By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Robin Kaufman will remain a member of Rancho Bernardo Planning Board.
According to an email Deputy City Attorney Heidi Vonblum sent to Senior City Planner Brian Schoenfisch on March 6, two-thirds of the board membership — in this case at least 12 of the 17 members — needed to cast a “yes” vote in order for Kaufman to be ousted from the board.
When members cast signed ballots on March 5, there were nine “yes” votes, four “no” votes and two members abstained.
The board sought Schoenfisch’s guidance because the removal vote’s outcome was unclear due to confusion by the board over whether City Council Policy 600-24 referred to the entire membership or members present when setting the removal vote threshold.
Kaufman, who represents the District A neighborhood of Westwood, said for her to be removed the requirement was two-thirds of the membership, but Chairwoman Teri Denlinger said it was two-thirds of those present — setting the minimum at 10 “yes” votes. But when two members abstained, other members said the required number was lowered to nine since that would be two-thirds of the 13 votes cast.
“Although the Council Policy first refers only to a ‘2/3 vote,’ it also refers to the 2/3 vote requirement as a ‘2/3 vote of their recognized planning group,’” Vonblum wrote. “Read as a whole, the requirement is more akin to the ‘two-thirds of the members’ situation described in Robert’s Rule 48, meaning that to remove a planning group member, two thirds of the total membership of the planning group is required to remove a member.”
The board considered removing Kaufman due to her decision last fall to twice request the Rancho Bernardo Community Foundation not give a $1,000 grant to the planning board because she said it never voted on the grant application, just appointment of a grant liaison, board member Vicki Touchstone. Kaufman told the board she went to the foundation to report that the board violated the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law.
Despite her actions, the foundation still gave the board a community grant at the Rancho Bernardo Thanksgiving Luncheon.
Some board members said it was understood, or at least implied, that by appointing Touchstone last June they were supporting the grant application submission. Denlinger said there was also precedent in the board applying for grants without first getting approval from the entire board.
Denlinger, who asked for Kaufman’s resignation last November after foundation members told her what happened, said Kaufman should lose her board seat because she undermined the board by going behind its back. Due to technicalities, the board twice tabled the vote until the March 5 meeting.