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Atherton report cites porn, expenses and 'bullying' in firing of finance director

Original post made on Dec 12, 2007

It wasn't the hostile workplace charge that got the former Atherton finance director John Johns fired. According to an investigator's report, it was "bullying" behavior, dubious expenses and viewing online pornography with a town computer that apparently led to Mr. Johns' termination on Oct. 29, following a two-month suspension.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 12:29 PM

Comments (18)

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Posted by Carol
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Has anyone ever given any thought to the idea that chaos erupted in Atherton shortly after Kathy Mckeithen was elected and promptly set about a series of "fact-finding" investigations? It's easy to convince people you are acting for the good, after exposing supposed wrong-doing. In the eyes of many people, there was no evidence of evil doings in the Town, only Ms. McKeithen's statements pronouncements that such was the case.

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Posted by LongMemory
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2007 at 4:23 pm

In the eyes of this person, the pre-Kathy McKeithen days in Atherton were reminiscent of the Wild Wild West, complete with the man with the badge, police chief Steve Cader, roarin' down the road in a huge city-owned SUV (Land Bruiser? Land Roll-over? I can't remember which) acquired by the town by very questionable means. Talk about chaos. Between the scandals in the police department and the "management" of a town manager whose name I'm not recalling (Don Golucy? something like that) Atherton was a pitiful mess. Carol, were you around in those days?

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Posted by George Franken
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2007 at 5:20 pm

Unfortunately, a long memory serves no organization well, especially if it was so long ago you can't even remember the names of those involved. Steve Cader is long gone. Atherton's current police department boasts a 92% satisfaction rate. They will be happy to share the survey with you. Current issues and events have been exacerbated ever since Ms. McKeithen's arrival. Has anyone questioned her motives as the relate to her dealings with the Town prior to her election? November 2008 can't come too soon. Hopefully Atherton's future will then be in a more positive direction.

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Posted by Carol
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2007 at 5:58 pm

I remember the early days well when Mrs McKeithen accused the Town of giving "very expensive, alligator" gifts to retiring employees when, indeed, the gifts were pens housed in an alligator, embossed cardboard box. I also remember the "very expensive cowboy boots" which supposedly had been purchased by the building department when, indeed, they were heavy duty work boots needed by the staff for the annual reconnoiter of the rocky, glass-strewn bed of the Atherton Drainage Channel. How about the additional $600,000 in legal fees this year for
Ms. McKeithen's & Mr. John's "investigations?"

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Posted by Wendy
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2007 at 7:36 pm

I am hoping that this town is on it's way to a brighter and more positive way of thinking.

I believe that the current town council (all but one)are crusty and in need of a new outside activity in which to direct their energies. I am sadden by the way in which they have brought our town down and tarnished an unbelievable place to live. This town and it's people deserve better than what Mrs. McKeithen and her cronies have done to it. She stepped in and ran on a platform of transparency and open government and she alone has done more to be nontransparent than any other council member. She aligned herself with John Johns and the Audit Committee...let's see how she wiggles out of her alliance with all of these people as they all go down with a sinking ship!

Mrs. McKeithen and John Johns are solely responsible for all of the Audits that the tax payers have paid for...what did they find? Nothing much in a year and a half of Audits and God knows how many hundreds of thousand of dollars that we have all paid. Not to mention the mess that was left after all the digging was done! She stays pretty quite about the "Off-Haul Fee" which was also one of her much did this one cost the town Mrs. McKeithen?

Finally, I am perplexed that a council member is able to file a "declaration" on behalf of a town employee when her job is to serve and protect the people in which she was elected by. How is this serving and protecting us when Mr. Johns was fired for a host of reasons...who cares how it came to light! I applaud the chief for having the gumption for calling him on the carpet! Mrs. McKeithen I think you would have been smarter to have hitch your wagon to the "cheif" instead of the clown you chose!

I too am looking forward to 2008 when we the people can be heard loud and clear! Mrs. for the hills!

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Posted by Catherine
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2007 at 8:58 pm

RIGHT ON, WENDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

This is a bizarre thread. The first comment implies that everything was peace and happiness before McKeithen joined the council. The response was a reminder that the town was, in reality, in turmoil when McKeithen was elected. So what's to dispute about that? If Atherton residents really have a beef with McKeithen's actions as a council member, fine. State your complaints -- they may be legitimate for all I know. But to say that "chaos erupted" in town only after McKeithen's election is revisionist history and ludicrous in the extreme. Maybe a review of the town's tumultuous times between, say, 1998 or '99 and 2003 or '04 would serve as a valuable history lesson to those who really believe McKeithen's election was the beginning of Atherton's political upheaval.

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:20 am

The problem lies with Mrs. McKeithen's non-stop "witch hunts." She monopolizes large chunks of staff time ( even though there is a Town policy limiting the amount of time a councilmember may require of staff) with her requests for all sorts of records, past and present. Then, if she finds a minor mistake, she makes it into a full-fledged scandal, when the truth is that Atherton has very loyal, honest employees. It is a dreadful way to repay loyalty and dedication!

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Posted by Sharing the American Dream
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Dec 13, 2007 at 9:42 am

Don't have your house in order? Even if it's 12,000 sq.ft.? Apparently, being terminally wealthy is no high road to happiness or civil behavior. At least you guys aren't struggling to make ends meet, so to speak. Have you considered how your conflicts might appear to the rest of the Peninsula, Bay Area, California?

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 13, 2007 at 3:57 pm

Regarding the above comment, I assume all of Atherton's neighbors strive for represetative, balanced and thoughtful governance of their cities, regardless of the average incomes of their residents.

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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2007 at 4:46 pm

"Regarding the above comment, I assume all of Atherton's neighbors strive for represetative, balanced and thoughtful governance of their cities, regardless of the average incomes of their residents."

Ah, good one - coffee actually came streaming out of my nose when I read that! I bet you were laughing out loud when you wrote that as well!

"Athertonia": A place unlike any other (thank God!)

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Posted by Hyena
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 14, 2007 at 6:31 am

I want to know more about the $600,000 in additional legal fees mentioned by "Carol".

+ Where did that number come from and over what time frame?

+ What makes those fees "additional"? Were they budgeted??

+ Does the Town stand to recover the fees from tax revenue or changed practices?

+ Did a single council member petition the others to approve the expenditures? If so, who?

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Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 14, 2007 at 10:31 am


I suggest that you go to the Town and ask under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of the towns legal bills. I think you would be horrified to see what legal expenses this council has approved (many of them could have been avoided if personal biases could have been put aside). I will say Charles Marsalas has been the one council member who has stood his ground on almost every issue the Town has been involved in he did not agree with what they were doing.

As for whether the legal bills were budgeted for? They are "over" the Town budget by at least $600,000.00 (meaning this was not budgeted for at all). Where is the Town going to get the money to pay for these bills? Who knows, but I am sure that it will be coming out of our pockets in some way shape or form.

Finally, you asked which council member was behind all of the expenditures, Kathy McKeithen. She and John Johns were the ones ordering all the investigations and audits the Town has had which turned up absolutely nothing. She actually did some of the investigations without the council approval...she also sits on the Finance Committee. Scary!

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Posted by Carol
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 18, 2007 at 5:27 pm

Revisionist history is interesting. If you look at the council minutes, the Audits were ordered by the City Council. Approved by all of them...not one just person. Mr. Johns was ordered by the City Council to perform the audits after the council did not want to spend more money on independent auditors. Now it looks like the majority of the Council opposed the audits because they were guilty. Kind of makes you wonder.

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Posted by thetruthhurts
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2008 at 12:18 pm


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Posted by Charles Marsala
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 3, 2008 at 7:21 am

As Mayor in 2006, the city manager consulted with me on the council agendas and I ran the meetings. The full council did not approve the Phase I and Phase 2 Audits. We did approve the Phase 3 Audit in August.
In early June, 2006 Mike Hood announced that he would retire on June 30th. In mid June the council had its annual budget study session and at the council meeting the following week approved that budget.
Mr. Johns did not bring up any concerns or challenges to the collection process of the off-haul fee during those meetings.
On June 26, 2006, someone scheduled a Finance Committee meeting for 10am June 28th and someone called the press to come to the meeting. At that meeting Mr. Johns made his claims that back in April 2005 the building department had informed residents of the new off-haul fees effective May 17, 2005. He claimed that the building department had issued eleven excavation permits prior to building permits being issued allowed the avoidance of $6,000 to $25,000 off-haul fees per project. Total value of $134,000. Mike Hood had discussed this earlier in an independent report organized by the city manager. He stated that per California Law anyone could get an a separate permit for excavation. The report was accepted by the City Manager and City Attorney and the issue dropped in the Spring of 2006.
I have always questioned the timing of this Finance Committee meeting. After reviewing the agendas and minutes of previous council and finance committee meetings, I can not find any mention of a Phase 1 Audit being requested or discussed. Why did Mike Hood get accused of something more than a year old and only two days before he was to retire? Why wasn’t he invited to the meeting to explain is actions?
On June 29th, the City Manager informed me of what transpired the day before at the Finance Committee meeting and to be ready for calls from the press.
The Atherton Civic Interest League (ACIL) sent a letter to residents in the fall of 2006 claiming that the full council voted for all three audits. We did not.
We did vote for the Phase 3 Audit in August, 2006. I felt forced to vote for the third audit, as a “no” vote could have been taken to mean that I was not interested in reviewing the permit process and was not interested in transparency.
If you have agenda or minutes that show otherwise please let me know. Interestingly the minutes from the June 28, 2006 Finance Committee meeting are missing, but the stories in the papers can be researched.
Charles Marsala
Council Member

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Yes indeed it is interesting that the June 2006 meeting minutes are missing. So are all of Mr. Johns working papers prepared in support of the Phase I, II and III audits.

With Wende Protzman's assistance it looks as though Charles Marsala can engage in all of the revisionist history he wants.

When one thinks about Charles Marsala's championing of transparency the term "the emperor has no clothes" comes to mind.

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Posted by counselor
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Concerned Citizen suggests Hyena submit a freedom of information act.

If Hyena wants a glimpse of what's been going on in closed session and what has been driving the town's legal expenses, all Hyena has to do is request a copy of the former interim City anager's e-mail archive from 2007 and 2008.

These e-mails including e-mail correspondence and attachments thereto between the former city attorney and the former interim city manager that had been attorney-client privileged communications are no longer privileged. That's because the former city attorney has already released these records in response to another public records request.

Some of these e-mails have been posted on this town square forum and have been taken down almost immediately. This begsa the question of whom the editor and publisher of the almanac news is trying to protect.

Happy hunting Hyena!

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