News

Johns lawsuit gets go-ahead from judge

The ongoing legal battle between the town of Atherton and its former finance director, John Johns, got the go-ahead from a judge Oct. 27.

Mr. Johns was fired in October 2007 and has been fighting his dismissal ever since. The latest in a series of lawsuits he's filed against the town overcame a procedural hurdle when Judge Steven M. Hall ruled on Oct. 27 that Mr. Johns' lawsuit seeking reinstatement meets legal requirements to continue.

Lawyers for Atherton had filed a demurrer challenging portions of Mr. Johns' lawsuit.

Last year, Mr. Johns twice filed and then dropped wrongful termination lawsuits against the town. In his current lawsuit, he alleges that the City Council improperly interfered in his personnel investigation and violated the state's open meeting law by discussing the investigation in closed session.

A settlement offer proffered by his attorney, Jon Parsons, went unanswered by the town this summer. In exchange for being reinstated as Atherton's finance director, and receiving back pay and benefits, Mr. Johns would agree to immediately submit his resignation, according to the settlement offer. That offer is now off the table, Mr. Parsons said in a letter to the town.

Mr. Johns was fired after an attorney hired by the town investigated complaints against him by Atherton staff. Mr. Johns maintains he was unfairly targeted and his reputation was tarnished.

Comments

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Posted by Candle lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 3, 2009 at 1:01 am

There is a typical formula for litigation that goes as follows:

Client (being sued): We hate that ^!*#$.

Attorney: I know. Don't worry, we can get the case knocked out of court for far less than what they're offering to settle.

Client: That's music to my ears.

…later on… (with many legal fees accrued to Attorney)

Attorney: I'm really amazed by that judge's ruling. Well, I do understand your desire to settle the case at this point. I'll prepare the settlement agreement.

In the private sector, the profit motive usually puts an end run around this game well before the public sector. After all, if Atherton refuses a $10,000 settlement offer, and spends $500,000 on the litigation, who is held responsible? Seemingly no one. They'll just go for an increased parcel tax, increased fees on routine items, etc. (For that matter, does anyone know what the success factors are for Jerry Gruber?).

The morale of this story is that the Johns lawsuit should have been settled long ago, for the $10,000. It makes sense to settle it now for far more, and try to use that bitter pill to break the vicious cycle of how attorneys have been milking the Town of Atherton.

By the way, whoever the attorneys have been for Atherton in the Johns lawsuit have, in my opinion, given very poor advice. The last thing you want to do in a case with an ordinary person suing an organization is to make that person look like a victim by coming down on them like a ton of bricks.


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 3, 2009 at 9:28 am

I t is unsurprizing that the Almanac has not listed this article on the home page nor does it appear in the print edition. Even though the judges ruling came a full week ago and the Almanac was invited to attend the hearing. Other local papers addressed the topic last week. The decision to ignore the Johns topic except as desribed by staff writer Marsala, through out the last several years has been a great disservice to the entire community, not only to Mr Johns. More than shameful.....


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Posted by Candle lighter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I too cannot understand the deletion of posts by the Almanac, particularly on issues concerning John Johns and his legal actions. If his long battle results in a victory for him (I believe it will), he will be owed multiple apologies. Let's not forget, he did a great job for this town as finance director, and the finance committee verified that.


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Posted by Louise
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm

The timing of the previos chief's sudden departure makes me wonder if it is somehow related to the judges ruling on the John John's case last week........I have wondered the same thing about the timing of the city manager's raise.....and the very odd selection process for the next chief.


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Posted by questtioning the truth
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 13, 2009 at 8:25 pm

I wonder how much stuff will come out on Atherton, and what the real truth is. One can only hope that the truth will come out. I don't know what really happened, If John Johns is right shame on Atherton. If Atherton is right shame on john Johns. If their both wrong then shine a light on how Atherton can change and fix our government. I would like to know the real story. Lets hope this trial puts all the cards on the table.


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Posted by The Truth
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 13, 2009 at 9:40 pm

In some sense, the "truth" is somewhat irrelevant since even if one assumes all of Atherton's allegations are correct against John Johns (as to why he should have been fired), they don't amount to anything.

Allegation #1: He charged an iPod to the town. Is this the event that has justified hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, a nine-month criminal investigation that has ruined his life (but didn't amount to anything), etc. etc.? I certainly hope not.

Allegation #2: He moonlighted. Given Lt. Mike Guerra's management consulting business, and Chief Glenn Nielsen's real estate business, this allegation cannot be taken seriously.

Allegation #3: He didn't maintain appropriate working hours. However, the finance committee (particularly Dr. Sam Goodman) said he did an excellent job, and they were fully satisfied with his work.

There's really no excuse for this type of conduct on the part of Atherton, and it is shameful to put a person in a position where they are fired and criminally investigated for the better part of a year over stuff like this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Melinda Tevis
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 14, 2009 at 12:16 am

Imagine what it is like to be ANY employee of the town of Atherton--every one of them knows exactly what happened to John, and every one of them knows not only that it could happen to any one of them as well, but also that no one will care enough to do anything about it except to stand there and watch. I think its great that John is fighting tooth and nail for justice. Apparently he is the only one left to still believe in it. If he wins it may be the nicest thing anyone has ever done for this town...and the most heathful, but certainly the best thing for team Atherton morale--Best of luck to us.


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