Council Staff Report - Discussion of Mediation - Future Opportunities Regarding Fire & EMS
City of San Carlos
Council Staff Report
Council/RDA Meeting Date: April 11, 2011Item Title: Discussion of Mediation Between the City of Belmont and the City of San Carlos Regarding Future Partnership Opportunities Regarding Fire and Emergency Medical Services
It is recommended that the City Council discuss the Mediation with the City of Belmont Regarding Future Partnership Options and take these actions: a) appoint Council representation for the mediation as may be recommended following the conclusion of ongoing discussions between the attorneys for San Carlos and Belmont to clarify that this process is between the two cities and does not constitute a meeting of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department and b) set a deadline of April 24, 2011 by which the proposed mediation must occur.
There is no fiscal impact to participate in a potential mediation between the City of San Carlos and the City of Belmont Regarding Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The cost of the potential mediation between the two cities will be paid by San Mateo County under a proposal made by County Supervisors Carole Groom and Adrienne Tissier.
The County Board of Supervisors Finance & Operations Committee (F&O) held meetings on January 18th and February 15th to consider a proposal for the County Fire Department to amend its Fire and EMS contract with Cal Fire to add the City of San Carlos effective in October 2011. This amendment would provide an opportunity for the County to reduce their budget deficit by up to $650,000 per year. It would also enable the City of San Carlos to save up to $2.5 Million per year on Fire & EMS service costs.
At the February 15th meeting, the two committee members (Supervisors Groom & Tissier) voted 2-0 to not pursue this opportunity to partner with the City of San Carlos and Cal Fire to regionalize Fire and EMS services. However, the two Supervisors did offer the cities of San Carlos and Belmont free mediation to explore future partnership opportunities regarding Fire & EMS that would involve the two cities.
San Carlos Mayor Omar Ahmad and Vice Mayor Andy Klein agreed to the County’s Mediation Offer later that day (February 15th). This action was unanimously ratified by the full City Council at the next City Council Meeting on February 28th.
In Belmont, comments from Council Members in support and in opposition to the County’s Free Mediation Offer appeared in local newspapers and discussion forums. On March 15th, Supervisor Carole Groom sent a letter to the Belmont City Council encouraging their participation in the County’s proposed mediation and setting a deadline of March 25th for a decision from the Belmont City Council.
At the March 22nd meeting of the Belmont City Council, Council Members in Belmont agreed to the County mediation proposal on a split 3-2 vote. At the March 22nd meeting in Belmont, Council Members Warren Lieberman and Christine Wozniak were selected as the Belmont City representatives to the mediation process.
In light of the adjudicatory nature of mediation, the Special Counsel on Fire & EMS Options (Joan Cassman) advised the City that it would be appropriate to select and provide direction to the City’s representatives to the proposed County mediation process at the Council’s March 28th meeting. The City Council did have such a discussion on March 28th and at the close of that session, the City Manager announced the Council’s appointment of Mayor Omar Ahmad and Council Member Randy Royce as the City’s representatives to the proposed County mediation.
Discussion of Mediation Format and Process
After the action by both cities to select their representatives to the proposed mediation, the new County Counsel (John C. Beiers) selected a retired Court of Appeals Justice (Zerne Haning) from the mediation firm JAMS to conduct the mediation between the two cities.
Since the selection of Justice Haning, the attorneys for San Carlos (Joan Cassman) and Belmont (Michael Colantuono) have been discussing the format and process for the mediation with each other and with Justice Haning. There has also been a great deal of discussion on process and format in the media, among bloggers, and from various organizations requiring the attention of staff.
Key Issues & Potential Actions by the Council
At this writing, the final recommendation as to how each City should be represented at the mediation has not been reached. Staff may suggest a change to the two councilmember team to clarify for the public that the mediation is intended to be a process between the two cities to explore whether there are future partnership opportunities between Belmont and San Carlos over the provision of Fire and EMS services and not a meeting of the Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department Board of Directors as some have suggested. Staff will present this part of the recommendation at the meeting.
Even though almost two months have passed since the County Supervisors have made their initial offer of free mediation for the cities of San Carlos and Belmont, San Carlos continues to hear both criticism and even threats of litigation over the prospect, format and timing of the mediation.
Staff notes that the Council has scheduled presentations of the three options for future Fire and EMS Services in San Carlos (Redwood City, Wackenhut Services Inc. and Standalone City Fire Department) at a Special Council Meeting on April 18th – one week from today. A decision on which option to select could occur on April 18th or April 25th.
In light of these factors, Staff would recommend that the Council set a deadline of April 24th for the proposed mediation process to be held. If this date is met, the Council could consider a report from the San Carlos mediation representative(s) at the April 25th City Council meeting.
If the date is not met, the Council may wish to revisit the decision of whether the County’s mediation process will be an effective option in this process – in light of several factors including the time it is taking to get to mediation, the continued opposition to a mediation process between the two cities by some parties and the relevancy of a mediation discussion held after the City Council reaches a decision on a future Fire & EMS service option. It appears likely that mediation may soon be rendered moot if the City Council stays on its current timeline for a decision regarding a Fire & EMS service option.
1. It is recommended that the City Council discuss the Mediation with the City of Belmont Regarding Future Partnership Options and take these actions: a) consider the recommendation to be presented at the meeting on representation from each city at the mediation; and b) set a deadline of April 24, 2011 by which the proposed mediation shall occur.
2. Alternatively the City Council could, in light of the continuing issues, concerns and threats against the City that have arisen regarding the proposed mediation as well as the timeline for determining a Fire and EMS option, reconsider whether participation in the County’s Free Mediation process is efficacious at this point in the transition process.
3. Provide the Staff with alternative direction.
Brian Moura, Assistant City Manager
Approved for submission by:
Jeff Maltbie, City Manager