After years of dysfunction and drama, harbor board president talks about dissolving district

Daily Post Staff Writer

At her very first meeting as president of the San Mateo County Harbor District board, Virginia Chang Kiraly talked about dissolving the agency.

The district has been plagued with the threat of dissolution and scandals since the 1960s. According to a 2014 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report, the district has a history of dysfunction, going back at least to 2001, when commission meetings turned into shouting matches. Even as early as 1963 county voters agreed to dissolve the district, but a court overturned the decision.

At Wednesday (Jan. 17) night’s meeting in South San Francisco, Kiraly said the drama at the meetings is a problem.

“People are tired and are asking why in the world is this district not dissolved yet,” Kiraly said. “Let’s stop this pattern of complaining and get on with what’s important, or else people will say this district needs to be dissolved.”

At the beginning of the meeting, commission members Ed Larenas and Sabrina Brennan abstained from voting on electing the commission’s president, vice president, secretary and treasurer because of Brennan’s pending sexual harassment complaint against commission member Tom Mattusch. The five-member elected harbor commission picks news officers, such as president, annually in January.

Larenas and Brennan said before the voting began that they thought picking new officers for the commission was inappropriate until the investigation against Mattusch was completed. Last year, Brennan had filed a harassment complaint against Mattusch, saying he sent her inappropriate images in emails.

Later, the board voted 3-2 against a proposal to hire an outside investigator to look into Brennan’s complaint against General Manager Steve McGrath. Larenas and Brennan abstained.

Brennan said in a written complaint that she’s asked McGrath to put items on the board’s agenda, but they are “routinely not heard during meetings and deleted by Mr. McGrath.”

McGrath said at Wednesday’s meeting that during his tenure at the harbor district, he has received 27 requests from commission members to place items on the agenda: one from Kiraly, seven from Larenas and 19 from Brennan.

McGrath denied ever pulling any of Brennan’s items from the agenda and apologized to her for what he called a deterioration in communications.

With this complaint, McGrath is the third general manager who Brennan has complained about in her five years on the board.