What Atherton Could Have Settled for in the John Johns Case
Original post made by seeing red, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Apr 28, 2010
In April 2008, John Johns lost a battle to suspend discovery on his wrongful termination suit against Atherton until the District Attorney completed it criminal investigation of Mr. Johns on allegations that he used town time and property while moonlighting as a consultant.
At the time Mr. Johns was working as a Director for KPMG LLP, a "big four CPA" firm. He was distressed at the prospect of being indicted. He feared the loss of his job as a result of the negative publicity that would ensue. He feared the crushing financial burden of having to defend himself in criminal court, all the while trying to feed his family and trying to make the mortgage payments without an income.
Mr. Johns was at a low point. He authorized his Attorney to settle his case in exchange for a $10,000 payment and a letter from the Town to the District Attorney advising the District Attorney that the Town was not interested in seeing Mr. Johns prosecuted. What motivated to settle the case so cheaply was that he received an assurance from one member of the City Council that if the Town wrote such a letter, the District Attorney would deem it not to be in the public interest to prosecute him.
In response to Mr. Johns' overture, the Town countered with an offer of $1,000 in cash and a statement that it would cooperate with the DA in the criminal matter. In short, the Town reneged on the offer it extended to him through back channels.
It is not known what prompted the City to reverse its position and to adopt such an agressive posture. It may have been hatred towards Mr. Johns by Marsala, Janz and Carlson, or it have been hubris.
The end result was that John Johns decided to hunker down. He dismissed his lawsuit while retaining the right to re-file at a later time. Mr. Johns who still had friends at town hall also gathered the records necessary to vindicate him. He contacted his former finance assistant and asked her to run a report from the Town's financial management system documenting the date and time worked on the general ledger.
This report, slipped to Johns on the sly, turned out to be the Town's undoing. The report provided a clear indication that Johns was where he said he was, at his desk working from 9 am to 5 pm and occasionally on nights and weekends. There was no way the DA could win a conviction against Mr. Johns, the evidence exonerating him was overwhelming.
What was most shocking about this episode is that the Town, knew full well or should have known that the charges against Mr. Johns were false. This is the case because Johns used the information in the Town's possession to prove he was innocent of the charges against him. Somehow when the Atherton Police Department seized his computer and raided his office, it overlooked the evidence that would prove Mr. Johns was no criminal.
What was even more shocking about this episode is that when the Town knew the criminal charges of moonlighting on Town time and property were going nowhere, it tried to pin additional charges on him, including credit card fraud and the theft of cash receipts.
These complaints went nowhere as well because there was no evidence to offer in support of the charges. The only thing the DA had to go on was the word of a former employee of the Atherton Building Department who held a grudge against Mr. Johns.
After the District Attorney declined to file a criminal complaint against John Johns, he started his counteroffensive. He filed a mandamus for reinstatement.
Rather than attempt to settle with the Johns, the Town expended an additional $400,000 to defend itself, only to pay out $225,000 and to issue a letter of commendation.
These are the kind of decisions being made in Town hall. Public funds are being expended to crucify an honest public servant. Good money is then being thrown after bad to defend actions that are indefensible.
These are how our tax dollars are being spent. You should be outraged. You should, as do I, see red.