News

Atherton seeks manager with backbone

Wimps need not apply. That's one of the messages Atherton City Council members want to send to anyone thinking about tossing his or her hat in the ring for the city manager's position.

The council met in a special session Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 28, to discuss the process of finding a permanent city manager, which the town has been without since October 2010.

Council members approved budgeting up to $17,000 to hire a recruitment firm, abandoning their original plan to hire the recently resigned interim city manager, John Danielson, to conduct the search.

Mr. Danielson and town officials decided the town should switch course because of uncertainty over whether Mr. Danielson, a retired city manager, would be able to continue receiving his pension if he continued working for Atherton.

The town's goal is to have a permanent manager in place by May 16, although council members and Interim City Manager Theresa DellaSanta acknowledged that date is optimistic.

The council also discussed what it wants in a city manager. Councilman Jerry Carlson listed three criteria he felt were most important. Number one: The new manager has to have "backbone enough to stand up to council members." In summary, he said, he didn't want a wimp in the city manager's office.

Councilman Jim Dobbie agreed, saying that he wants "someone to tell me to go jump in the lake" if he is out of line. Also, he said, it's important that the new manager "be capable of dealing with the unions."

Although the town laid off 13 of its 16 general employees to outsource services last year, officials say it will look to more cuts in employee costs when it negotiates a new contract with police officers this year.

Council members generally agreed with job qualifications outlined in advertisements already published, including a strong financial background, municipal management experience, and a commitment to efficiency of services.

Mayor Bill Widmer is expected to appoint an ad hoc committee of two council members to oversee the recruitment process soon.

■ Former manager John Danielson out of the picture in Atherton

Comments

Posted by Heimlich & Struggles, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm

If the Council hires someone with a spine, it will be a deviation from their pattern.

Typically, they hire a strong interim city manager to fix some problems. The experience reminds them they actually prefer someone who tolerates being micromanaged.

Good luck to the candidates.


Posted by Agree with Heimlich & Struggles, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 29, 2012 at 7:57 am

The council told staff to quit renting out the Pavilon in the Park to make way for the library. Danielson and staff challenged them on their logic with data showing the Pavilon brought in $90,000 a year in rental income. They in turn publicly embarrassed staff at a meeting, claiming the staff report was flawed.

Whenever a city manager or staff member challenges the council they are driven out of town.


Posted by Jerry Carlson's Crusade, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 29, 2012 at 9:47 am

It never made much sense to me to argue that a person we don't elect (a city manager) should be more powerful than the people we do elect (council members), since that just diffuses accountability.

What Jerry Carlson really wants is a city manager who will have the backbone to stand up to the council members who are voting against him.

Can we get Jerry Gruber back to meet this need of Jerry Carlson's?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

How refreshing and informative it would be if the posters on this forum had the courage to use their real names. Of course I realize that they are all terrified that the Town Council might retaliate against them in some really horrible way.


Posted by Deja vu, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Peter please forgive copying one of an older posts you made on Gruber's departure but it was "right on". The current council is so dysfunctional they will never attract a good manager given their history of treatment of previous managers going back over ten years. McKeithen eats them alive and Widmer and Dobbie will micromanage them until they they will not be able to function on their own. Dobbie in the above article is already positioning and prejudicing future labor
negotiations.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm

This is unfortunate. I believe that Gruber had the potential to be an excellent Town Manager but the Council failed to recognize that California law provides for a "strong City/Town Manager" with the elected officials providing policy direction. Therefore, Gruber was never really given the opportunity to lead and his tenure here was also marked by a lot of dissension amongst the Council. Hopefully with a new Council in November the issue of the proper role of the Town Manager will be sorted out beforehand and we will be able to recruit someone with talent and leadership and then all of us can support him/her to actually MANAGE the town.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I continue to hold this opinion:

Hopefully with a new Council in November the issue of the proper role of the Town Manager will be sorted out beforehand and we will be able to recruit someone with talent and leadership and then all of us can support him/her to actually MANAGE the town.

For reference here is the Town Ordinance on the responsibilities of the Town Manager:

Chapter 2.12
CITY MANAGER
Sections:
2.12.010 Office established.
2.12.020 Ex officio offices of city manager.
2.12.030 Appointment.
2.12.040 Surety bond.
2.12.050 Appointment of assistant city manager.
2.12.060 Compensation.
2.12.070 Powers and duties.
2.12.080 Cooperation of subordinate officers.
2.12.090 Tenure.
2.12.010 Office established.
Pursuant to Section 34851 of the Government Code of the state, and other applicable laws, the council establishes a city manager form of government and creates the office of city manager. (Ord. 274 § 1, 1967)
2.12.020 Ex officio offices of city manager.
By virtue of his office the city manager shall also hold the offices of city clerk, purchasing officer, finance officer, building official, zoning administrator, superintendent of streets, personnel officer, secretary of the planning commission and director of civil defense. (Ord. 274 § 2, 1967)
2.12.030 Appointment.
The city manager shall be appointed by the city council solely on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications and ability. (Ord. 274 § 3, 1967)
2.12.040 Surety bond.
The city manager shall furnish a corporate surety bond, to be approved by the city council, in such sum as may be determined by the city council, which shall be conditioned upon the faithful performance of the duties imposed upon the city manager as prescribed in this chapter. Any premium for such bonds shall be a proper charge against the town. (Ord. 274 § 4, 1967)
2.12.050 Appointment of assistant city manager.
The city council may designate some duly qualified person as assistant city manager to perform the duties of the city manager during any period of absence or disability of such city manager, subject, however, to the person's furnishing a corporate surety bond conditioned upon faithful performance of the duties required to be performed as set forth in this chapter. (Ord. 274 § 5, 1967)
2.12.060 Compensation.
The city manager shall receive such compensation and expense allowances as the city council shall from time to time determine and fix by resolution. (Ord. 274 § 6, 1967)
2.12.070 Powers and duties.
The city manager shall be the administrative head of the government of the town under the direction and control of the city council, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. He shall be responsible for the efficient administration of all the affairs of the town which are under his control. In addition to his general powers as administrative head, and not as a limitation thereon, it shall be his duty and he shall have the powers set forth in the following subsections:
A. To see that all laws and ordinances of the town are duly enforced and that all franchises, permits and privileges granted by the town are faithfully observed;
B. To control, order and give directions to all heads of departments, except the city attorney, and to subordinate officers and employees of the town through their department head, and consolidate or combine offices, positions, departments or units under his direction;
C. To appoint, remove and demote any and all officers and employees of the town except the mayor, councilmen, chairman and members of the planning commission and the city attorney;
D. To represent the town in its negotiations and working relationships with the state, the county and other governmental jurisdictions; provided, that any contracts negotiated for the exchange of services from any such other governmental jurisdiction shall be subject to approval by the city council;
E. To perform all of the duties and powers imposed by law on the city clerk or city auditor;
F. To attend all meetings of the city council of the town unless excused therefrom by the council;
G. To recommend to the city council for adoption such measures or ordinances as he deems necessary or expedient;
H. To keep the city council at all times fully advised as to the financial conditions and needs of the town;
I. To prepare and submit the proposed annual budget and the proposed annual salary plan to the city council for its approval, and to supervise the administration of the budget after its adoption;
J. To purchase all supplies for all of the departments or divisions of the town. No expenditures shall be submitted or recommended to the city council except on report or approval of the city manager. He shall approve all warrants drawn on the town before payment thereof;
K. To make investigations into the affairs of the town or any department or division thereof and any contract for the proper performance thereof;
L. To investigate all complaints in relation to matters concerning the administration of the town government and in regard to the service maintained by public utilities in such town;
M. To exercise general supervision over all public buildings, public parks and all other public property which are under the control and jurisdiction of the city council;
N. To devote full time to the duties of his office and the interest of the town. The city manager shall not be employed by or work for any other person, corporation or entity, whether or not compensated therefor;
O. To perform such other duties and exercise such other powers as may be delegated to him from time to time by ordinance or resolution or other action of the city council;
P. To attend any and all meetings of any commissions or boards created by the city council upon his own volition or upon direction of the city council. At any such meetings at which he attends, the city manager shall be heard by such commissions and boards as to all matters upon which he wishes to address them. (Ord. 274 § 7, 1967)
2.12.080 Cooperation of subordinate officers.
A. The city council and its members shall deal with the administrative services of the town through the city manager, except for the purpose of inquiry; and neither the city council nor any member thereof shall give orders to the subordinates of the city manager, except in the event of an emergency endangering life or property.
B. It shall be the duty of all subordinate officers, including the city attorney, to cooperate with and assist the city manager in administering the affairs of the town most efficiently, economically and harmoniously, so far as may be consistent with their duties as prescribed by the law and ordinances of the town.
C. Upon appointment of the city manager, the terms of subordinate officers over whom he has power of appointment or removal shall cease unless they are reappointed by him. All powers heretofore vested in the city council or in any other officer or employee of the town ordinance, resolution or other action of the council which are by this chapter vested in the city manager, shall be deemed to be transferred to the city manager as though all such ordinances, resolutions or other actions had been specifically amended. (Ord. 274 § 8, 1967)
2.12.090 Tenure.
The city manager shall hold office at and during the pleasure of the city council. Removal of the city manager shall be only by a vote of at least a majority of the full membership of the city council at a regular meeting of the council, after opportunity for the city manager to be heard. At least thirty days prior to such removal, the city manager shall be furnished with a written notice stating the intention of any council member to remove him and the reason therefor, provided that prior to such removal the city council may suspend him from duty, without change in his compensation pending removal. In removing the city manager, the city council shall use its uncontrolled discretion and its action shall be final and shall not depend upon any particular showing or degree of proof. (Ord. 274 § 9, 1967)


Posted by Jerry Carlson's Crusade, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Peter Carpenter criticizes me for posting about Jerry Carlson, wanting it to be non-anonymous, but has no issue with Deja vu attacking Kathy McKeithen anonymously. He's made clear what side he's on.


Posted by Jonathan trisheck, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Peter, why do you spend so much time and heartache on these measly issues in the management of the town? Why don't you just kick back and enjoy your life without getting all worked up about the "leaders" of this town? I'm not attacking you, rather I am trying to help you. Being on the city council of a town of 7000 people isn't exactly admirable, and it won't get you in the history books, so why waste your time with these people who will never have any real power in this world?

Focus that incredible amount of positive energy on something where the people appreciate you instead of fire back at you and critize you, making your life a living hell. I read a few articles a week on the almanac and you're always commenting, enlightening people who do nothing but critize you and your amazing wealth of knowledge. Do something you love, and find somebody who will pay you for it. Not take below-the-belt shots at you.

Jon


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter, why do you spend so much time and heartache on these measly issues in the management of the town?"

Democracy only works when the 'demos'/people ARE involved. This Forum has the potential of being a positive force for discussion and dialogue but that depends on individual posters being respectful and truthful. While on some occasions I have, unfortunately, lashed out at those who attacked me or my family, I try to confine my postings to providing factual information and expressing my own opinion. And I try to encourage others to do the same.

Like the Editors, I prefer that posters use their real names, particularly when they are attacking others, because I believe that each of us should be held accountable for our statements and that anonymous attacks on others degrade this Forum.

Fortunately there are many other things of importance in my life in addition to this Forum so I can continue to post here while still enjoying life to its fullest.

And Jonathan, thank you for your thoughtfulness.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Date: September 24, 2010 4:26:54 PM GMT+01:00
To:
Dear Council and Council candidates,

With Jerry Gruber's resignation the Council is faced with its most important responsibility - the choice of a new CEO.

California law provides for a strong City/Town Manager form of local government whereby the Council selects the Town Manager and set broad policy but the Town Manager is the Town's CEO and is responsible for actually leading, running, managing and directing the entire Town staff. This concept is already embodied in Atherton's Town Ordinance Chapter 2.12 cited below.

I urge you to begin your search with a reaffirmation of Chapter 2.12, to include citizens in your search process from beginning to end, and to then allow the new Town Manager to carry out the strong Town Manager model of local government. Under no circumstances should you select a candidate who you are not prepared to grant ALL of the responsibilities and authorities specified in Chapter 2.12.


Respectfully,

Peter Carpenter


Posted by Tim Wulff, a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Peter and Jon,

I wanted to add regarding the topic of participation, that in my view, Peter is admirable and is executing what are actually the responsibilities of each one of as citizens.

Rights and privileges do not come as a free gift, they come with responsibilities, duties and obligations.

As the ethicism of our culture has become more and more corrupted, self-interest has deluded us into thinking that indifference to these obligations will not result in a detriment to our lives. This is not correct.

Peter and I surely do not agree on many views. However, I hope he knows that I have respect and regard for him and always strive to be genteel and sincere in my communications with him publicly. He and any other citizen attempting to live up to the tenets of that title in a polite and sincere manner surely deserve this.

I tip my hat.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you Tim - and I, in return, tip my hat to you for your contributions to this digital forum of citizen democracy.

If each of us took just 15 minutes each day to contribute to an intelligent and respectful dialogue on community issues our body politic would be much healthier.


Posted by Deja Vu Two, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 2, 2012 at 8:07 am

Deja Vu wrote

"McKeithen eats them alive and Widmer and Dobbie will micromanage them until they they will not be able to function on their own. Dobbie in the above article is already positioning and prejudicing future labor."

You are right!!


Posted by John Johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

If I were the Town manager I'd refuse to live in the residence provided for the manager.

The biggest problem is that those who have taken the job in the past have had it so good that they lost the ability to do the right thing because they had so much to loose (a one acre home in the middle of paradise)

If I were the Town Manager, I'd tell the council to bulldoze the manager's house to make room for a new library.

Then I'd turn my attention to what really needs to get done, rebuilding the public works department, the building department, the finance department all the while tearing apart the bloated and corrupt management structure in the police department.


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