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Atherton council sets special meeting Friday on allegations of improper conduct by councilman

Original post made on Mar 25, 2010

The Atherton City Council is scheduling a special emergency meeting for 2 p.m. Friday, March 26, to look into allegations of impropriety surrounding Councilman Charles Marsala. The council will meet in the Town Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road, Atherton.
[Web Link ■ ==B Councilman asked for $500,000 loan, says Atherton resident who is suing town. ==]


Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 25, 2010, 11:50 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by Pam, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm

The Atherton council is taking a much needed and courageous step in asking Marsala to address the still mounting allegations that he asked a resident suing the town for $500K, moved out of town while still holding elected office, tampered with the Grand Jury and knowingly lived in his pool house illegally.

Voters will now see which Council members are willing to be transparent and which will hide as 'no shows' at this critically important meeting.

Council members who are unwilling to make this meeting should resign or be voted off in the next election.


Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 25, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Allegations do not attach guilt. The allegations should be thoroughly investigated and only after all the information has been reviewed in its proper light can a determination of innocence or guilt be made. Remember we live in a country where the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Posted by Pam, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Hank I agree - the situation should be investigated and this public hearing is the first step. The ball is in Marsala's court. He has an opportunity to explain the emails tomorrow then later most probably to the District Attorney's office.

Marsala seems to have more than his share of allegations. Sometimes when there is smoke this is also fire; but as Hank pointed out we live in a country of laws and 'innocent until proven guilty'.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Pam states:"Council members who are unwilling to make this meeting should resign or be voted off in the next election. "

It is very important to recognize that this Special meeting was called with the minimum notice period required by law. It is not clear that holding the meeting on the next day after the agenda is posted will permit all of the Council members to attend as some of them may be out of town or have unbreakable commitments. In addition, such short notice may well not permit adequate staff and legal preparation for a full and informative discussion.

My preference would have been to announce a Special meeting to be held on a future date when all five members could attend and when the necessary staff work could have been completed. The important point is to let the public know that the Council realizes the importance of addressing these allegations and that it will do so on a date certain.


Posted by From Afar, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Mightn't this "short notice" scheduling have been deliberate? It aims to satisfy the wolves at the door while giving those who don't participate an easy excuse for not doing so. Then the whole thing blows over. This is serious stuff but is being treated in the same devious way that we see all of Atherton's business conducted over the years. Where will it end? Or will it? The offenses are continuous, only the names change.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 25, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Peter Carpenter has my vote for the smartest guy in the room.

Sad to say he is neither on the Council or a part of the management team.

McKeithen staked her prestige on an emergency meeting held at the drop of a hat. It is doubtful that there will be a quorum tomorrow. In retrospect she would have been better served by putting this item on the agenda for next month.

Looks as though there is confusion, complicated by dysfunction compunded by incompetence.

Carpenter\'s idea of receivership is looking better and better, except maybe for the poor bloke asked to step in and save this sinking ship. I dare say Peter has more sense than to take the job of conservator.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 7:08 am

It appears that a majority of the Council members will be unable, not unwilling, to attend Friday's special meeting.

Hopefully, Friday's special meeting will be adjourned to a date certain when ALL the members can attend and the requisite staff and legal work can be completed.


Posted by Kathy McKeithen, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:40 am

Nobody regrets the delay in posting the special meeting notice more than I. The issue of possible unethical conduct by a council member is a serious one which many residents urged be addressed immediately. Consequently, last Saturday, March 20, 2010 Vice-Mayor Jim Dobbie and I called the City Manager to request this special meeting. The scheduling and notice of the special meeting has been the subject of repeated "postponements" due to delays of a promised legal memorandum forthcoming "within the next day or early the day after". The agenda was finally given to the Town Clerk on Wednesday March 24 with direction to post it on that day. That direction was not followed until Thursday after several telephone calls and e-mails from me.

Kathy McKeithen


Posted by Willy, a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm

A meeting on alleged unethical conduct with only a couple days notice, without a quorum?

Trial in absentia, maybe?

Such a peaceful little hamlet...


Posted by pardo, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Just like Chicago.


Posted by concerned resident, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I would like to take the opportunity to use this forum as a vehicle to raise concerns about the behavior of Councilman Marsala. With my apologies to Mr. Carpenter, I do so anonymously.

I would ask that Ms. McKeithen, during the hearing on the conduct of Councilman Marsala address the question of whether Marsala and his relationship with developers was a factor in refunding the $1.6 million in road impact fees recently.

I would ask whether or not Marsala, as would have been his duty, to inform the City Manager when a constituent approached him about a loan request from a uniformed Atherton Police Officer.

I would ask whether or not Marsala had any involvement in or influence over the investigation and termination of an Atherton department head in 2007.

I would ask whether or not Marsala has conducted business in Town through his tool boxes and more franchise or any other business for that matter and whether this business was properly disclosed on his FPPC 700 form.

I would ask whether Mr. Marsala while engaged in litigation attempted to garner support from the neighbors of a property owner who was suing the town at the time to allow construction to proceed on a residence that had been declared non compliant. I would ask whether Marsala benefited financially from his intervention on behalf of this wealthy property owner.

Please accept my apologies for posting anynonymously. Marsala is powerful and he is ruthless. I do not wish this town to become inhabitable for me by Marsala as it was for Carol Smith. I do not wish to become a target of Mr. Marsala. I do not want to be a lightening rod.

Please also note that I am making no accusations. I am only bringing to your attention concerns of my fellow athertonians that have been brought to my attention.

I also wish Councilwoman McKeithen the best of health. She is being very courageous and this must be difficult for her and for her family.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Mar 26, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Why is this story getting so much attention on a daily basis? Almost like there's a vendetta. I see very little in the way of indiscretions.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Concerned resident states:"With my apologies to Mr. Carpenter, I do so anonymously."

No apology necessary - you have asked fair questions and done so in a polite manner, and you have a legitimate reason for doing so anonymously, and you have refrained (except for characterizing Mr. Marsala as ruthless) from personal attacks.


Posted by old timer, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I moved to Atherton in the 1975. For the past 35 years I have been proud to call this Town home. There have been many scandals.

I feel bad for Councilman Marsala, if the allegations against him are true, his star has fallen.

It is too early to write his political obituary. He deserves his day in court. Anonymous, Hank Lawrance and From Afar are right. Marsala deserves the opportunity to tell his side of the story.

I find it regrettable that, in the past, others have been run out of Town without having been given the opportunity to tell their side of the story.

Most recently it was the Finance Director, before that it was the City Manager, before that it was the Police Chief and so the story goes.

If we indulge in our very human predisposition to write off someone as guilty before the trial begins, we do justice itself a disservice.

It suffices to say that stormy clouds have appeared on the horizon. These clouds are closing fast. We old timers wish that our town government suffer no further discredit. However I for one see a silver lining. It appears as though apathy no longer prevails.


Posted by John P. Johns, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I agree with those posters who caution a rush to judgement against Marsala. He should have his day in court.

The allegations against Councilman Marsala are numerous and they are serious.

These allegations should be taken seriously. It does neither Marsala and his supporters any good to find Marsala "guilty as charged" without so much as hearing from Councilman Marsala himself in a public meeting the minutes of which are duly recorded.

If there is evidence to be presented, if there are witnesses to be heard, then Councilman Marsala deserves the opportunity to confront his accusers and to examine the evidence.

To do anything other than to have a fair and honest hearing would be to sanction a witch hunt.


Posted by i smell burning flesh, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 27, 2010 at 9:44 am

Ok so clearly the council members, who ran against each other, don't like each other. And Mr. Marsala asked someone- actually, a few other people including Buckhiet- for a loan. (Not for free money, for a loan) He did not get the loan.

The following year, one of the people who Marsala asked to loan him money, who also sued the town over a police matter and won, asked the council to form a committee. Marsala voted "no". Maybe you can accuse Marsala of holding a grudge, maybe. That might not even be true. But either way, I just don't see the big scandal.

I disagree with the vote. I think there should be a police oversight comittee. I respect Buckheit and admire his fight with the Town over a police matter that was decided in court, not by the town council. Congrats.

Marsala, who makes bad decisions, thankfully didn't have any decision making power over the law suit. Neither did the other plainly incompetent council members.

The Town attorney is a bozo. He should have advised the town better so they didn't get sued. But I don't see a big giant scandal by Marsala. Just a person I have little respect for politically and who doesn't represent my views- along with the other council members who voted against the police oversight comittee. Politically, I don't agree with any of them including Marsala. What were they thinking? Lame. But that doesn't make Marsala a crook.

To the people on here trying to throw the kitchen sink at the guy, please, get over it and find something better to do. Get your personal baggage out of Town politics.


Posted by Correction, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 27, 2010 at 11:28 pm

To I smell burning flesh: Mr. Marsala has never run against any of the current council members, or any council member, in any election. He was appointed to the council, and ran unopposed in the following election for a second term.


Posted by why not, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 28, 2010 at 12:58 am

I forget the guy's name, but Palo Alto had a homeless guy run for city council with only a lamp post for an address-so I don't see why Charles couldn't park his ferarri at the train station and still be eligible to run for office.
Plus the city attorney has decided it is O.K. to panhandle in Atherton-so what's the problem?


Posted by Tom M, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 30, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Charles Marsala is a good man and has worked tirelessly for the Town of Atherton. It seems like some folks have gone to the media to create a story about this home equity loan. I say this because the Town Attorney has already reviewed the issue. Has small-town dirty politics come to Atherton? I thought we were above this type of chicanery!


Posted by down to earth, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 31, 2010 at 10:04 am

Tom M

You call allegations of misconduct dirty politics, chicanery, you criticize the media for going out of its way to bring attention to this story.

You suggest Marsala was seeking a home equity loan.

This spin tactics have no place in Atherton. As the saying goes, "that old dog won't hunt".

Marsala should and will be held accountable. This story is too big to blow over. We have heard from Mr. Buckheit and how Mr. Buckheit was affected by Marsala's misconduct. We have yet to hear from Mr. Johns.

What Mr. Johns has to say should make some interesting reading in this paper. Let us hope that the Almanac News goes out of its way to print what Mr. Johns has to say abou Marsala.

I for one want to hear about how Mr. Johns' life was affected by Marsala's grandstanding.


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