|An investigator probed allegations that Mike Hood, Atherton's former building official, undermined town rules, accepted gifts and didn't properly supervise his fractious employees, but failed to make findings because Mr. Hood decided to retire.
Investigator Lance Bayer was hired last year by the town to explore allegations against Mr. Hood and accusations against two of his employees, whose names were withheld. Mr. Bayer is a San Jose-based attorney.
The allegations against the employees held up -- one employee for making threats against then-Finance Director John Johns and another employee for being rude to coworkers and the public, and working against the town's interests, according to Mr. Bayer's report.
However, while Mr. Bayer's report documents his investigation into the allegations against Mr. Hood, he said he made "no findings" due to Mr. Hood's retirement on June 30, 2006.
The 65-page report details allegations that Mr. Hood:
- Undermined the initiation of the town's excavation fees.
- Had false dealings with Mr. Johns and City Manager Jim Robinson regarding the excavation fees.
- Improperly accepted gifts.
- Failed to adequately and effectively supervise his employees.
A redacted version of Mr. Bayer's report, dated June 6, 2006, was released on Monday, Dec. 17, in response to a state Public Records Act request by the Almanac. Only the names of department heads and two town residents are included in the report, while about 30 other names were withheld.
The short-lived excavation fee was meant to reimburse the town for wear-and-tear on its roads by heavily laden trucks hauling dirt from basement projects. Enacted in May 2006, the fee proved wildly unpopular and in September of that year, amid threats of lawsuits, it was dumped by the City Council. The town refunded the approximately $350,000 in excavation fees, plus interest, that had been collected.
However, that summer questions arose about whether the building department improperly issued excavation permits just before the fee went into effect, allowing some builders to avoid it. The issue helped trigger a series of internal audits led by Mr. Johns.
Mr. Hood departed amidst the ensuing tumult, which saw a number of changes to the building department's procedures, the hiring of additional staff, purchase of new permit-tracking software, and the reassignment of Lois English, the department's permit technician.
The council also took action against several construction projects that apparently had zoning and permit problems, resulting in legal action against the town.
Mr. Bayer's interviews show that Mr. Hood was aware that one of his employees threatened Mr. Johns after being questioned about how excavation fees were calculated. Mr. Hood said he didn't think the threats were serious, the report said.
Mr. Hood also said he had received about "half a dozen" complaints about the other employee's rudeness, and that he was aware there were some coworkers whom the employee refused to talk to, but that he took no disciplinary action.
"As long as business gets conducted, that's my concern. What a person does as far as their personal choices, that's their own business," Mr. Hood reportedly told Mr. Bayer.
Mr. Hood characterized his own management style as "pretty hands-off," the report said.
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