Cupertino Matters

The fall festivals are in full swing for the next two months, with many hosted on the renovated event lawns at Memorial Park. Enjoy!

The problematic council behavior identified in the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury’s December 2022 Report, “A House Divided: Cupertino City Council and Staff” continues, though it is much improved following sanctions and monitoring. Councilmembers Kitty Moore and Liang Chao continue to shirk responsibility for their actions. Both of them walked off the dais during the September 6 meeting when City Attorney Chris Jensen reported the results of council requested monitoring. In addition, Councilmember Moore refuses to meet for one-on-one meetings with City Manager Wu, who reports to the entire council. How can a city manager be effective when councilmembers refuse to perform the job they were elected to do?

Tonight’s council meeting continues to address governance issues identified in the Grand Jury Report by considering Agenda Item No. 11, revisions to the city Ethics Policy. The current two-page policy adopted in 2020 is a bare-bones generic policy, with no enforcement provisions. By contrast, the 13-page 2018 policy was comprehensive, with enforcement provisions, addressing not only city council, but also appointed officials. Unfortunately, a previous council rescinded it in January 2019 leaving a gap noted by the Grand Jury.

Many elected officials and appointed officials have no experience in public service, policymaking positions or management in general, so training and comprehensive guidelines based on best practices are necessary for good governance. The 2018 Ethics Code aligns with best practices and is consistent with the Grand Jury Report and the Enterprise Leadership Assessment Report. Readopting this code with limited changes to align with the recent City Council Procedures Manual would be prudent.

There were two Community Open Houses regarding Rezoning of Housing Sites  –  an in-person workshop at the Quinlan Center during the Fall Festival on Sept. 1 and a second virtual workshop on Sept. 14. Public input from these two sessions will be incorporated into the revised Housing Element expected the end of Sept./ beginning of Oct.

In other news, the Chamber of Commerce welcomes a new Executive Director, Deb Feng, former Cupertino City Manager, who guided the city through the pandemic and its attendant homelessness challenges. Having grown up in Cupertino, she brings deep  knowledge of our community as well as extensive non-profit, city, county, state and federal experience.

In school news, the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) is moving from at-large to trustee area elections. This is a move to meet the provisions of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Visit https://www.fuhsd.org/newsroom/trustee-areas for more information and updates, as well as opportunities for public input. School attendance boundaries will not be affected.

UPCOMING – CITY COUNCIL – Tues, Sept. 19, 2023,  6:45 p.m., Regular meeting

Agenda and Presentations (note new order for the agenda)

Ceremonial Items are (1) recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month September 15-October 15 and (2) recognition of September as National Preparedness Month. The Consent Calendar has five routine items. Members of the public may speak on any or all consent calendar items when the mayor asks for public comment on the Consent Calendar. If a member of the council pulls an item from the Consent Calendar, it will be addressed after all action items. Members of the public may comment on that item when it is considered.

Item No.8: FY 2023-24 Internal Audit Program: Moss-Adams is the contracted Internal Auditor for the city. This is a review of their work plan. The Audit Committee recommended adding an additional Grants Management Performance Audit at a cost of $35,000. Staff does not recommend this addition for this year due to the workload of a new external auditor and implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software with comprehensive Financial and Human Resource application.

Item No. 9: Adoption of amendments to the Cupertino Municipal Code, Chapter 9.22, expanding existing property maintenance requirements in accordance with California Health and Safety Code 17970.5. Effective July 1, 2022, state law AB 838 mandates inspection of substandard housing. This agenda item codifies property owners’ obligations to maintain housing stock free of substandard conditions and to allow the City to recover some of the costs of enforcement incurred.

Item No. 10: Adoption of amendments to the Cupertino Municipal Code, Chapter 9.22, expanding existing property maintenance requirements in accordance with California Health and Safety Code 17970.5. On Nov. 19, 2019, Council approved a tobacco retailer permit (RRP) to regulate the sale of tobacco products in the city, attempting to curb access, particularly for youth. A partnership was established with the county to administer the program at no cost to the city. On Sept. 13, 2022, supervisors updated the county ordinance. This means that city ordinances need to be updated in order for the City of Cupertino to continue the county partnership.

Item No. 11: Revisions to City of Cupertino Ethics Policy. The current city Ethics Policy has been controversial, with the 2019 rescission of a comprehensive 13-page Ethics  Code approved in 2018 by a previous council. A 2-page bare-bones generic Ethics Code without enforcement provisions was passed in 2020. The deficiencies in that version were noted in the 2022 Grand Jury Report and the 2023 independent Fact Finding Report. The City Council Procedures Manual adopted in Feb. 2023 addressed some of those deficiencies, but the Enterprise Leadership Assessment Report by the city’s internal auditor noted that enforcement provisions were only partially addressed.  In addition, there was a gap in enforcement for holding elected and appointed officials to timely complete Form 700 conflict of interest disclosures and other required documentation. This was a particular problem with Parks & Recreation Commissioner Seema Swamy, who had failed to file her Form 700 for over a year despite numerous warnings from the City Clerk.

In preparation, the city did an community online survey on revisions to the Ethics Policy. The four highest ranked values were (1) integrity and honesty, (2) proper, efficient use of public resources, (3) responsibility and community service, and (4) fairness.  Council will be asked to provide direction to the City Attorney to develop a revised Ethics Policy.

Council Reports (now submitted in written form) have been provided by Fruen, Mohan and Wei. Moore submitted late as a supplemental report. There was no submission by Chao.

Informational Items include: (1) Receive the Monthly Treasurer’s Report for August 2023 and (2) Receive the Monthly Treasurer’s Investment Report for August 2023.

RECAP – CITY COUNCIL – Wed. Sept. 6, 2023,  6:45 p.m., Special Meeting rescheduled from Tues., Sept. 5, due to Labor Day 

YouTube:  Part 1 – 1 hr. 50 min. ; Part 2: 2 hr. 18 min. 

Agenda and Presentations 

Item No. 6: Enterprise Leadership Assessment Audit Final Report. This Report by the city-contracted internal auditor presented observations and recommendations in the context of the independent Fact Finding Report, which verified the Grand Jury Report released in December, 2022. The recommendations focused on (1) City Council, (2) Commissions and Committees, and (3) City Staff. Overall, the report indicated significant improvement, though more progress is needed for the council to function effectively. No vote was needed to receive the report.

Item No. 7: Review of Councilmember compliance with Municipal Code Chapter 2.17, recommendations in May 2023 Fact Finding Report, and related governance issues  Following the May presentation of the independent investigator’s report and extensive discussion, resulting in removal of Councilmembers Moore and Chao from their committee assignments, the council directed the City Attorney and the City Manager to return with a report on improvements in their behavior.

Councilmember Moore read a statement of her objections to the agenda item, and walked off the dais.  

During discussion, outside attorney Linda Daube who prepared the Fact Finding Report complemented the council for significant improvements in the governance process. City Manager Wu acknowledged overall improvement in council behavior, but Councilmember Moore has refused to meet the city manager one-on-one since February.  Councilmember Chao has been erratic in attendance at one-on-one meetings due to her work schedule.

Following public comment and prior to deliberation, Councilmember Chao complained that the Grand Jury Report was not due process, misstated the facts surrounding councilmanic interference, and left the dais, leaving only 3 council members to decide the course of action. Following discussion, Fruen moved and Wei seconded that Council adopt the staff recommendation with these changes:

  1. That all five councilmembers attend additional training on Council governance, Rosenberg’s Rules of Order, and the topic of effective collaboration between staff and councilmembers and among councilmembers; and
  1. That as a condition of fully attending the training described in (1) above, all council committee assignments will be restored.

The substitute motion carried unanimously with Chao absent (abstaining) and Moore absent (recusing).

Councilmembers Chao and Moore returned to the dais.

Item No. 8: Revisions to Cupertino City Council Procedures Manual. Noting the effectiveness of the Feb. 7, 2023 adoption in reducing the number and length of meetings, the City Attorney suggested five minor revisions, with the most significant one being a revision of the rules of order and adoption of time limits by individual speakers. Given the tumultuous previous agenda items, Councilmember Chao moved to table the item for six months. The motion carried 3-2 with Fruen and Wei voting nay.

Council Reports (now submitted in written form) were provided by Fruen and Wei. Mohan submitted late as a Supplemental Report due to travel. Moore included her report (including grades in a De Anza class) as a supplemental report. There was no submission by Chao.

CUPERTINO COURIER: September 15,  2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled EPIC exhibit: Professional, emerging and student artists featured at gallery in Milpitas. Laurie Barna, a graduate of Cupertino High School is a featured artist. Community Briefs are (1) Plastic foodware ordinance, (2) Citywide Garage Sale on Sept. 23-24, and (3) Cybersecurity public education. There are no legal notices.

CUPERTINO COURIER: September 8,  2023

The front page photo and article on page 5 is entitled ‘The Women of Ridge’: Book provides inside perspective into the origins of iconic winery; New book goes ‘Behind the Barrels’ at Ridge Winery. Community Briefs include (1) Housing open house, and (2) Climate change grants. There are no legal notices.

Warm regards,
Jean Bedord
Cupertino Matters
Publisher and Editor