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Contractor working for city of Menlo Park settles lawsuit for $2.4 million

Original post made on Jun 14, 2010

The city of Menlo Park and a contractor have settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $2.4 million, stemming from a 2007 accident in which a bicyclist died.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 14, 2010, 11:38 AM

Comments (43)

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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

" The city does not generally announce legal settlements, and the City Council discusses such matters in meetings not open to the public."

Once again someone is NOT obeying the Brown Act:

'Once the closed session has been completed, the agency must reconvene
in open session, where it may be required to report votes and actions taken in closed session.
( 54957.1.)
With respect to litigation, approval given to the body's legal counsel to defend, to seek
or refrain from seeking appellate review, or to appear as amicus curiae in any case
resulting from a closed-session meeting held pursuant to section 54956.9 shall be
reported in open session. ( 54957.l(a)(2).) The report shall identify the adverse
parties and the substance of the litigation. Where the body has decided to initiate
litigation or intervene in an existing case, the report shall indicate that fact but need not
identify the action, the parties, or other particulars. The report shall specify that once
the litigation or intervention has been formally commenced, the body must, upon
inquiry, disclose such information, unless to do so would jeopardize service of process
or existing settlement negotiations. ( 54957.l(a)(2).)"


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

$2.4 million is about 8% of the City's annual budget.

Why doesn't the City announce such a massive expenditure of public funds and state if part or all of this payment was covered by insurance?

How can citizens trust their government when their government keeps them in the dark about important decisions such as this?

What are the budget implications of this settlement?


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Once again, the educated mind of Peter Carpenter comes through with a sense of reality.
Was Fourcault the coroner in this case?


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Posted by clarification
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jun 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Peter:
Read the article. The insurance company for the installers of the markers paid the whole $2.4 M settlement.

Not the City of MP. Of course, this doesn't completely absolve the City being that our staff oversees these outside companies. We dodged a bullet.


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Posted by wondering
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Peter:
I'd bet you that all that you are complaining about not being reported WAS reported in minutes available to the public, but, if you think they are going to have an open public meeting to discuss legal issues with the public listening in and trying to give their input, you are crazy.

If that's how you read the Brown Act, then please point out a city I can sue so I can use their open meetings to get public statements to use in my case.

You might ask the Alamanac to see if they can find the notes you are worried about in their minutes.

If they were being sued and had to pay, how do you figure that it would have been the fault of the council that the city was being sued. As it is, you just have to read more carefully. I'm sure if they were taking a 2.4 million dollar hit to the budget you would have heard about it. I would hope that the city has its own insurance policy to avoid taking hits like this on their budget.

If was decided in Nov 2009, why is it news now?

The tragedy is that you are complaining about this presumed Brown Act violation instead of offering your condolences to the Johnson family. I'm sure they wish none of this had ever happened. Hopefully the company at fault will do better to protect people in the future.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Peter--Deep breath on this one. There isn't a Brown Act violation behind every rock (unless of course its Atherton). Especially not when a City has top notch legal advice (Mr. Mclure) such as Menlo Park enjoys.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:33 pm

By reading the Daily News we find that the City's public works Director states that he was not familiar with the Federal and State roadway marking guidelines which led to this settlement. Is the City going to learn of these guidelines one law suit at a time or have they taken corrective measures to insure compliance with the requisite roadway marking standards?

How much of the settlement was covered by insurance and how much is not covered by insurance?

Why doesn't the city issue a statement clarifying these issues.

Here is the Preamble to the Brown Act:"Public commissions, boards, councils and other legislative bodies of local government agencies exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. The people do not yield their sovereignty to the bodies that serve them. The people insist on remaining informed to retain control over the legislative bodies they have created."

Why not follow the spirit of the Act rather than using a narrow interpretation of a few legal loopholes which allow the City to stay silent unless asked?

Why, when asked by the Almanac, did the City decline comment when the law states:"If final action is contingent upon another party, the legislative body is under no obligation to release a report about the closed session. Once the other party has acted, making the decision final, the legislative body is under an obligation to respond to inquiries for information by providing a report of the action. ( 54957.1(a).)"

Where is the legally required report?


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Posted by Sean Howell
Almanac staff writer
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.

Please see the revised version of the story. I posted this correction/clarification:

In an earlier version of this story, we reported that Menlo Park and a contractor settled the lawsuit. Menlo Park was not party to the settlement, though it was named in the suit, according to City Attorney Bill McClure.

Meaning, the council did not meet on the topic at all. We implied that in the first version of the story, I hadn't had a chance to speak to Bill about it when we posted it.

Incidentally, the city tends not to notify the press when a settlement is reached. I asked Bill about this. He said the city generally does not consider settlements noteworthy: "We don't make an announcement every time we spend money on something."

He added that since he's been with the city (starting in 1978), the city has not been party to a settlement of the magnitude of this one.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Just wondering wonders:"Hopefully the company at fault will do better to protect people in the future."

The company at fault was the City of Menlo Park and yet their director of public works stated just last week that he was still not familiar with the Federal and State guidelines on roadway markings which the City failed to follow and which led directly to this $2.4 million settlement. How expensive will be the next suit? When is the city going to educate itself on the relevant standards?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Thanks to Sean for providing clarifying information.

The Almanac and the Daily News both relied on information provided by the husband of the deceased bike rider in their original reporting. Which is precisely why the City should have been telling the story from its perspective.


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Posted by Sean Howell
Almanac staff writer
on Jun 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.

We didn't get it from the husband, though we were going off the Daily News report. The city took issue with the initial wording of our headline ("City settles..."), though the info. in the story was correct.

I agree that this would all be easier and clearer if the city announced these things. ... We are generally left wading through tens of pages of legal documents and interview notes to sort these things out, assuming we hear about them at all.


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Posted by Disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Peter,
Don't you have anything better to do? [Portion removed; attacks on other posters violate terms of use.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Disgusted asks:"Don't you have anything better to do?"
As a matter of fact very few things are as important as getting the facts right.

Two newspapers headlined "City pays $2.4 million...".

I immediately questioned if that was so why hadn't we heard anything from the city.

Turns out BOTH newspapers got the story, one directly and the other indirectly, from the person who received the $2.4 million award.

How much better it would have been if the city had issued a statement giving the facts, clarifying the responsible party, expressing condolences to the family and describe what steps the city has taken to prevent another mistake like this by one of its contractors.

Hats off to Bill McClure for getting the city off the hook; less capable attorneys would have certainly had the city, as the responsible contracting agency, picking up some of the tab for failing to insure that its contractor followed Federal and State guidelines.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2010 at 5:29 pm

The City never settled this suit. The contractor did. What action did the City take they had to report?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Interested asks:"What action did the City take they had to report?"

Very few things are as important as getting the facts right.

Two newspapers headlined "City pays $2.4 million...".

I immediately questioned if that was so why hadn't we heard anything from the city.

Turns out BOTH newspapers got the story, one directly and the other indirectly, from the person who received the $2.4 million award and they both got the story wrong.

How much better it would have been if the city had issued a statement giving the facts, clarifying the responsible party, expressing condolences to the family and describe what steps the city has taken to prevent another mistake like this by one of its contractors.

Hats off to Bill McClure for getting the city off the hook; less capable attorneys would have certainly had the city, as the responsible contracting agency, picking up some of the tab for failing to insure that its contractor followed Federal and State guidelines.


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Posted by Ted C
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Peter, you're such a critic of the Daily Post. You have nothing good to say about them. Which papers made this huge error?


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Bottom line: The insurance company paid the settlement, MP is off the
financioal hook and lets hope that they follow procedure next time.
MP needs to reflect on what happened, how it happened, total resolution and can they LEARN from this moving forward..We can't change what happened, but we can change how we do business in the future. We definately dodged a financial bullet this time, next time
maybe not so lucky !!


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Posted by confused
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Peter

If you are a resident of Atherton as you say, why such a concern
about issues in Menlo Park, RWC, which have no direct/indirect effect
on Atherton ? Is the city of Atherton "issue free" ? Don't think so.
Some people appreciate your efforts, but they also think you should restrict yourself to your city of residence. This is not the Fire District any more. You have great energy and foresight, start with Atherton's issues first, as there are many. Thank You


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Confused (Yes) says:'Some people appreciate your efforts, but they also think you should restrict yourself to your city of residence.

As a citizen I feel a responsibility to speak out on any issue which comes to my attention and my city of residence neither defines my interest nor my responsibilities as a citizen. Do you stand quiet on issues in other communities or nations because you don't live there? If so, how sad.

I also find it disgusting that Menlo Park residents like you and Disgusted don't have the time or energy to engage on issues like this one - don't you care?

I care and will continue to speak out.


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Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Carpenter The Crusader:
"As a citizen I feel a responsibility to speak out on any issue which comes to my attention and my city of residence neither defines my interest nor my responsibilities as a citizen."

Translation: I'll stick my nose wherever I darn well please!
(And why?: Because I'm so darn smarter than the rest of you.)


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Posted by informed
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 14, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Peter,

I for one am grateful for your time, analysis, and commentary all matters, even if I may disagree with your conclusion. I do not draw an artificial border around Menlo Park and limit the commentary to those who live within the borders.

The city's non-disclosure of the VERY material fact is very disturbing to me, whether there was a meeting or not. Even if the city was insured thru a subcontractor's insurance, it was named in the lawsuit. The only reason we know anything at all is because the plaintiff stepped forward and volunteered the information. We citizens should be disgusted with the willful silence of staff and the council.


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Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Oh and yea, you "care" so much Peter that you still haven't offered any condolences to the victim here (ah, but the Brown Act is the real victim here, right, Peter old chum?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Just Wandering states:"Translation: I'll stick my nose wherever I darn well please!"

Citizenship carries responsibilities which are often shirked by those who are weak of will or weak of mind. We are a community and what happens in East Palo Alto or Atherton or Afghanistan should be of concern to all citizens. Those who choose to sit on the fence and throw stones at those who are willing to serve, willing to challenge and willing to speak up on issues have only themselves to blame and their shame to bear.


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Posted by Referee
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:49 pm

People:

Breathe, let's take a breath, take a time out, group hug & give Peter
recognition for his out spokeness. Whether we agree or disagree with
his commentaries, at least he gets credit for his community involvements which more than most of you do. The city of MP did not
lose revenues because of the lawsuit, the Brown Act may not have followed to the letter of the law, but can we please learn from all this and move life forward. This applies to both sides of the issues ! Give it a REST


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 14, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Referee - I have stated my concerns and explained my motivation. I am certainly prepared to "give it a REST'.

Thank you


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Peter.

Given the newspaper reports your comments regarding the Brown Act were entirely correct. Furthermore, it is vital that people demand that their representatives conduct our business in an open and forthright manner. The days of backdoor deals by elected representatives are, for the most part, long gone, thanks to the Brown Act. It is VITAL that we, as citizens, ensure the Brown Act is adhered to. So to you and those like you, Kudo's.

But Peter, when the story appeared and was incorrect, it was a City employee that called and corrected it. Lets give some credit to them for that.

As far as your "sticking your nose in". Don't stop......As long as questioning and criticism is fair and intended to shed light, it can only be good.

I have noted your contribution to our community for over 20 years, and while I have disagreed with you many times (sometimes vehemently) I have never doubted either your motives or your sincerity.

So thanks...You have made where we live a better place.


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Posted by Sean Howell
Almanac staff writer
on Jun 15, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.

I'd just like to correct the record here: I don't think there was an error in our story. The city took issue with the wording of the headline, but we reported all along that it was the contractor who paid the settlement. (The city was named in the suit, but was indemnified by the contractor.)

That said, the fact that the city doesn't generally announce the outcomes of litigation (including settlements), that the city attorney is difficult to reach, and that the city in this case couldn't provide copies of the lawsuit or the settlement agreement, does make it difficult to report.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 15, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Sean, Renee and Richard,
Anyway you cut it, the headline is part of the story and the original headline was a blatant error.

You owe your readers an apology.


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Posted by Just Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2010 at 12:08 am

Here's a perfect example of why you rub folks the wrong way, Peter:
After just saying you're ready to "give it a rest," you're right back at it demanding an apology from the entire Almanac staff and management over a simple headline, of all things. Are you gonna sue them now, too???


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:48 am

Just Wandering states:"After just saying you're ready to "give it a rest," you're right back at it demanding an apology from the entire Almanac staff and management over a simple headline, of all things"

I "gave it a rest'and then the Almanac came forward and claimed that there was 'not an error in the story' in spite of the fact that the headline was blatantly wrong.

We rely on the Almanac to do accurate reporting and not to simply lift stories and headlines from other newspapers without fact checking both the story and the headline.


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Posted by A question
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 16, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Many people on this stream have stated that this didn't cost the City of Menlo Park anything; it was the City's insurance company that covered the cost.

Yet, I'd like to know, as a taxpayer, if the City's insurance premiums will be going up because of this. I know as an individual, if I have a car accident, even if it is NOT my fault, my car insurance company will (and has in the past!) raise my insurance premium.

If anyone knows this, please let us know. Thanks


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Based on the Almanac and other stories it appears that the contractor's insurance paid this claim. No city funds were involved except to the degree that the amount of the contract included provisions for paying some of the contractor's insurance premium. The city wisely, thanks to the City Attorney I suspect, required in the contract that the contractor indemnify the city for any such claims and that it what protected the city from participating in paying the claim.

It would be nice if the city issued a statement giving the facts, clarifying the responsible party, expressing condolences to the family and describe what steps the city has taken to prevent another mistake like this by one of its contractors.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Wrong, wrong and wrong. Tea baggers, move on to another cause. This dog won't hunt.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Truth you may now go back outside and play. You have wasted enough of other people's time with your emotional, fact free diatribes.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Truth:

you clearly haven't a clue. You are just like every other extremist, either left or right, you don't let facts get in the way of your opinions. Don't believe everything you think.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Fact is every angle you have taken has been a desperate attempt to find a villain and you are growing more desperate.

There is no blame for the city. Just a very sad incident and a tragic loss, overlooked by you all in the name of Glen Beck.

Enjoy your tea.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2010 at 8:21 am

Truth:

do you ever retain what you read? My comment was the first I've made on this thread. So your statement, "Fact is every angle you have taken has been a desperate attempt to find a villain and you are growing more desperate." has no basis in fact. You really should crawl back under your rock as every time you post on this forum you show yourself to be a fool.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 17, 2010 at 8:31 am

Fellow posters -

Truth's posts are devoid of information, data and lately, even opinion. They are pure adolescent attacks. Truth never fails to mention teabagging and Glenn Beck which is a very strange and probably revealing combination.

Ignoring someone's post is, perhaps, the sincerest form of condemnation. I suggest others follow this lead until such a time as truth lives up the pseudonym.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 17, 2010 at 11:14 am

So voicing an opinion on a forum of anonymous posters is now off limits? The problem you have is that while you try to drum up some political game about city leaders and people who put in time to solve problems (I say this with full disclosure that I voted for this council), make false accusations about Brown Act violations and muse about what you would do better, you don't like being challenged. But I will continue to follow you along and make sure someone is policing this forum to keep political stinks from making this a Glen Beck show.


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Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Some how we have lost sight of the original article regarding a settlement and have degraded into comments of other posters. Shouldn't this forum be about commenting on the subject? Let's return to the issue of the article, please.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm

John,
Yes, we should be focused on the tragedy that occurred and how to avoid future incidents like this. Although Menlo Park may not be paying the settlement it is clear that their lack of oversight of the contractor was key. Many cities have traffic engineers, either full-time or consultants, who know all the technical details such as how to safely delineate bike lanes. Menlo Park has no traffic engineer, just a public works director who admits he doesn't know all the design rules and this violation is a result of that. I have worked with him and I know he is a nice guy who is trying to do his best, but he is in way over his head when it comes to issues like this and he has no access to professional help. This is more than a matter of money - it is a matter of public safety to have a fully-trained traffic engineer available.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I fully agree with Donald and continue to urge the city to issue a statement giving the facts, clarifying the responsible party, expressing condolences to the family and describe what steps the city has taken to prevent another mistake like this by one of its contractors.


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Posted by Must have been sleeping
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 18, 2010 at 8:23 am

The city has no traffic engineer? I'm almost certain it did in the past. When did that position disappear? I wonder if the staff isn't getting too top-heavy at the expense of having employees with expertise in specific areas.

And I agree with other posters that the city needs to take a serious look at why there wasn't better oversight of this out-sourced project, and put measures in place to prevent another tragedy like this.


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