http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2012/02/22/atherton-attorney-gets-30-percent-pay-hike


Almanac

News - February 22, 2012

Atherton attorney gets 30 percent pay hike

by Renee Batti

Atherton's city attorney is getting a $3,000 monthly raise pending a performance review that, according to his original contract, is about three months overdue.

The City Council considered the raise and an extension of Bill Conners' contract at its Feb. 15 meeting. Mr. Conners was hired last April, and his contract called for a review after six months.

The proposed new contract before the council last week hikes his pay from $9,800 per month to $12,800; boosts his weekly office hours in Town Hall from four to 14; extends the agreement two years "with extensions upon mutual agreement"; and "reflects more correctly the nature and extent of the services provided," according to Mr. Conners' written report to the council.

Approval of the contract was on the agenda's consent calendar, which means the council could have approved it with no discussion as part of a package of actions. But Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen asked that the item be removed from the consent calendar, and proposed that the council conduct a performance review in closed session before voting on a new contract.

"It's just good stewardship" to review performance before extending a contract, she said.

Councilman Jerry Carlson said he didn't have a problem approving the contract that night, and Councilman Jim Dobbie praised Mr. Conners' work for the town. But in a compromise, the council unanimously agreed that the proposed contract, with the pay raise retroactive to Feb. 1, should be approved pending a satisfactory review.

Mayor Bill Widmer said after the meeting that he believes council members are "generally happy that Bill (Conners) is working very hard for the town's benefit." But he agreed with Councilwoman McKeithen that a review is in order.

"Unfortunately the town didn't hold the review (after six months), but we were going through so many things, and finalizing things, and getting contracts in place for the outsourcing" of town services at the time the review was due, he noted.

Mr. Widmer said the attorney's contract needs adjustment to reflect the work he is being asked to perform. "He's been giving us a lot more face time" in the office than the contract requires, has been "addressing a number of our outstanding litigations, and has been looking at some of our internal processes" to find ways to improve them, the mayor said.

In his report to the council, Mr. Conners included a comparison of the town's previous legal costs with costs since last April. Based on budgets of the four years before his appointment, legal costs averaged about $440,000 per year, according to the report. "The projected annual cost for (legal) services this year will result in a saving of over $300,000 over the average and almost $200,000 over the best year during that span," he said.

Dispatch services

At the Feb. 15 meeting, the council also unanimously approved Interim Police Chief Ed Flint's proposed reorganization of the police department's dispatch services, which eliminates the position of communications supervisor.

The action effectively demotes current supervisor John Mattes, whose annual compensation with benefits is now $144,406. Mr. Mattes' position is now scaled back to that of dispatcher, with an annual compensation package of $114,673.

Supervising duties will now be provided by the on-duty patrol supervisor, a police sergeant.

In addition to savings of close to $30,000 in compensation, there will be a potential savings to the town from eliminating the communication supervisor's overtime and the expense of "dispatcher backfill" resulting from the supervisor completing routine tasks, Chief Flint said in his report to the council.

Comments

Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 27, 2012 at 6:42 am

Regarding the demotion of John Mattes, I think the city attorney is going to begin earning that $30K bump.

Lawsuit, Lawsuit, Lawsuit.

Will this city ever get its act together?

We're not going to save $30K with the demotion of John Mattes. We will end up spending $150K. Wait and see.




Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

Rodney:

on what grounds do you think Mr. Mattes will sue? Age discrimination? Nope, his position was eliminated and he was retained. A younger person was not put into that position. Racial discrimination? Don't think so. Religious discrimination? Not likely. Sexual orientation discrimination? Also, not likely. Maintaining a hostile work environment? He's never complained about it before. In fact, some complaints have been about him. So, even though anyone can sue for anything, Mr. Mattes would be wasting his money (if he can find an attorney to take the case) and the town will have to spend very little dealing with him.


Posted by High costs, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

The Mattes lawsuit will cost a lot more than $150,000. Mr. Mattes was a whistle blower. He complained about the police department under Ed Flint taking the tantrums of rich residents too seriously, destroying the morale of the officers in his department, and was demoted for it. This is part of his work with the union. This is against the law. The rich residents can file lawsuits against the police department, so can Mattes.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2012 at 10:11 am

Mattes was demoted because his supervisorial position was eliminated. Sure he can sue. He'll be wasting his money.

High Costs = another of Atherton's finest heard from.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2012 at 2:57 pm

High... I missed the whistleblower part.

"Mr. Mattes was a whistle blower. He complained about the police department under Ed Flint taking the tantrums of rich residents too seriously, destroying the morale of the officers in his department, and was demoted for it."

The rich residents just happen to be his employers also known as the taxpayers.

I think keeping an Officer on the APD after it became public knowledge he committed a crime against an Atherton resident destroyed the morale of the officers.


Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 6:35 am

They eliminated the position NOT him.

John is a $140K employee regardless of what position they put him in.

John's union is going to have a field day and the other department personnel will be watching closely and silently cheering him on. If they do this to John and get away with it they can do it to anyone.

Colonel "Klunk" and the council have really stepped in it this time and and what great legal advice they received from our underpaid city attorney.

If I lived somewhere else I'd be laughing my a _ _ off.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:09 am

Rodney:

pay is based on position, not who you are and what your percieved value is. His $140k position was eliminated and he was allowed to move to a lower paid position. They could have just as easily laid him off. In that case he might have had a leg to stand on in a law suit. He's got nothing now. How's that law suit filed by the city employees that were all laid off going? Oh, that's right. There isn't one. One guess why. Good luck to him.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:12 am

The elimination of this position was a wise and prudent decision - and I am confident that anyone who sues on this matter will end up not only empty handed but also out of pocket.


Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:37 am

In reply to Menlo Voter and Peter.

Sorry, I don't share your opinion. We'll have to wait and see what John elects to do and then how it plays out.

If it were me, I know the direction in which I would proceed and am extremely confident that I would prevail.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:42 am

Before anyone sues Atherton on this matter I recommend that they spend some time with Conners to understand his philosophy regarding not caving in to every lawsuit that might be tossed at the Town and with Chief Flint to appreciate what a highly credible witness he would be in any trial. And of the other side you have what????


Posted by Gravy Train, a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:30 am

Someone's been riding the gravy train for years and it has hit the end of the line. Flint is slaying the sacred cows 1 by 1.


Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:37 am

Just the California Government Code section that deals with layoffs and demotions aka the Law.

Of course this is considered foreign matter in these parts.


Posted by Mattes is gonna sue, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:52 am

I have no doubt Mattes is going to sue. He's sued Atherton, or threatened to, for far less money in other issues. Check the council packets on the web.

He was only a $140K per year employee because his buddy Glenn Nielsen invented a ridiculous job for him. With Guerra and Devlugt gone, he's also Nielsen's last lifeline into the department, so Nielsen can still run it remotely. Apparently Nielsen has been coming into the police department quite often to keep his tentacles in it.

This whole episode represents the worst in how unaccountable and out of control a city government can be. He was getting an extra $30K a year to be a supervisor, and the job was rigged up so that any time he spent "supervising" was overtime? That's crazy. I applaud Atherton for making the right decision.

Now the town needs to get ready to stand up to a few bullies. It's going to happen, and we all know what the right response needs to be. If Atherton caved on this lawsuit, it will never be able to get its financial budget balanced.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:53 am

" California Government Code section that deals with layoffs and demotions aka the Law."

Please post the relevant sections so that we can all share/or not your confidence.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:01 am

From an employent lawyer's web site:

"Representing union employees can be extremely complex, and many employment lawyers do not handle claims by union members. "


Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:06 am

Peter, You're smart find it youself.

Hint: "California Government Code, layoffs and demotions".


Posted by Mattes is gonna sue, a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

Peter, Mr. Mattes doesn't need to hire an employment lawyer. He's got the police union behind him. In fact, he's the VP of the Atherton Police Officer's Association. They'll get him a lawyer.

The showdown between Atherton and the police union definitely had to happen someday. That day is now. Let's see how it plays out.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:31 am

"find it youself." Don't you just love how some people bend over backwards to contribute to an intelligent discussion! And "youself" exemplifies their own contribution.


As for the law, it looks like Conners and Flint did their homework:

"19997.8. (a) In lieu of being laid off an employee may elect
demotion to: (1) any class with substantially the same or a lower
maximum salary in which he or she had served under permanent or
probationary status, or (2) a class in the same line of work as the
class of layoff, but of lesser responsibility, if a class is
designated by the department."

No other rights for the demoted employee are provided in 2010 California Code
Government Code, Article 2. Layoff And Demotion. Now I know exactly why Rodney declined to post this information himself - a poorly executed bluff.


How much money will the union be prepared to waste to contest the fact the this employee exercised his right to demotion and as a result is receiving a very nice salary and accruing superb retirement benefits?





Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:31 am


Peter, here I don't want you to tax yourself.

Section 19997.9

(a) Any employee replaced by such demotion has the same
option of demotion afforded by Section 19997.8 as if his or her
position had been abolished or discontinued.

( I don't think the department complied with Section 19997.8)

Except as authorized by the department under the provisions of
Section 19837, any employee demoted pursuant to this article shall
receive the maximum of the salary range of the class to which he or
she is demoted; provided, that such salary is not greater than the
salary he or she received at the time of demotion.

My educated guess is that the salary amount in the salary range that John was demoted to is not the maximum amount of that salary range.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:37 am

A true misreading of the relevant law -

"Section 19997.9

(a) Any employee replaced by such demotion has the same
option of demotion afforded by Section 19997.8 as if his or her
position had been abolished or discontinued."

The employee in question was NOT replaced by a demotion Sec 19997.9, but did himself elect to be demoted per Section 19997.8. This is why it is always so helpful in any intelligent discussion to have the facts. And why Rodney declined to post the relevant section.


Posted by Rodney S, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:43 am


Peter, you honestly believe that John elected to be demoted?

Obviously, you don't know John Mattes.

I'll wait for the next installment before commenting further.

You have a nice day in that cloudless sky world you reside in.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:01 am

"you honestly believe that John elected to be demoted?"

Yes. The alternative was to be laid off, so per "19997.8. (a) In lieu of being laid off an employee may elect demotion" he wisely elected demotion, retaining a job that is paying well and with great pension benefits at a time when many others are unemployed.

And the union is going to spend how much to challenge this very comfortable outcome when so many other public employees who belong to the same state wide union have been laid off?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:25 am

If Mattes sues he doesn't stand a chance. If the union is going to pay for a lawyer for him then a law suit is probably more likely as he won't have to come out of pocket. Mattes has nothing to lose in that scenario. One has to wonder about the inteligence of the leadership of the police union if they do pay for a lawyer for him though as all it will do is cost the union money for nothing.


Posted by Mary Turner, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

That is really unbeleivable when just a few months ago the city of Atherton let most of the public works department go.