Following a closed-session negotiation with two of the city's labor unions, the Menlo Park City Council meets tonight (Jan. 28) to delve into a variety of topics.
On the agenda:
* Starting at 6:15 p.m., a study session on alternatives to binding arbitration in police disciplinary cases.
Despite state confidentiality laws keeping the public in the dark on binding arbitration, the Almanac broke the story last year of veteran officer Jeffrey Vasquez, who was reinstated by an arbitrator despite being caught naked with a prostitute in a motel room and reportedly admitting it wasn't the first time he had hired a hooker for sex. The arbitrator also awarded him $188,000 in back pay.
The Almanac obtained 17 redacted decisions from multiple California jurisdictions. In about 59 percent of the cases, arbitrators reversed discipline levied against the police officer. Nine were reinstated despite being fired for misconduct ranging from failing to conduct adequate investigations to driving under the influence on duty.
Academic studies of similar binding arbitration cases in Chicago and Houston show approximately the same reversal rate.
In August, the council voted to approve 4-1 to approve a contract with the Police Sergeants Association that made some minor changes to the binding arbitration process, namely, adding a clause that allows the city and union to select an arbitrator from a pool of retired San Mateo County judges if they can't agree on an arbitrator from a list provided by an outside agency such as the state mediation service. But the arbitrator's decision would still be final.
Casting the lone dissenting vote, Councilwoman Kirsten Keith called the binding arbitration process "broken" and said the changes didn't go far enough.
* During the regular meeting, a presentation by the Public Works Department and the Menlo Park City School District on plans to build a fourth elementary school at the O'Connor school site in the Willows neighborhood. How to route school traffic is expected to stir some debate, as residents of nearby Oak Court have raised concerns about the impact if buses travel along their street.
* A request from Vice Mayor Catherine Carlton to reconsider whether to spend an additional $24,000 on updating the city's logo.
Although city staff told the council during its Jan. 14 meeting that the contract for redesigning the logo obligated the city to pay for the second phase, the contract actually does contain a termination clause. Council members also requested clarity on what products would be delivered as part of the contract, such as whether it would deliver templates for presentations.
The council meeting will be held in council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel Street. Follow tonight's discussion live online.