Almanac

News - September 8, 2010

Atherton scrambling to fix records-access problems

by Renee Batti

On the heels of an Aug. 20 showdown in Town Hall over access to public records, Atherton officials are scrambling to fix the problem they've identified as the root of the town's difficulties in producing building department records of housing permits, inspections and other documents.

The problem, City Manager Jerry Gruber said, is that not all data was migrated from old software to the software installed in 2007. "Unfortunately, we made the assumption the migration was complete" when the town switched to the new record-keeping software, he told The Almanac.

"We're doing everything we can at the staff level to resolve this," he said, adding that he will also approach the City Council for funding approval to hire an expert to complete the data migration so that "we'll be able to pull reports really easily."

At the same time, Mr. Gruber is taking a conciliatory approach with the two people who confronted him on Aug. 20, demanding to see public records they had requested via state Public Records Act letters. The records were not made available that day to resident Kimberly Sweidy and former town employee John Johns.

Mr. Johns, who successfully sued the town over wrongful termination, threatened to take legal action to force the town to produce the records if it didn't do so by Aug. 27.

Mr. Johns said on Sept. 3 that he had not taken the legal step after receiving assurances from the town that real efforts were being made to retrieve the records he was seeking. In an Aug. 26 e-mail to Mr. Johns, Mr. Gruber wrote: "I would like to express my regret for the frustration you are experiencing. ... (T)he town is committed to working with you to provide any disclosable public records you request."

On Sept. 1, Deputy City Clerk Theresa DellaSanta sent Mr. Johns a sample page of data the staff had retrieved through an involved process, and said she would prepare a disk with all the material — numbering more than 25,000 pages — once he confirms the data is what he requested.

"The town does appear to be making the necessary efforts" to retrieve the records, Mr. Johns told The Almanac.

Town staff also worked with Ms. Sweidy to arrange a meeting between her and the town's part-time interim building official to discuss the records she is seeking on the permit approvals, inspections and other building department involvement with the construction of her home. Ms. Sweidy has accused the department of "gross negligence" in the performance of its duties.

The town switched from Q&A software to Trakit software after questions were raised about record-keeping and other discrepancies in the building department in an audit performed by Mr. Johns, who was the town's finance director at the time.

Comments

Posted by Dejavu, a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 8, 2010 at 12:35 am

This article states that MacGruber wants to hire yet another consultant to finish the transfer of records.
How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were already spent on new system software, on all the new training and who ever was already paid to move the records over to begin with?
Does anybody know? What?- three -four -five hundred thousand?? And they can't pull a permit??
This is the very definition of insanity over and over again.
We all had to listen to Jerry Carlson as Mayor rave on and on about the fabulous corrections to our Bld Dept, the lessons learned, the fresh start.....bla bla bla, and how much confidence he had in the new management team bla bla bla
Stick a pitch fork in some of these bozos-they are done and the money is gone.


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 8, 2010 at 7:38 am

As far as I know, the question that was oft-repeated in the YouTube video still has not been answered: can Kelli Robertson export the records from the older software?


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2010 at 8:25 am

This is the Jerry Gruber Video where he refuses to answer Jon Buckheit's question.

Can Kelli Robertson access the records? Yes or No

Web Link


Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2010 at 8:31 am

to: Theresa DellaSanta <tdellasanta@ci.atherton.ca.us>

date: Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 8:02 AM
subjectRe: public records request for building permit tracking system database
mailed-bygmail.com

Dear Ms. Dellasanta

Mr. Gruber appears to have completely ignored the instructions I gave him to export the building permit records from QA. These instructions require no computer programming skills and would allow one to use the existing features of the "outdated" QA program to export the entire database to a flat file with fields separated by commas.

Instead, Mr. Gruber seems intent on migrating the data from QA to the CRW system. I have no idea why he would follow such an indirect route in providing the information requested other than to create the impression that he is attempting to comply with my public records request when he has no intention of fulfilling said request.

Additionally, your sample report does not include all of the information I have requested. For example, the records you provided me with contain no information on fees paid or on the timing and results of inspections performed. As such this data is not responsive to my public records request.

I would request that the Town follow the instructions I gave it and that the records be exported to a text file in a CSV format as QA provides the ability to do. Please rest assured that the text file that will be created will, by no means be too large to e-mail.

Finally, I see no reason for the Town to spend thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars migrating information contained in QA to the CRW system. I have provided free of charge instructions on how to export the information into a machine readable format that can be used by anyone via any number of computer software programs, including but not limited to Microsoft Word, Adobe and MIcrosoft Excel.

If Mr. Gruber continues to stonewall, that is just fine. I will simply wait until the November election when a new city council is in place and until such time as that new City Council has appointed a new City Manager, one who is actually interested in open and transparent government and one who acts with a respect for the rule of law.

Regards,

John Johns


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2010 at 9:51 am

Any building file in the Town of Atherton can be printed from Microfiche within 30 minutes.

What means this? Disclosable Public Records.

"T)he town is committed to working with you to provide any disclosable public records you request."

Is Town Manager Jerry Gruber consciously creating a NEW category of Un-Disclosable Public Records, in anticipation of the necessity


Posted by the UN-disclosable list, a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

My guess:
There will continue to be no access to the records of Ms Lewis, the hundreds of Peninsula Pacific Group projects, some Benzacar, some Chesler, and an elite list of "special" projects hoping to remain invisible by hiding in plain sight, even though they have already turned up in the audit.
These secrets will be kept at all costs, even if it takes every last penny the town has left.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 5:21 am

"Mr. Gruber appears to have completely ignored the instructions I gave him to export the building permit records from QA."

Mr. Johns, what makes you think you have the right to "instruct" the Town Manager. You are an ex employee and not a resident of Atherton. The Town Manager takes his "instruction" from the Town Council, not you or your cohorts.


Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 7:41 am

Dear Interested:

In response to your question as to what gives me the right to instruct Mr. Gruber on how to retrieve records from QA.

I provided these instructions at the request of Mr. Gruber.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 9:42 am

Mr. Johns...Thank you for making that clarification. Without it, your posted email makes you look pompous.


Posted by misnomer, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 9:44 am

Interested seems to be completely uninterested in discovering the truth. Maybe he is one of those towm management employees whose only hope of keeping his job is if Gruber keeps his.


Posted by stands corrected, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

misnomer spoke too soon


Posted by SHOLMES, a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2010 at 2:06 pm

What I would do is to subpoena all of the disgruntled layed off city employees who worked in the different "halls of records" and include secretaries and anyone who can testify if any entries were either doctored or not correctly recorded before they went on file either on Microfiche or records dating back primarily 10-15 years. The boom period for the Peninsula and also follow the money trail, the early retirees from positions of authority, and back to the "disgruntled"
ex-wives or boyfriends and girlfriends. Elementary.


Posted by Dejavu, a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 9, 2010 at 8:25 pm

SHOLMES:
Several of these interviews and "investigations" have already taken place over the years.
Ever heard of the Lance Bayer Report?
Or the Mary Topliff report?
Maybe any of the grand Jury reports?
It turns out that the truth is only in the eyes of the voter


Posted by SHOLMES, a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm


Deja Vu.........appropriate name for this discussion.

You are either naive to the operations of the San Mateo County. IF a proper investigation would be done.......including calling in a lot of unhappy unemployed workers whose unemployment has run out and who KNOW the smallest details of how the contractors they have worked with are not capable of being grilled by a grand jury and come out smelling like roses. I doubt if either the Bayer or Topliff outcomes
mean that they solved the problems for future corruption...Please.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields