was an opportunity to show a little class and it just didn't happen," said Keehan, who withdrew her nomination on Tuesday via a letter to Faravelli.

"I'm sure that you know that my first concern is for the welfare of Mountain View," Keehan wrote in the letter, "and I think that would be best served if I withdrew my name from considerations for appointment to the Library Board. I understand that Phyllis Bismanovsky has done a fine job and I 'm sure she will continue to do so."

After reading the news of Keehan's withdrawal, the three-member committee decided to nominate Bismanovsky to the board. Faravelli called Bismanovsky his "second choice."

No other changes to the recommendations were made at Wednesday's meeting. The committee decided to reapprove its earlier nominations to the commissions.

Like Keehan, some of those other nominees also have political ties to people on the nominating committee. For instance John Inks, a nominee for the Parks and Recreation Commission, was the treasurer for Pear's council campaign in the last election.

Inks said he was "not turned off" by the contentiousness shown by the council members at the last city council meeting. But he said he was surprised by how "partisan influences become a factor" in the debate.

Inks was nominated in favor of Greg Perry, a current member of the commission up for reappointment who has been outspoken against some of the council's decisions and ran for council last year against Pear and Ambra.

Perry said he wasn't surprised he wasn't nominated for reappointment by Faravelli, Pear and Ambra since earlier in the year those three council members _ sitting as the Council Procedures Committee _ had proposed a measure that would have made it a violation of city rules for Perry to continue criticizing the council in public.

Tom Frankum, the current chair of the environmental planning commission, said he was "disgusted" that Perry wasn't nominated for reappointment.

Frankum said not reappointing Perry was "a step in the same disturbing pattern of behavior" Ambra, who last month was accused by a civil grand jury of "corrupt misconduct."

"It is part of the direction that we've been moved that is not healthy to the city," Frankum said.

Frankum agreed that Stasek and Zoglin's decision to not approve the candidates at the last minute was abrupt and a break with tradition.

However, he said Ambra broke tradition first with his selections for the appointment committee at the beginning of the year.

In choosing Faravelli and Pear, Ambra appointed a committee made up of three Republicans and lifelong Mountain View residents, whereas Lieber and Stasek _ the vice mayor and former mayor, respectively _ are democrats and transplants from other parts of the country.

"The appointment system was flawed from the beginning," Frankum said.

Stasek said she regretted not speaking up earlier in the year about Ambra's choices, but she said she had hoped the committee would be more unbiased in its selection process. Only when that didn't happen, she said, did she feel the need to speak up.


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