CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR HAVE CHOICE WORDS FOR EACH OTHER
COUNCILWOMAN ACCUSES MAYOR OF VIOLATING THE BROWN ACT
By Steven Tavares
Mayor Tony Santos has a new battle front in his bid for re-election this November after his opponent for the office Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak accused him last week of violating the Brown Act in a email to supporters. She backtracked on the allegation Monday night saying “It wasn’t on the agenda. It’s like it never happened.”
Violating the Brown Act is a potential criminal misdemeanor, if proven.
In the email sent Sept. 14, Starosciak characterized her campaign as “restrained” but a brief confrontation between her and Santos during a meeting of the Shoreline-Marina Committee Sept. 13, of which they both sit along with Councilman Jim Prola, forced her to speak out, she said. “You need to hear what is going on,” said Starosciak. “San Leandro, we deserve better.”
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At issue is the replacement of a seat on the 32-person Shoreline Citizen Advisory Committee. News of the open position was communicated during the meeting by a city staff member. Santos and Prola told The Citizen the conversation at the meeting to fill the slot with an unnamed member of the audience was informal, although Prola mentioned he would be in favor of the appointment and Starosciak wrote Santos ended the discussion by abruptly telling her, “It’s done.”
Starosciak said Monday she agreed with the order of the events and said the Brown Act, designed to allow for greater transparency of government decision-making, was not violated by Santos. Her email, though, strikes a different tone.
“This was not only an inappropriate, knee-jerk reaction, it’s a blatant Brown Act violation,” said Starosciak. “There was no process for the selection; it wasn’t even on the agenda. The resident who was appointed on the spot, even stated he didn’t want the position.” On numerous occasions Monday night, Starosciak said “It’s about the process” and added, “It needs to be followed.” Any appointment to the board would go through the committee and set for approval by a full council vote.
Santos called Starosciak’s accusation “vile” and says he turned over the email to the assistant city attorney.
The relationship between Santos and Starosciak has soured precipitously since she announced her candidacy for mayor in Aug. 2009. At the time, Santos told The Citizen he believed a councilmember running against a sitting mayor would adversely affect the council’s ability to function. Santos reaffirmed those beliefs Tuesday. Looking back, he says, he declined to run for mayor in 2002 against then-Mayor Shelia Young, despite support, “because it would cause dissension on the council.”
Both candidates have not spoken to each other outside of council chambers for months, yet tensions between them have even been evident during numerous meetings where Santos has repeatedly cut off Starosciak’s comments and oftentimes fails to address her by her title as councilmember. As the level of comity continues to drop, both resorted to cutting each other off Monday night leading Starosciak to retaliate by cutting short Santos’ comments and asking for clarification from city staff regarding a question regarding the interoperability of police communications being discussed, instead of Santos’ explaination.
The nasty, personal tone of the campaign has become palpable as the days until election day become shorter and risks bleeding into the new council next year. “She is rude and has no respect for others,” Santos said. “I’ve known her since she was a little girl and I’m disappointed at the kind of woman she has become.”
“Tony Santos is reactive, not pro-active,” Starosciak said in her email. “He doesn’t listen to residents until he fears that his re-election is in jeopardy. And then the response is short-sighted. This is detrimental to our City. It is time for a change in Leadership.”
If Santos wins re-election this fall, time will tell if the rift between the two city official will ever be mended.