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Atherton Releases Code Complaint on home of Charles Marsala

Original post made by mike murphy, Atherton: other, on Jul 30, 2010

The following letter was forwarded to me today.

It contains the results of an allegation that the home of Charles Marsala is not structurally sound:

TO: JERRY GRUBER, CITY MANAGER
FROM: ROBERT L.CUSHING, CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER
DATE: JULY 21, 2010
SUBJECT: CODE ENFORCEMENT/33 EMILIE AVENUE
On June 16, 2010 I received a complaint from John P. Johns of [redacted}. The complaint alleged that a home located at the above address and owned by Councilmember Charles Marsala was in violation of the town code. The complaint further alleged that the home was not properly inspected or permitted and caused a threat to the health and safety of the occupants. The complaint alleges:

That the plans for Mr. Marsala's remodeling project were not drawn by a licensed architect. [Records do not indicate that the scope of the remodeling work was structural or of a level that would require a licensed architect. Property owners may develop their own plans as well.]

The project involved the relocation of load bearing wall or walls without required structural calculations. [The work that was done was regulated by the UBC Span tables and did not require structural calculations.]

Final inspection was not performed prior to permit expiration. [The file indicates Permit # 29712 was issued on 5/4/1999, expired on 5/3/2000 and was finaled on 9/27/2000. Records do not indicate if an extension was granted. The final approval on 9/29/2000 approved the project.
In considering the above findings I reviewed the Building Department microfiche and CRW records for 33 Emilie Avenue. The conclusion is that the remodeling under this permit was minor and was properly inspected, that the home has appropriate permits for the work that was completed and that the home does not constitute a threat to the health and safety of the occupants. The case has been closed.
Robert L. Cushing
Code Enforcement Officer
Town of Atherton

Comments (21)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Jul 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I have reviewed Mr. Cushing's letter and have spoken to him over the phone.

The following is a text of an e-mail I sent to the City expressing my concerns of the adequacy of Mr. Cushing's "investigation".

I welcome your comments.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hi Bob

Thank you for discussing the subject project with me. As you can see I obtained a copy of your report from Ms. DellaSanta.

Based upon our conversation it is my understanding that you were unable to locate the plans drawn up by Mr. Marsala and subsequently redrawn by Mr. Wasmann.

Additionally, I understand that you asked Mr. Wasmann whether he had redrawn the plans and that Mr. Wasmann did acknowledge redrawing the plans but characterized his changes as "field corrections" and thus within his authority.

Your report also indicates that Marsala's permit records "do not indicate that the scope of remodeling work required structural calculations or were at a level that would require the services of a licensed architect".

I must ask, as a follow-up. Just what is it that the records do indicate especially if the plans are nowhere to be found?

Upon what basis do you draw the conclusion (or at least make it appear as though you have reached the conclusion) that this project did not involve the movement of load bearing walls or required structural calculations?

Additionally, it would seem as though the conclusion you draw in the second bullet point of your letter is wholly contradicted by the fist paragraph. You state that the work was done was regulated by the UBC Span Tables.

I fail to see how you could have made a determination as to whether or not structural calculations were required if you were unable to locate the plans.

I must also ask, how can you have drawn any conclusions as to whether the work done was actually consistent with what the UBC span tables would require without reviewing the plans?

I do not mean to be facetious but what if Mr. Wasmann's "field notes" called for the installation of a toothpick, rather than a 2x4? Would you have any way of knowing without seeing his "field corrections"?

Additionally, you mention that a final inspection was performed on September 27, 2000. Upon what basis did you reach this conclusion. Did you see an inspection card in the file that was signed off, or were you relying upon an entry to a computer system that, as is documented in my Phase III audit report had no audit trail and was therefore completely unreliable?

I know you were reluctant to press Mr. Wasmann on these issues. However, it is clear that without adequate records you cannot perform a proper review of this code complaint. I would therefore ask that you seek out the records that are necessary to resolve this matter.

If you are unable to locate the records, then I suggest two things:
The Town prohibit persons from entering 33 Emilie until such time as it can be determined what was actually done to the property in the form of remodeling and whether said work was code compliant; and,
The disappearance of records be turned over to the Police Department to investigate.
I would also respectfully suggest that Mr. Wasmann be put on administrative leave until this matter is resolved.

Please remember Mr. Cushing, human lives are at stake here. I do not believe I am overstating matters.

Thank you very much

John P. Johns


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Mr. Johns,
I now have a better sense of the quality of your "audit" of the Building Department. You continue to demonstrate a vendetta against Councilman Marsala, and you continue to cost me, as a taxpayer in Atherton, more and more.

I have a prediction:
If Mayor McKeithen and her supporters gain more seats on the council in November, we will see an effort to rename you as City Manager!
I would ask all Town Council members to pledge to not support any candidate for any Town Committee or Administrative position ANYONE who has sued our Town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Atheron taxpayer states:"I would ask all Town Council members to pledge to not support any candidate for any Town Committee or Administrative position ANYONE who has sued our Town."

And I would vote AGAINST any candidate who took such a position - which is tantamount to saying that the only people who can serve the Town are those who have given up their rights as citizens.

Such a position would also enable the Town to eliminate anyone whom they wished from public service simply by causing them enough harm that the targeted individual had no recourse except to sue thereby losing their inherent right to serve in a civic capacity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Atherton Taxpayer just a reminder John Johns was ready and willing to settle for $10,000.

You have been paying for other people making bad choices.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Mr. Carpenter-
You make an excellent point. You describe a Council so well organized and strategic to the point where they would seek out residents from whom they fear some public role, and cause them harm to the point requiring legal action THUS removing them from further civic involvement. Do you have reason to believe our Council has acted in such a way? It is a level of forethought and civic interest not seen here by either the Council or the residents. If anything, it seems to be the other way around- that residents (and non-residents) seek to punish specific Council members for grievances related or unrelated to their work on the Council. (Lewis's House, Marsala's House, Janz's House, Carlson's house, Marsala's residence status, Carlson's meeting with HSR, etc.)
One has to ask if this is not a concerted effort by some to influence the makeup of the Council. Joseph McCarthy would be proud.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Atherton Taxpayer states:"One has to ask if this is not a concerted effort by some to influence the makeup of the Council."

Precisely the point - citizens want council members who obey the law and do not have conflicts of interest. Frankly, I think that is a very low standard.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Atherton Taxpayer:

ALL of the "grievances" against council members were totally related to their work on the council. They all went directly to those council persons' honesty and integrity. If those two characteristics are not important to you then you get the governance you deserve.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Atherton Taxpayer -

Elected officials should have to live under the laws and regulations just like us little people. I wonder if other citizens who built without a permit or built a home that does not comply with zoning laws as Ms. Lewis did would receive similar treatment? The fact that Ms. Lewis received her "exoneration" from someone who works at her pleasure isn't quite the arm's length safe harbor we would expect.

But do you think Mr. Marsala's solicitation of a $500,000 loan from a citizen in active litigation with his city was "unrelated to their work on the Council?"

And do you think that Mr. Carlson's conflicts related to the filing of a lawsuit against high speed rail was "unrelated to their work on the Council?"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Legal Scholar
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Council members refusing to appoint people who have exercised their constitutional right to petition for redress of their grievances because they did so would be violating federal law, U.S.C. 1983, The Civil Rights Act. Peter Carpenter provided some good rationale for why this law was put into place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I suspect that some elected officials became interested in civic affairs as a result of some litigation with their town.

It doesn't qualify you for office, but it shouldn't disqualify you either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by subversion in the burbs
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 2, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Atherton taxpayer is very astute
There is in fact, a very well orchestrated, top secret conspiracy going on that will potentially effect both taxpayers and bribepayers alike; to clean up inefficiencies town government, to expect a lot more from both unpaid and unbiased council representation and and far more from well paid (but not very well managed) town staff.
No one knows about about the conspiracy except the readers of this blog


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I have one question for Atherton Taxpayer.

Since when did one calling attention the fact that a home may be structurally unsound and thereby pose a hazard to its occupant constitute a vendetta?

As far as your suggestion that the City Council adopt a policy of disqualifying me from future employment (or anyone else who has sued the the Town for that matter):

That would be in violation of my settlement agreement.

I demanded and won the right to reapply for employment at any time in the future should a suitable position become available.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 3, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Open and clean government- yeah, who could be against that!
Mr John's ongoing relationship with our community is a series of complaints, accusations, requests for information, and what I consider
borderline harassment of current council members, with the tacit support of other members. If I were Councilman Carlson, I would not want Mr. Johns calling me at home and offering illegal "deals" for a new job. Mr. John's concern for public safety at Councilman Marsala's home is touching but disingenuous. Tons of mud has been thrown, and when it did not stick, suddenly it is because the City Attorney is not doing a good job. Let's get rid of her too!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Atherton Taxpayer:

your city attorney is not doing a good job. Unless, of course, you think paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits makes her a good attorney.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 3, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Atherton Taxpayer - a very appropriate name and one which you will truly earn in the years ahead unless we, the citizens, drastically change our Town government to make it more transparent, more accountable and more financially responsible.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Indeed! Throw them out, and replace them with.... To date we need three council members, a new City Attorney, a new Building Department Manager, maybe a new City Manager. Anyone out there ready to take on those jobs? Mr Carpenter, anyone over at ACIL who meets the bill?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm

That's right Atherton Taxpayer - "throw them out." Competent people are not hard to find in this employment market. Competent non-corrupt council memebers, well, that's a differnet story. How about you running for council? Do you honestly think the corrupt, dishonest and dishonarable three on your city council are doing a good job? Do you think paying more and more money out in lawsuits when your city already is running a deficit is a good idea? Do you think paying out funds for road impact fees that were and are legal is a good idea given your towns deficits? If you don't then you need to look to your city attorney and city council that is about to roll over on that issue. Not having those posts filled is better than having the corrupt, incompetants you currently have in place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm

If I am not mistaken, the City Attorney validated my complaint of a zoning violation at the home of Elizabeth Lewis.

Ms. Furth acknowledged that Ms. Lewis' home had more square footage than was allowed.

Ms. Furth acknowledged that Ms. Lewis should have, but did not go back to the Planning Commission when she abandoned the plans that the Planning Commision had approved with the condition that Ms. Lewis go back to the Planning Commission were she to make any substantive changes to the approved plans.

Ms. Furth acknowledged that the project was not a remodel and addition as Ms. Lewis had represented, the former structure was entirely demolished and a completely new residence was built.

Ms. Furth acknowledged that the building's sidewalls were too high and that the property does not conform to the minimum setbacks.

With the above in mind, I respectfully reject Atherton Taxpayer's accusation of mudslinging.

Furthermore, when a City Attorney declares that no action is necessary to bring a home with so many code violations into compliance, she is not doing her job. She should indeed be fired.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 3, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Could "Atherton Taxpayer" actually be Elizabeth Lewis? Inquiring minds.....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by you betcha
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 4, 2010 at 12:02 am

very possibly Elizabeth........or, just as likely, perhaps it's the builder of her illegal home- Mr. Ackley- principal of PPG
Heard she went full tilt at Monday's special AM meeting- fighting tooth and nail to get the guy his400,000 in "refund" money
Don't think he really even needs the money ..but after all..it's really only the "principal" that's at stake here- right? And it really is sort of his town after all- right?
Wonder who else Steve will be running for office in this next election......tp prop up Mr. Lewis


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 4, 2010 at 12:37 am

Atherton Taxpayer has a problem with John Johns, Kim Sweidy, and John Buckheit because they either sued or are suing the Town. S/he doesn't want them having any part of Town jobs or committees.

Cops or real estate developers may be a different story. After suing the Town, Jerry Carlson put Pilar Buckley on the Selby Lane school board. Steve Ackley is currently suing the town to get every last dime of road impact money back.

Does Atherton Taxpayer think Elizabeth Lewis needs to step down because of this new lawsuit from her biggest campaign backer, Steve Ackley/PPG?

Maybe not. Lawsuits in the name of greed seem to be okay. Those over fundamental principles may be a different ball of wax for Atherton Taxpayer.


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