Danielson resigns as manager, but may stay on as consultant

CalPERS denies town's request to allow him to continue as manager

Due to an adverse ruling by a state agency, Atherton's interim city manager John Danielson has submitted his resignation, effective Friday, Jan. 27, the town of Atherton announced Jan. 25.

But the City Council will vote at a special meeting on Friday (Jan. 27) on a proposal to keep him on as a consultant for up to 90 more days, paying him $14,000 a month. He's been paid $15,000 a month as city manager.

At the same meeting, the council will also vote on appointing Theresa DellaSanta, the town's deputy city clerk, interim city manager.

Mr. Danielson's resignation is due to the refusal of the California Public Employees Retirement System to exempt him from a crucial rule. That rule prohibits Mr. Danielson, the retired city manager of Elk Grove, from working for a single employer for more than one year if he is to receive his pension.

The union that had represented 13 town employees who were laid off last year due to the town's outsourcing, under Mr. Danielson's leadership, of two departments, had appealed to CalPERS to deny the town's request for an exemption.

In a statement emailed to the Almanac, union representative Peter Finn said: "Teamsters Local 856 advocated strongly against the year extension and we applaud CalPERS' decision to deny the Town's appeal. Atherton Interim City Manager John Danielson has been taking advantage of taxpayer dollars through pension double-dipping while simultaneously gutting the Town of its highly skilled staff through outsourcing so extreme it is now the subject of a pending lawsuit.

"Teamsters Local 856 opposed the year extension because we believe in a fair and honest system that does not include upper echelon managers taking advantage of taxpayer money while budgets are balanced on the back of rank of file members."

Whether the proposed consulting contract will pass muster with CalPERS remains to be seen. Mayor Bill Widmer said in a telephone interview that City Attorney Bill Conners "feels very comfortable with the arrangement."

Mr. Conners had explained to him that as long as Mr. Danielson wasn't involved in the day-to-day operations of the town, and restricted his duties to that of executive recruiter and executive coach to Ms. DellaSanta, he would be able to continue receiving his pension, the mayor said.

Another fly in the ointment may be Mr. Danielson's effective date of resignation: Jan. 27. In a Jan. 19 letter to the town, CalPERS wrote that Mr. Danielson "must cease employment for the Town of Atherton immediately" if his retired status was to remain in effect.

Amy Norris of CalPERS said the agency must have his letter of resignation by Jan. 30, showing he resigned at the time the letter was sent. She was unable to say whether the letter had been emailed or sent by post.

Ms. DellaSanta and Mr. Danielson were in the process of establishing a new rate of pay this morning, but Mayor Widmer said the adjustment to her salary was likely to be around 15 percent.

Ms. DellaSanta now makes about $6,410 monthly. If her salary is boosted by 15 percent, she would make about $7,371 per month.

Friday's meeting

Before the council on Jan. 27 is a recommendation from Mr. Conners that the town pay Mr. Danielson $14,000 a month on a contract basis to provide recruitment services for a new city manager and advice to the interim city manager for a period of 90 days.

"Mr. Danielson will have no direct staff involvement nor will he be directing any Town activities, effective immediately," the town said in a press release dated Jan. 25.

The proposed consulting agreement with Mr. Danielson says he will "provide professional consultant services limited generally to conducting a search for a new City Manager."

The meeting begins at 11 a.m. in the Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road in the Town Center.

Richard Hine contributed to this report.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Calpers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 26, 2012 at 7:09 am

Nothing adverse about denial of a request for a special exemption. Why did the council not start looking for a new city manager when Gruber left more than a year ago?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 26, 2012 at 10:07 am

Keep in mind as well - PERS has certain rules. He can, should he desire, work outside of a PERS organization and earn as much as he wants. He also can, should he desire, postpone his retirement and go 'active' again and work for Atherton then retire on the collective years earned. What PERS is doing, and correctly I believe, is saying "You can only double dip from a PERS employer for 960 hours per year." So think of it this way - he gets his retirement - I have no idea how much - but lets say $10k per month plus Atherton is paying him $14,000 per month. PERS is saying OK, but only for 24 weeks full time.... so last I checked that is about 6 months - pretty good deal.....
Of course look at the opposite side - in the last year and up to 6 months this year he cannot find a replacement or a Chief (oh, yeah the Chief is there and sometimes serves as the City Manager)
So for those who want the additional facts - look at the Cal Pers web site.... For those in Atherton who hoped he might get a full year to find a Chief, well just guessing Ed is already sold on it...

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Posted by MPSCD Employee
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

So they are going to pay this jabroni $14k a month to find his replacement?
Do they not have an HR department?
Atherton is a bunch of suckers with too much money to throw around.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by and there it is
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Teresa DelaSanto is not only acting as City Clerk and as City Manager, but also is the H. R. person for the Town. Got it?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Staff
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

In 2010 the City Manager resigned quickly followed by the Asst. City Manager with HR responsibilities.

Turnover has been high in Atherton for some time.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by and there it is
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

So in the middle of all this game of musical chairs played out by very recent interim hires (all of them)-
Who has the authority to sign for access Atherton's bank accounts?

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elk Grove Resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2012 at 8:40 am

Someone should take a look at his total record for a real eyeopener! This guy continue to pillage his way through city after city getting paid enormous salaries and racking up retirement benefits and other perks as he goes. Here in Elk Grove we know him only too well.

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm

The new interim City Manager received her bachelor's degree in January 2012- what a role for a new graduate with three years of experience -that is kindof scary. Danielson has done this in Elk Grove and Wildomar - now it is Atherton's turn. I'm not sure if this is good or bad - just odd.

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