A the end of September, Mr. Johns filed requests for records on City Council candidate Elizabeth Lewis' home construction project, police department expense accounts, Councilman Charles Marsala's investigation of Mr. Johns, and all communications between the former police chief, former interim city manager, and two other town staffers — among other things.
It's the latest salvo in the municipal drama that started with the audits of Atherton's busy building department in 2006, and has been punctuated by lawsuits, civil grand jury investigations and the departure of high-level staff.
Mr. Johns alleges that his firing in October 2007 was in retaliation for digging up information on problems in the building department.
"What motivated me to file the ... request was that I felt Charles Marsala had made one statement too many that I consider to be derogatory in nature," Mr. Johns told The Almanac.
Mr. Johns took issue with Mr. Marsala's recent comments praising City Attorney Marc Hynes for "putting Mr. Johns on the defensive" by asking the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office to investigate Mr. Johns for allegedly using town time and resources for his outside consulting jobs.
The district attorney's office declined to press charges, but while the investigation was ongoing this spring, Mr. Johns was forced to withdraw his wrongful termination lawsuit or risk incriminating himself in the criminal investigation.
Mr. Johns re-filed the lawsuit in June, alleging that his civil rights were violated, but withdrew it in August.
"I would hope that Councilman Marsala learns to be more judicious with his comments to the press, and by doing so, he's less likely to jeopardize his own career," Mr. Johns said.
Mr. Marsala objected to Mr. Johns' claim that he launched his own investigation into Mr. Johns' conduct at the same time that the town was doing its personnel investigation.
"I don't know if I did an investigation. I requested his credit card charges, which we should be looking at anyway, and then some purchase orders," Mr. Marsala said. "I backed those up with a couple of e-mails. I didn't interview any people."
Mr. Marsala said he's concerned by the scope of Mr. Johns' records request, and questions how he knows of the existence of some of the documents he is requesting.
"I feel it's a ploy to have the town encumber a huge expense (filling the records request) in order to seek a settlement from us," Mr. Marsala said.
Ms. Lewis, the council candidate, said she was shocked to learn that permits and documents associated with the construction of her home were part of Mr. Johns' records request.
"I can only suspect that, in some way, he's trying to dig something up to discredit me or slander me, because I'm running for town council," she said.
Ms. Lewis said she was unaware of any problems regarding the tear-down of most of her old house at the corner of Alejandra and Emilie avenues.
"We built a house according to all zoning and building code regulations that the town of Atherton required us to," she said. "Mike Wasmann, who's now the head building official, was our regular inspector and he signed off on all the building permits."
Mr. Wasmann confirmed to The Almanac that he's unaware of any problems or questions regarding Ms. Lewis' building project. Calculating fees and checking for zoning issues would have been handled by then-building official Mike Hood, he said.
Mr. Johns said he discovered apparent discrepancies in the building department's electronic permit records, having to do with the permit extension, scope of the work and features of the residence.
"Perhaps these apparent anomalies are nothing more than harmless technical violations or shoddy record-keeping on the part of the Building Department," he said in an e-mail to Ms. Lewis that he forwarded to The Almanac.
It's not the first time the legality of completed home construction projects have been questioned. Similar allegations were made about remodeling projects done by council members Marsala and Jim Janz, and an anonymous letter to the Planning Commission in July 2007 made public the fact that a portion of former Councilman Alan Carlson's roof peak was 7 inches over the town's height limit.