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Atherton may cut staff compensation

Original post made on Nov 26, 2012

The mayor calls it a wrap-up. The police union is calling it revenge. As the Atherton City Council meets on Nov. 28 for the last time before Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen steps down, it will vote on a resolution that would require the handful of the town's non-represented employees to pay more for their benefits, and take a one-week unpaid furlough between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 26, 2012, 5:09 PM

Comments (43)

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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Mayor Widmer states that he wants McKeithen to vote on a policy will set a benchmark for future APOA contract talks.

There is merit to the APOA statements this is being rushed before Cary Wiest takes office.

Wiest should be brought up to speed to vote on this item.



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Posted by How?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I think a college education may be required to understand the financial intricacies involved here. It's a good thing it will be decided before Cary Wiest takes office. Neither he nor Elizabeth Lewis have a college degree, yet deem themselves qualified to be making these financial decisions. I say they're not.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2012 at 7:20 pm

How?:

sorry, I have a college degree in business. It doesn't mean diddly. It demonstrates to a potential employer when you are fresh out of college that you are capable of being trained. Nothing more. Don't forget they give college degrees in art history. Hardly something one would think particularly relevant to city finances. If a college degree was a condition precedent for success then Steve Jobs and many others should have been abject failures.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 3:33 am

A year ago McKeithen stated that the Library should not go to a town vote because it was "too complicated" for residents to understand. When residents voted they voted against her position.

Now Widmer states reducing the salary of the Finance Director, Police Chief, and City Manager (who the council just hired) along with the City Clerk and Lt. needs to be resolved by "people" more "knowledgeable" than Cary Wiest.

Since Widmer knows that only one person (McKeithen) on the council will change, he should not use the word "people".

Mayor Widmer also states the Town has been losing money since 2008.

Atherton has been losing money long before 2008, Widmer should know that. Surpluses from Building Department revenues had been used to cover operations and build surpluses in the General Fund from 2002-2007. That is illegal.

When Elizabeth Lewis campaigned in 2008 she pointed out the Town's books were in error.

However, McKeithen, who had been on the finance committee for years and was very knowledgeable about the details, campaigned that the town's finances were in great shape.

The new finance director agreed with Lewis and the books were adjusted.

Widmer knows the town is losing money but he wants to eliminate the Parcel Tax with it's $1.8M in annual revenue. How is it that the "Knowledgeable People" do not understand this will make matters worse?

The "Knowledgeable People" also voted to stop renting the Main House and gave up $90,000.00 a year in rental income.

Since Wiest is smart enough to know that no Parcel Tax revenue will only make the financial problems greater, he is smart enough to handle voting on the salary reductions for management.












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Posted by Great Idea!
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Push aside all this nonsense about who has a college degree and who is coming as a newbie onto the council. That's irrelevant! This is a good decison for the budget of Atherton and therefore its residents. It follows a good management paradigm. It makes fiscal sense and should not be politicized. YES, DO IT!


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Posted by Ready, Fire, Aim
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:31 pm

This resolution represents the worst of Atherton politics. It is flawed policy. It is not "wrap up". It is a desperate attempt by the Widmer-Dobbie-McKeithen majority to forward their agenda in their last vote.

Atherton has a governance problem. 3 out of touch Council Members continue to impose their priorities in the face of spirited popular opposition. Here's what they represent:

+ Abandon the Brown Act
+ Build a huge Library in the Park
+ Outsource the Police Department
+ Eliminate the Parcel Tax
+ Get rid of the tennis courts
+ Turn away revenue from the Park concession
+ Disregard Committee Recommendations

This is the same group that believed Atherton residents were incapable of deciding the library issue due to its complexities. Now they suggest the newest member of the Council is incapable of making an informed decision. They were wrong on the former; they are wrong on the latter.

Come to the Council meeting and watch them limit public expression. In a recent meeting, the Mayor said he did not want to hear the same opinion over and over. He asked attendees to only speak if they had something different to say. He was more interested in getting the meeting concluded than hearing what his constituents wanted.

Widmer - Dobbie - McKeithen are all wet on a number of issues. It's time for the residents to let them know they are watching and expect them to respect their wishes.


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Posted by Ted J.
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I have lived in Atherton for the past 12 years and lived in southern California for 22 years previously . I have never seen a council so hell bent on destroying the lives of the employees that have served a community that is filled with an assortment of spoiled egotistical councilmen and women. For which the employees that remain from what I have seen are doing the same tasks that two or three have done before and now you want to cut pay and benifits First it was outsourcing for the sake of the budget ,and now the town by the council's own admission is in the black. So what is the excuse this time ? Is this council trying to beat down the employees we have left? Its know wonder the economy is in the tank. Its so called city leaders that are stomping out the working class ,who has built this country. Shame on you city council men and women.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" In a recent meeting, the Mayor said he did not want to hear the same opinion over and over. He asked attendees to only speak if they had something different to say. He was more interested in getting the meeting concluded than hearing what his constituents wanted."

The Mayor may NOT limit what people say - a citizen has the right to say whatever they wish on any agenda item even if their comment is repetitive. What the Mayor wants to hear is irrelevant.


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Posted by Cops playbook
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Rather than continuing to post the same drivel over and over, let me simplify it. Perhaps the Almanac can make this a "sticky" post that goes to the top of every Atherton-related thread?



10. Because "WMD" got outvoted on the library, it means they are wrong about everything, especially police compensation reduction.

9. Cary Wiest's election equates to not reducing police compensation. (Yes, he told Peter Carpenter he was going to be tough as nails on the police, but that was just to get his endorsement).

8. If police compensation is reduced, the cops will go to other cities that will pay them much, much, more. exactly which cities we don't know, since every city has cut police compensation.

7. Atherton has no budget problem. Never mind that (contrary to Ted J.'s assertion above) expenses still outweigh revenues. The real measure of fiscal health is whether or not Atherton has a sales tax. Since it doesn't, it's okay since that tax can't go away.

6. If police compensation is cut, residents won't be safe.

5. Don Way doesn't want any of these cuts to be made.

4. Cops have been making arrests and giving out traffic tickets.

3. WMD are just plain mean.

2. That library...WMD wanted books. That's incompatible with cops, and the residents outvoted the library. They want cops, not books.

And, the number 1 reason why cop compensation should not be cut (drumroll, please):

1. Kathy McKeithen is in favor of it.

David Letterman, here we come.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" In a recent meeting, the Mayor said he did not want to hear the same opinion over and over. He asked attendees to only speak if they had something different to say. He was more interested in getting the meeting concluded than hearing what his constituents wanted."

The Mayor may NOT limit what people say - a citizen has the right to say whatever they wish on any agenda item even if their comment is repetitive. What the Mayor wants to hear is irrelevant.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm

cops playbook:

I think you summed it up pretty darn well!


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Let's have fun with this.


10 things that happen the night of the vote.

1. WMD announce they want to revote on blocking large events in the Park and bring in $90,000.00.

2. The City Manager, Police Chief, Finance Director, and City Clerk spend their Christmas vacation booking events in the park.

3. Mayor Widmer explains how it was not misleading for the council to have been working on this plan since April and his "high level" Press Release omitted to inform residents of this plan while accusing the APOA of making false and misleading statements.

4. Mayor Widmer explains his statement that someone more knowledgeable than Cary Wiest is required to vote on the reductions.

5. The council explains to staff that the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent/wasted on lawsuits against the school district, residents moving urns, and looking through every building permit did not lead to the need to reduce compensation.

6. The council adds to the justification how much money will be spent replacing those that quit and how much fall out they expect from this idea.

7. The council explains that it can change the Police Chief and Lt. retirement age to 57 and the APOA does not need to expect that to be the change in their contract.

8. The council explains to Peter Carpenter why it does not need to give the residents fifteen day notice of the pay change as the Fire District does.

9. Widmer announces he will make another "Around Atherton" You Tube video, claiming he is not misreading the will of the residents by having the Parcel Tax sunset and forcing the council to use the sheriff to meet the budget and that he has not already discussed with the sheriff using deputies to fill openings.

10.Carlon and Lewis vote to Abstain on the vote and next month declare they want to change their vote.


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Posted by Atherton Voter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 28, 2012 at 7:42 am

Top 10 List of What is Really Going to Happen in Atherton's Council Meeting

10. McKeithen spends 30 minutes ranting about elves in her back yard
9. Children there to receive DARE awards become restless and disrupt the meeting
8. The room become hot because its packed with people
7. Dozens are left in the rain and wind waiting to speak
6. Dobbie interrupts Lewis
5. Lewis and McKeithen take verbal jabs at each other
4. McKeithen swigs Diet Coke after she gets worked up
3. The Council cancels the Christmas party and saves $6000
2. Widmer changes the compensation resolution at the last minute so that its actually legal

1. Widmer-McKeithen-Dobbie vote to cut employee compensation


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Posted by Cops playbook
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 28, 2012 at 8:05 am

I told you so (benchmark #6)!

Retiring at 57! That's absolutely inhumane! What are they smoking?!? It's criminal, and the cops should arrest WMD for voting on that.

Let's see what Carlson does. I think he knows Mark Twain: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 28, 2012 at 8:43 am

I am sure Carlon, Lewis, Wiest, and even the employees agree changes have to happen.

Yet the mishandling of this issue is the concern.

1. The council has been working on it since April.
2. Yet the recent press release omitted to advise the residents of that fact and claimed the APOA was wrong to be advising residents major changes were being considered in compensation.
3. Would there be a different outcome if this was decided in a month?
4. If not, why not wait?
5. If yes, then left the voice of the people be heard.


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Posted by Don Way
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Furloughing staff without pay a month or less just before the holidays is not good human resource or financial planning, nor is cutting pay at the same time. The Town just voted, clearly, that it values Atherton's unique services and staffing. If there are to be any further cuts, they should wait until the new council is seated, representing the residents' wishes as expressed at the ballot box last month. This is not a poor town although we do, like most cities and towns, face some unpleasant fiscal realities. The council seems out of step with the voters. -- Don Way, 124 Patricia Drive


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Town just voted, clearly, that it values Atherton's unique services and staffing."

I guess I missed that item on the November ballot.

"Furloughing staff without pay a month or less just before the holidays is not good human resource or financial planning,"

The resolution calls for the work day between Christmas and New Years, never more than five a year and sometimes only four days, being unpaid leave. This is a common practice in the private sector.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Right now the Police Chief is new, the City Manager is new, the Finance Director is new, and the City Clerk was acting as City Manager for most of year.

It is the end of the year, the books need to be closed and many other activites completed. Most of these employees have been working extra hours to stay on top of the workload.

Has the council thought to ask what their workload is prior to making the decision?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Facts are important - and sometimes get in the way of those wanting to make the case for something that is based on a false premise..

The Town is on a July- June fiscal year so now is not the end of the year and the books do not have to be closed.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Peter,

Yes you are right, the fiscal year does end in June.

Still it is the end of the month and next month a mid-year budget report should be down by the council. Many of those being furloughed are new and might need the time to prepare the report and learn their new jobs.

In my opinion this is a decision we elect the council to make. Furloughing would never be on the ballot.

I support Mr. Way's comment: "...the new council is seated, representing the residents' wishes as expressed at the ballot box last month."

The new council could approve renting out the Main House next year, bring in $90,000.00 and skip the furlough.

Renting out the Main House was not on the ballot either. It was the opinion of WMD not to rent out the Main House. That council vote can now be reversed.







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Posted by I don't feel insured
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Don Way is the Chairman of Thoits Insurance. I am a current client. I will not renew my policy based on the spiteful comments he has made on Thoits letterhead/e-mail about our council members to the various blogs he has posted to. Don Way, if you want Atherton employees to not make cutbacks, you pay for it. Don't criticize us for not wanting to overpay. And please forward this to the CEO of your company so he knows you're losing customers.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I don't fee insured -

First, I doubt you are a customer of Mr. Way. And if you would change your business simply because of a business owner's political views, your purchasing patterns will be changing faster than our elections.

And penalizing a member of our community with the guts to go "on the record" in this public forum is deplorable. So go ahead and make your threats. There are many in our community who respect Mr. Way's opinion and will changing their business TO his firm.

Why don't you ask the critics of Chick-Fil-A how that worked out for them? Last I saw, their business went through the roof.

Beware of unintended consequences and shame on you for such a cowardly threat.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"they should wait until the new council is seated,"

We have a sitting council just as we have a sitting House of Representatives and Senate = do you want all of them to just sit on their hands?


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Posted by Way to Go
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Well said POGO!


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm

POGO- good call on Don Way.

Peter- There are many differences between Local and National Lame Duck session. Wiest could be sworn in this week and vote on the issue, if Mayor Widmer wanted. That is not the case at the National level.


Days ago you posted that the Fire District provides 15 days notice on compensation changes. That did not happen here.

Widmer stated this compensation plan was in the works for six months; it should have been discussed at the October Council meeting and in the Mayor's Press Release. Why not? Probably to avoid it becoming a campaign issue.

Instead staff and residents were given three days to review the final council offer.

At the meeting, Lewis and Carlson objected to not presenting the final Compensation Reduction offer for a longer period for staff and residents to review.

Should a Lame Duck Council Majority rush through a policy, when voters have chosen a representative with a different viewpoint?






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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm

The Minutes from the discussion of the topic- Council discussion after Citizen's comments.

Elizabeth Lewis Says Bill Widmer's comments were rhetoric that sounds good on a national stage.

Questions his flat tax comment and disagrees. Notes the property tax revenue willexceed the previous year's by a significant amount. She concedes the Town has limited resources and needs to live within its means. The biggest gain will be in the restructuringthe retirement system, not nickel and diming the 10 unrepresented employees for negligible savings (0.01% of the Town's annual budget) Says the Council should beseeking a more measured approach.


Kathy McKeithen--She says the employees were represented and chose not to be represented [really?].Says the employees saw the resolution before the Council did. Says pushing for a delayis only intended to make everyone start over again. Says there is reason not to delay;there is a risk of setting it back 9 months. Says this has been in discussion for months.McKeithen says this is all about the pending negotiations with the Police Department and that's why the APOA is at the meeting. She reveals the measure was adopted by aunanimous vote (in closed session). Web Link

Jim Dobbie--He sees no reason to delay and makes a motion to approve the resolution.

Jerry Carlson He says they need to be fair to employees and listen to the concerns of the employeesand the residents. He says Steve
Tyler's suggestions were reasonable. He says the Council is in agreement on the policy direction. He has concerns about the road mapand way they are implementing. Says he will vote with the majority to approve themotion so that he can motion to reconsider it at the next meeting.

Elizabeth Lewis Says she will vote for the motion so that she can motion for reconsideration at the next meeting.

Bill Widmer Says there is little activity during the week in question and it is a good time to do afurlough. The proposal reflects 3 increases since the beginning of negotiations, up to$200/month per employee.

Jerry Carlson Says he wants to see the complete package. Doesn't think it looks good to give the unrepresented employees the changes at the last minute. Says he needs more time to assess if there are some things from a policy standpoint that need to be adjusted. Says it won't hurt to consider the his resolution next month.


Bill Widmer Thinks the changes are cosmetic and do not justify putting off consideration. Says they have pushed it off multiple times. Motions for passage "once and for all" in an effort to prevent re-consideration next month. [City Attorney tells him he can't do that.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Agenda Item 11, ADOPT RESOLUTION NO. 12-XX APPROVING SALARY AND BENEFITS FOR ALLUNREPRESENTED EMPLOYEES

Council & City Attorney Initial Comments.

Part 1 - Web Link Part 2 - Web Link The City Attorney disclosed last minutes changes to the resolution. The changes were prompted by the examination of an outside Attorney who found problems.

That attorney believes it's "bad form" to approve at this meeting.

The City Attorney says he would liketo have CalPERS review and approve a portion of the resolution and will reintroduce that part at the next Council meeting.

Dobbie observes few private sector jobs have the benefits included in this resolution andbelieves Atherton employees are being very well paid even with this resolution. Hewants Town employees paid at the same levels as the private sector. He says theCouncil has been looking at this for a long time.

He says "it wasn't complicated" to outsource the Public Works, Building, and Parkemployees last year.

Jerry Carlson asks if the unrepresented employees have seen the completed resolution.

The City Attorney says he doubts the unrepresented employees have seen the resolution being considered at the meeting.

Carlson notes there is no 5 years financialprojection and it would give the Council better information on the impact of the changesin this resolution. Carlson says the Council should listen to employee and residentconcerns regarding these changes.

Elizabeth Lewis recognizes the City Attorney's comment that CalPERS has not vetted the resolution and suggests it would be prudent to continue the item to the next meetingfor that reason. She suggests some of the elements are too aggressive (18 monthimplementation.).

She observes the rushed implementation does not provide theeffected employees time to plan for the changes. The Town is going to reducecompensation by 20% in some cases.


Kathy McKeithen says they are trying to reach parity with the private sector. She alsobelieves that the Town is not in parity with other public sector agencies. She says the Town pays the employee's entire 9% portion of their CalPERS contribution. (EPMC issomething used in the 70th percentile calculation; though the Town pays the employee's share, it is not extra compensation.)

Bill Widmer says the fringe rate in the private sector is 30%; he claims it is 100% (or greater) in the public sector. He believes the pension liability is $12 million. Based on a Moody's report, he thinks Atherton's is $20-36 million.Widmer recaps his opinion of the State pension problem and suggests these changesare meant to correct the issue. He notes Palo Alto requires their safety employees to paytheir full CalPERS pension requirement (9%). He believes these compensation reductions are "humane". He believes that the outsourcing of Public Works, Building,and Parks has been successful.Widmer says the Council has been discussing this since the end of the first quarter andthe employees have known since mid-year.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Days ago you posted that the Fire District provides 15 days notice on compensation changes. That did not happen here."

The Town does not have the same policy as the Fire District and IF the citizens want such a policy then they should ask for it.

I get VERY tired of citizens complaining after the fact about things that they, the citizens, should have pushed for long ago. The Fire District adopted its 15 day policy in 2008 and I urged all the other local jurisdictions to do the same. NOT ONE citizen made the same request to their local elected officials.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Peter,

I think you are picking the wrong battle. When you posted a few weeks back it was the first I had heard of the Fire district policy.

You have a good idea and I am agreeing with you. Why be tired when someone and maybe the first person to do so, agrees with your idea? When you suggested your idea to the council in 2008, did they respond at all?

Do not consider by agreement with your suggestion to be a complaint with the process.

Rather- What concerns me for is how WMD handled this at the recent meeting asside from your suggestion.

The City Attorney opening remarks: The City Attorney disclosed last minutes changes to the resolution. The changes were prompted by the examination of an outside Attorney who found problems.

That attorney believes it's "bad form" to approve at this meeting.
The City Attorney says he would like to have CalPERS review and approve a portion of the resolution and will reintroduce that part at the next Council meeting.

Yet WMD ignored that advise and the requests of two other members of the council, staff, and residents to delay and correct errors in the resolution.

Widmer even tries to have a motion that the action can not be reconsidered. He rushed this for November to have McKeithen's vote and it is announced it will be the guidelines next year for Wiest to have to work with on the APOA.

Would you comment on how it is possible for WMD to have such strong agreement against the City Attorney, staff, several residents, and other council members with violating the Brown Act?






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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Would you comment on how it is possible for WMD to have such strong agreement against the City Attorney, staff, several residents, and other council members with violating the Brown Act?"

Agreement of the mayor with other councils members plural - he can't without violating the Brown Act because he and two other council members constitute a majority of the council.


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Peter,

We agree again on the Brown Act.


I agree with the City Attorney, Lewis, and Carlson that: That attorney believes it's "bad form" to approve at this meeting.

The City Attorney says he would liketo have CalPERS review and approve a portion of the resolution and will reintroduce that part at the next Council meeting.

For WMD to have pushed so strongly for approval after those comments of "bad form" by the city attorney concerns me.

"Kathy McKeithen-- Says pushing for a delay is only intended to make everyone start over again. Says there is reason not to delay;there is a risk of setting it back 9 months. Says this has been in discussion for months.McKeithen says this is all about the pending negotiations with the Police Department and that's why the APOA is at the meeting. Web Link

Jim Dobbie--He sees no reason to delay and makes a motion to approve the resolution.

Bill Widmer Says there is little activity during the week in question and it is a good time to do afurlough.

Bill Widmer Thinks the changes are cosmetic and do not justify putting off consideration. Says they have pushed it off multiple times. Motions for passage "once and for all" in an effort to prevent re-consideration next month. [City Attorney tells him he can't do that."





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Posted by Is this really happening?
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 3, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Are people on these boards really going to respond to the hundreds of posts by Atherton employees essentially saying the same things over and over again (basically complaining about a pay cut)?


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Posted by It Is Really Happening
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 4, 2012 at 6:04 am

Are people on these boards really going to respond to the hundreds of anonymous posts by Atherton Council Members essentially saying the same things over and over again (basically ignoring resident sentiment)?


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Posted by BenchMark
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 6:47 am

What is really happening?

More Brown Act Violations in Atherton.

The Conpensation Reduction should not have been on the agenda last week, but Widmer, McKeithen, Dobbie wanted it passed with their terms, and for the new council not to be able to change it. It appears the Brown Act was violated to achieve that goal.

For years Atherton has been managed by a council majority that does not respect the Brown Act. Even though the residents spoke loud and clear and a discussion of the Brown Act is on next month's agenda. One reason is that appearent violations of the Brown Act have never been reviewed in Atherton. Here are two that have been reported with no review:


Brown Act Concern #1

"Atherton: John Johns loses legal round
by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac Staff

The saga of Atherton's ex-finance director added some new twists last week, as a judge told John Johns he had to decide between suing the town and avoiding incriminating himself in a criminal investigation.
In addition, Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen, who had been Mr. Johns' staunchest supporter on the council, repudiated a statement the former finance director made under oath.
The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office is currently investigating whether Mr. Johns used town equipment or town time while doing outside consulting work, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Mr. Johns argued that he didn't know there was a criminal investigation going on, citing a November phone conversation with Councilwoman McKeithen. He said Ms. McKeithen told him the criminal complaint was going nowhere, according to a declaration filed with the court.
Ms. McKeithen, however, filed her own declaration on Feb. 27, saying she didn't tell Mr. Johns anything about a criminal complaint against him. "The statement Mr. Johns attributed to me under penalty of perjury in his declaration ... is not accurate," she said. "

The Brown Act prohibits council members from discussing closed session information. Mr. Johns swears that Ms. McKeithen violated that law.

End Result: By a 3-2 vote the council awarded Mr. Johns more than $200,000 and two years credit towards health care for life.




Brown Act Concern #2

"Why would McKeithen promote Widmer over Lewis?
Posted on May 22, 2012 by distraughtresident
This question refers to the whole, extremely strange and rather suspect Vice Mayor/Mayor selection thing that happened in December 2010 and which had some follow-on weirdness in 2011. Anyone else care to speculate? This episode with the Atherton council went largely unnoticed by many in town. Yet, this small act and possible major violation of the law, set the stage for much of the subsequent hostile actions perpetrated against the residents of the town relating to the Library Project. Love to hear what others think, as it is possible to suspect that this little incident, more than any other, reveals the ugly under-belly of the beast that we are dealing with.
As I understand it, Carlson nominated Lewis, whose turn it really was, having had three years of service on the council. Lewis probably seconds that motion. Then they vote. Carlson and Lewis vote "Aye" and Dobbie and McKeithen vote "Nay." Widmer stuns everyone by abstaining from this vote, so the nomination fails.
Think about this. You are a brand new council member, newly seated five minutes ago. The next most junior council member colleague of yours who has already served three years on the council, was just nominated to be Vice Mayor, according the the council's long-standing protocol of nominating that member of the council who has served the longest without having been Vice Mayor. What do you do to launch your political career? Abstain, force that nomination to fail? For what beneficial purpose?
I don't know about others, but I find this little episode to be hitting a nadir in the chambers of Atherton's not always so genteel politics. What happens next is both surprising and not so surprising: McKeithen and Dobbie nominate Widmer and the three vote to put him into the Vice Mayor seat. Just like that.
It happened so fast, people changed seats, and then the meeting moved right along. A lot of us were just staggered, downright uncomprehending. It seemed to be merely outright meanness by Widmer. We didn't really have any clue of why McKeithen and Dobbie would line up like that, until this past fall, when residents begin to call out their concerns about the ALBSC and we started to see Widmer squirm under the spotlight of McKeithen's botched Library outreach job and so many suppressive council votes. He didn't seem at all convinced about what the ALBSC was doing, yet dutifully marched in step with McKeithen, despite awareness of all of the ALBSC's "failings" as he called them.
It was John Danielson who let slip a little information: he said Dobbie prided himself on having mentored Widmer. It makes you wonder what that mentoring consisted of."

Hopefully the new council will do more than just talk about the Brown Act next month, it will put in place something to hold council members accountable for violations.











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Posted by Council Concerns
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 9:29 am

Besides the three possible Brown Act Violations mentioned above. Here are a few more from this year's agenda items.

1. The Co-ordinated response from Widmer, McKiethen, and Dobbie to the APOA endorsements gives the appearance they somehow knew what each other's roll was and the message was to be "Fear mongering" by the APOA. Widmer and Dobbie requested an agenda item and were in the newspaper; and McKeithen wrote a guest opinion. All three had the same message, used the word "fear mongering" and claimed to have received calls from residents afraid to put up yard signs.

2. The Co-ordinated efforts by Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie against the Athertonians Blog to push for legal action, when the blog is a obvious first admendment right. How is it that none of them could see the first admendment right.

3. The Co-ordinated efforts Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie against the Save our Park Committee. All three repeated a claim of "misleading statements" being made by the Save Our Park Committee.

Peter has suggested the council implement a 15 day policy on Compensation changes-good idea. The council should also implement a policy to allow residents to submit concerns on Brown Act Violations and require some type of response from the town.





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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 9:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The council should also implement a policy to allow residents to submit concerns on Brown Act Violations and require some type of response from the town."

No need for such a council policy - The Brown Act already has one:

54960.1. Violation of Act; Actions declared null and void
(a) The district attorney or any interested person may commence an action by mandamus
or injunction for the purpose of obtaining a judicial determination that an action taken by a legislative body of a local agency in violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or 54956.5 is null and void under this section. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent a legislative body from curing or correcting an action challenged pursuant to this section.
(b) Prior to any action being commenced pursuant to subdivision (a), the district attorney
or interested person shall make a demand of the legislative body to cure or correct the action alleged to have been taken in violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or 54956.5. The demand shall be in writing and clearly describe the challenged action of the legislative body and nature of the alleged violation.
(c) (1) The written demand shall be made within 90 days from the date the action was
taken unless the action was taken in an open session but in violation of Section 54954.2, in which case the written demand shall be made within 30 days from the date the action was taken.
(2) Within 30 days of receipt of the demand, the legislative body shall cure or
correct the challenged action and inform the demanding party in writing of its actions to cure or correct or inform the demanding party in writing of its decision not to cure or correct the challenged action.
(3) If the legislative body takes no action within the 30-day period, the inaction
shall be deemed a decision not to cure or correct the challenged action, and the 15-day period to commence the action described in subdivision (a) shall commence to run the day after the 30-day period to cure or correct expires.
(4) Within 15 days of receipt of the written notice of the legislative body's decision
to cure or correct, or not to cure or correct, or within 15 days of the expiration of the 30-day period to cure or correct, whichever is earlier, the demanding party shall be required to commence the action pursuant to subdivision (a) or thereafter be barred from commencing the action.


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Posted by Way to go
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 9:58 am

Well Peter that seems simple enough if your an attorney and have time on your hands.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Well Peter that seems simple enough if your an attorney and have time on your hands."

A literate person can do all of these steps without the help of an attorney. The written demand is a straightforward letter detailing the alleged violation and asking that the violation be 'cured'.


Democracy isn't easy and true citizenship isn't without responsibilities.


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Posted by Way to go
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 10:59 am

Peter says "Democracy isn't easy and true citizenship isn't without responsibilities."
While I appreciate the ongoing lecture and I do not disagree with you the Brown Act violations in California are apparently frequent and well documented but almost never prosecuted. So here is a law on the books that is largely not enforced so there must be a good reason.
I would rather Atherton Council Members or committee people comply with the law but if they do not then there should be a mechanism where the Town attorney accepts complaints He can either cautions the offenders members to comply if warranted or determines there is no transgression.
That would be workable.


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Posted by Council Concerns
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

Editor, This story has already had 741 hits and more than 30 just this morning. It was on the Almanac's home page and now is not even found by Town Square Forum/ Atherton.

It was created by you:
Atherton may cut staff compensation
Atherton, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Nov 26, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Can you return it to at least the Town Square Forum? Hopefully the home page? Both these issues- Staff Reductions and Brown Act were on the November Agenda and will be on the December Agenda.

With 740 hits, this is trending.

I agree with Way to Go. Brown Act laws do not appear to have been enforced and appear to have been abused in Atherton. Way to go makes a point: "a mechanism where the Town attorney accepts complaints He can either cautions the offenders members to comply if warranted or determines there is no transgression."

Here is an idea for council to consider at the next meeting. Under City Attorney reports and a Part B to the report. The City Attorney reports if he has been notified of any Brown Act Violations and publicly responds with an answer.






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Posted by Another idea
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

Let's also have the city attorney adjudicate and make findings on resident complaints about the conduct of some of the police officers (including leadership of the APOA). Maybe there will be a different outcome than the cops deciding the legitimacy of the complaints on their own?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"a mechanism where the Town attorney accepts complaints He can either cautions the offenders members to comply if warranted or determines there is no transgression."

The Town Attorney does exactly this - try it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

San Mateo County needs a District Attorney that will enforce the Brown Act Law. Currently we do not have that with Steve Wagstaffe, and we did not have that with James P. Fox.


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