San Bruno mayor censured after summer-long investigation

A private investigator found proof of inappropriate behavior towards city staff


Zachary Navarra

Mayor Medina’s censure comes after a summer investigation from an independent company.

San Bruno Mayor Rico Medina has been censured and barred from city committee appointments after an investigation uncovered inappropriate conduct directed toward city staff.

The investigation was conducted by an external independent group that was hired by the City after concerns rose about recent incidents involving Medina. The process, which began on June 16, found that the mayor spoke in a “harsh and belittling” manner to his staff, called staff while intoxicated, and attended a closed-city council meeting while impaired.

Seven witnesses were interviewed within a week, followed by the mayor himself later on in the summer.

“I think that the decision to censure ––– and to even consider censuring ––– Mayor Medina was a difficult one for all of us,” said Councilmember Linda Mason, who Medina beat in his reelection bid last November.

Credible and detailed accounts concluded that the mayor ––– on multiple occasions ––– would cut off an employee when talking by putting his hand up and walking away before they could respond to his questions. It was also found that Medina would call an employee after hours to accuse them of “not doing anything” on a project and complain about the City’s lack of staffing.

At one point, the investigation describes Medina as being defensive when a staff member showed concern when he started coughing in City Hall, accusing the employee of “having a problem” with him.

“The majority of the council didn’t feel like we could let staff continue to feel that they were not being heard,” Mason said.

While originally claimed in the complaint, Medina wasn’t found to have made threats to any City employees. When confronted with the claims, the mayor originally denied the claim and was “saddened” by the allegation.

It was also proven uncontestedly that Medina contacted City staff after drinking alcohol, and the investigation found a “preponderance of evidence” to back it up. Two witnesses acknowledged that Medina might not have been drunk on the phone, but three more contested by reporting that the mayor was slurring his words, giggling, yelling, distracted, incoherent, and experiencing mood swings.

According to the report, Medina did admit to calling City staff during evenings and weekends after he had been consuming alcohol at different social events, like barbecues and sporting events. The mayor also claimed that the alcohol didn’t affect his usual impassioned speaking manner and tendencies to jump from topic-to-topic, but witnesses ––– a few that have worked with him for a while ––– saw a clear change in his communication style.

“There’s no witch hunt if the allegations are brought by credible witnesses who have no agenda but to do their jobs and not be pressured to circumvent the systems that are in place for a reason,” said Maria Concha, a San Bruno resident. “For those of you who are so short-sighted and think that this couldn’t have possibly happened the way it did, take your heads out of the sand. This man needs help.”

On June 11, just five days before the investigation began, Medina attended a closed session city council meeting and some speculated that he was impaired. The evidence in the investigation showed no proof of impairment. The mayor insisted to investigators that he hadn’t been drinking before the meeting, but instead had taken medicine for a health issue beforehand that may have affected his performance in the meeting.

San Bruno city council voted 3-1 to censure and remove the mayor committee appointments. In addition, he’s been asked not to contact staff directly, but instead work through the city manager or city attorney. Unless he’s conducting business as a resident, property owner, or attending a meeting as mayor, Medina was told not to enter City Hall facilities or staff workspaces as a precaution.

“I think that Mayor Medina is committed to San Bruno, I don’t even think that’s a question in anybody’s mind,” Mason said. “And hopefully this doesn’t happen again and we can move forward in the city. We have a lot to look forward to. We have a team that’s working together.”

Councilmember Michaell Salazar was the only opposing vote against the resolution.

“I can say confidently that this decision will have little impact on San Bruno either now or in the long term,” Salazar said. “In discussing the report and the sanctions placed on the mayor, staff advised us that the situation had been addressed and no further action was necessary. While I was satisfied that the investigation had run its course, some members of the Council felt they needed to take further action against the mayor.”

Medina was elected as mayor in 2017 to serve a three-year term and was re-elected for a two-year term in 2020. He has served on the City Council for 15 years.