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Outside investigator hired to review Atherton police report-alteration case

Original post made on Dec 6, 2010

An outside investigator was hired last week to conduct a personnel investigation of the alteration of the police report detailing the 2008 arrest of Atherton resident Jon Buckheit during a domestic violence incident at his home, Atherton Police Chief Mike Guerra told The Almanac this morning (Dec. 6).

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, December 6, 2010, 11:55 AM

Comments (48)

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Posted by bob
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Mr Buckheit seems to think that all he has to do request something and it will be done. He seems to think he sits on the right hand of god.


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Posted by CENTRAL MENLO
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Bob, yours is an interesting point of view...

I read the quotes from Mr. Buckheit as a bit of an olive branch. fairly reasonable, and firmly stated.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Bob, where have you been, nothing could possibly be further from the truth.

"Chief Guerra outlined the process for investigating the matter, saying that when the department "receives a Citizen's Complaint or discovers alleged acts of misconduct from internal sources, the allegations are analyzed to determine if they are potentially criminal in nature and/or alleged violations of the Department's standards of conduct."

That must be Chief Guerra's loop hole."or discovers alleged acts of misconduct from internal sources"

That would explain my 4 public meetings at the Town of Atherton requesting that Chief Guerra identify the Police Officer who committed a Felony against a resident of Atherton.

I wasn't an INTERNAL SOURCE.


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm

In my experience the choice of who performs the investigation is crucial. I worked with both Topliff and Lance Bayer in support of two personnel investigations conducted on the same employees.

I was then subjected to a personnel investigation by one of the investigators I had provided assistance to less than a year earlier (Mary Topliff). I know very well how this game is played.

From my experience I gained a jaded view of those who work in this field. I learned that the outcome of an investigation performed by the likes of Lance Bayer and Mary Topliff are not dictated by the one doing the so called "investigating". Instead the outcome is determined by the one doing the hiring.

I was therefore shocked to learn that after I submitted a citizen's complaint about misconduct in the Police Department, Chief Guerra hired Lance Bayer.

[Portion removed; see terms of use]

In 2006 Lance Bayer was hired to do a whitewash of the Building Department. I know because I provided Mr. Bayer with evidence of criminal conduct in the Building Department and he just ignored it.

I know that this same evidence was later provided to the Grand Jury and the grand jury recommended a criminal investigation on the same person that Lance Bayer had supposedly investigated.

So here's the question Chief Guerra, whom did you hire to perform the investigation of Officer DeVlught? Was it Lance Bayer?

From my experience with the Atherton PD. I know Dr. Buckheit has very good reason to be wary of the Chief's choice of investigators. The Chief has record of choosing poorly in the recent past.


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Posted by The Rules
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Who is this retired judge going to be, Buckheit, Judge Robert Carey Jr., your lawyer's father?

The RULES are that Chief Guerra picks the investigator. Not Buckheit, not Mckeithen, and not some investigator a so called "neutral" judge that is in Buckheit's back pocket picks.

The last time I heard, it's truth and justice for all, not just for millionaires.

I am expecting that the citizens of this community will be outraged if Buckheit gets to control this investigation. Any attempt to derail the normal process of Chief Guerra picking an external investigator should be met with a lawsuit backed by the unions and public to prevent this contamination to the system.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm

This is FUNNY.

"to prevent this contamination to the system."


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm

This might just be the only time the citizens of San Mateo County will get to LOOK at the System, and see how it works.


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Posted by Anonymous and interested
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Alas, it always takes someone with the financial means to make the County accountable.


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Posted by KeithW
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I am unclear whether the result of the personnel investigation will be announced to the public, after reading Chief Guera's post. There is no doubt that Atherton Police Officers, like all of us, are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which complicates the issue. But if false charges were, in fact, added to teh ploice report against Dr. Buckheit, as certainly appears ot be the case from what I have read, then some sort of public personnel action is the absolute minimum needed to restore trust, which is what our Atherton Police department deserves to have happen.

An action against improper actions taken by one of its members does not threaten the department. On the contrary, it preserves and strenghtens it. I look forward to an open and public airing of the response by the independent investigator and teh department's response to his findings. I understand why Dr. Buckheit would be concerned about a whitewash, but it seems clear is he proceeding with his lawsuit in order to ensure a full public ariing of the issues, and succeeding admirably.


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Posted by jackrabbitt
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 6, 2010 at 3:32 pm

To quote a long ago sage "... here's another nice mess you've gotten me into, Ollie !!!"


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

The true tell as to whether Guerra is really taking this seriously is if he places the accused officer on administrative leave. The officer is accused of committing a felony after all. If it turns out he ends up being charged with and convicted of a felony, all cases he has worked on from this point forward are going to be vulnerable to challenge by defendants. If the officer is not placed on admin. leave it's a sure sign of a white wash.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm

This message is for Atherton Police Officer Dean DeVlugt.

If for any reason you think or feel you are being set-up or framed I will be happy to meet with you. This would not be the first time a Police Officer in San Mateo County has been set-up.



Michael G. Stogner


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Posted by Admin. Leave
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Menlo Voter, I think the true test of whether Guerra is taking this seriously has already taken place, and Guerra has failed that test. This took place about a year ago.

What Guerra could do right now to indicate he's going to take it seriously NOW is to step aside from the investigation, go to a judge to appoint an investigator as Mr. Buckheit has asked, and let the judge and investigator conduct the investigation without any input or direction from the Atherton cops or Mr. Buckheit.

I have no doubt Guerra placed the officer on paid administrative leave. They're always looking for ways to dole out perks to the officers.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Admin. Leave:

I agree with you, except that I don't know a single officer that thought of being on admin. leave as a "perq." All of your fellow officers know that it could likely be a death sentance for your career. This officer has to know Guerra's hand has been forced and if he has to "cut off the finger to save the hand" he will. Meaning this officer's career will be toast if it is necessary to save Guerra's. I don't think this officer's breatheren think he is experiencing a perq if he's on admin. leave; more like "The Pit and the Pendulum."


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Posted by Credibility Hit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm

How can this officer ever again appear in court with any credibility after this?

Even if Guerra achieves a whitewash, any decent defense attorney would crucify Devult on the stand going forward.

It's time for Guerra to step down or be fired. As chief, he us ultimately responsible for the fiasco this has become.

Remember, all of these guys, Guerra, Devult, are paid really well. This is a major league screw up and they both need to be held accountable.


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Posted by Phase four audit
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Could this investigator please explore several other police department related mysteries while he is at. Like how and armed officer was awarded 250,000 dollars because another employee may or may not have said something mean to her. Or how whole families, husbands and wives have come to be employed here, or what sort of accounting is kept of all the anonymous donations and scholarships from grateful residents that are made to the department.........wait.... instead of writing a long list of on going questions here, why doesn't the town council just order an audit of the entire police department like the Building department went through, and see what turns up?
It is by far the biggest expense the town has and money is tight, so this would seem reasonable and timely.


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm

An audit of the police department is long overdue.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

John, Don't forget the last time You mentioned it was time to Audit the Police Department.

Chief Bob Brennan accessed the Criminal Computer System (which was illegal) to do a routine background search on you. The good thing was he admitted that he did this.


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Posted by Phase four audit
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I actually don;t care all that much about WHO physically falsified the report,--- but I still care a lot about WHY it was done and all the unbelievable attitude behind the many coverups, the complete disrespect for a citizen's rights, the lack of any regard for the town, the residents, the department, the law, any standard, any allegiance at all.
This all happened on Neilson's watch. Glenn should Never have cashed a pay check for a job he couldn't handle. He should have just stayed in real estate. Clearly there was a big lack of leadership, control and respect up and down the ranks of APD. I hate to see it all land in Guerra's lap while everyone forgets that this particular fiasco happened a few months into Glenns very brief stint as Chief. Neither Gruber or Chief Neilson would agree to even meet with Mr. Budkhiet for the first year after this event first occured. What does that tell you?
But Be Careful what you wish for folks--[portion deleted.] . Come on Chief Guerra - don't let Glens legacy ruin yours.......( or the town's)


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Does anyone know if the report was falsified at the behest of the woman Buckheit called the police on, his then-girlfriend, or someone else, or Devlugt all by his clever self?


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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Maybe the answer is that as we know, pets take on the personality of their master.

And the APD is the pet of certain unknown masters in that town.

JAT


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Posted by Erik
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

If this cop falsified a police report, he needs to be prosecuted like any other criminal. He had no qualms about sending Mr. Buckheit to jail and ruining his life and reputation for years. Why do the police all to often feel they are above the law?


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Posted by Wrong again
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:37 pm

How wrong you are Erik. Buckheit was just in jail for a few hours and got a factual innocence so his record was cleared. But you bring up an important point: if whatever happened here didn't harm anyone through a long jail sentence or a stain on their record that they couldn't clear, THERE'S NO HARM so THERE'S NO CRIME.

How ridiculous is it to confuse this rich guy who spent an hour in jail with someone who trul suffered. This is all overblown.


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Posted by Right again
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

And Hmmn is right again. Unless there is a conspiracy that can be proven, that for example the cop was paid by a woman scorned to falsify the report, why the heck would the cop have ever done that? There's no motive! Menlo Voter was talking about Ocum's Razor, the simplest explanation is the one that's most likely correct. Unless some type of money changing hands, or steamy affair can be proven, the simplest explanation is it's just a typo, and again, NO CRIME.


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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Erik:

Because they are.

Listen, here's the deal.

The only investigative body empowered to look into PD wrongdoing is the DA.

If you can't easily see the unbelievable inherent conflict of interest there, let me explain.

DA's and PD's have an intimate cooperative working relationship. In addition,DA's often really on PD's and Sheriff's Departments as ESSENTIAL elements in their election bids.

If a PD or Sheriff's office was pissed off at a DA, they could make life miserable for them in so many ways it's not funny. He'd be out of his mind to cross them.

The idea that this is the system of protecting citizen's rights from criminal wrongdoing by police officers is just completely laughable, but that's all there is.

Put this together with the Patriot Act, concocted from a single incident about which there is great controversy about government pre-knowledge and/or involvement, and Act which empowers a long list of government officials with naming citizens to lists as a subversives, thereby removing their right to habeus corpus and representation, subjecting them to possible imprisonment of undetermined length without due process, and you can see that everything is set up to move to totalitarianism when social chaos erupts in the coming currency crisis which looks to be 3-5 years out.

It's serious folks. Go listen to Ron Paul's speech predicting all of this.

He's right. I thought it before I saw him say it.

Get ready for the real Neo-Nazis.


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Posted by Erik
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 6, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I know what it is like to be falsely accused of a crime by a police officer. It ruined 3 years of my life and still affects me to this day. It is the most helpless feeling because you know that most everybody is going to believe the police officer over you. It took me two years and $50,000 to exonerate myself. It was a living hell.

No harm done? Are you crazy? You would never know how it feels unless you went through it. This police officer not only falsely accused a man, but falsified evidence against him.


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Posted by Wrong again
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Erik, this officer was not accused of falsifying evidence, just falsifying charges. I don't even think Mr. Buckheit has made that accusation (falsifying evidence).

And without falsifying evidence, there's no PLAUSIBLE CRIME. Think about it. If De Vlugt were really going to try to railroad a guy, why would he stop at just falsifying a charge? He'd make up some false evidence to go along with it. He also would have seriously hurt Buckheit while in custody, perhaps maiming him or killing him.

Without proof of any of these other things that would have naturally gone along with what he's been accused of (falsifying charges, and doing serious physical damage to the guy), it's incredible and unbelievable to believe De Vlugt did anything illegal. There's no crime. It's that simple.


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Posted by phase four audit
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm

To Hmmmmm---Naw--Nothing to do with the girl at all.
Glens simply decided to show off for the boys and get everyone a good canary smile out of this one. I'm sure he impressed his whole crew with what Brennan and other heroes had taught him about how to clean up a mess by ignoring it (think sorcerers apprentice). You don't have to worry about being sloppy when you have the DA's office completely wired and you are way above the law to begin with. At some point, after the false arrest and prior to the time of Glen's departure, any number of suspects decided to jiggle the books just in case. Decades of never being held to account for anything have been known often to breed contempt.
Why do you think his buddies upstream threw him a life raft equipped with it own defibrilllator.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Don't put words in my mouth. I'm just wondering where the whole idea of falsifying report came from & why, if either are known at this point.

There was no "typo" in that report. Buckheit was the victim of domestic violence and called the police. Then he's arrested, okay, that's awful if he didn't do anything wrong. Then, additionally, the report was altered to state that he struck his girlfriend and her child? That is what I am asking and not getting an answer. What happened to the charge that he hit his girlfriend? And since he called the cops on her, what happened to her? Why wasn't she arrested? Was she, & never charged?

I'm not talking Occam's Razor, I'm asking those who know Buckheit's side of the case what happened. Thanks.


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Posted by Answer
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Buckheit and his girlfriend gave the cops differing accounts of what happened. They took her side of the story and arrested Buckheit instead of her. They later added a charge of physical abuse against her kid even though neither she nor the kid ever alleged that. The D.A. didn't charge Buckheit with anything after the report was submitted. The D.A. never charged the girlfriend because the cops never submitted a recommendation to charge the woman. Later a judge found Buckheit factually innocent of both charges (woman and kid). It would be speculation as to what the motivation of the cops was to add that second charge. Only they know, and it's doubtful they would ever admit it.


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Posted by Erik
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Ok. Maybe I'm missing something here. A police officer cannot charge a suspect. Only the DA can file charges.

If there wasn't false evidence submitted by the officer then what did the Judge find factually untrue?

Thanks.


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Posted by Answer
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Yes, you are missing something. Police officers recommend charges in an arrest report. The legal standard for factual innocence is: the "court finds that no reasonable cause exists to believe that the arrestee committed the offense for which the arrest was made." The police listed reasons the arrest was made (two reasons: physical abuse to the girlfriend, and to her son). The judge found him factually innocent of both.

To clear up the propaganda over what the law is regarding a police officer falsifying a police report, it does not require a motive, a conspiracy, that the arrestee served hard time in jail, etc. The actual law is quoted below. It requires the police officer making a false statement about a material matter in the report.

Penal Code Section 118.1: Every peace officer who files any report with the agency which employs him or her regarding the commission of any crime or any investigation of any crime, if he or she knowingly and intentionally makes any statement regarding any material matter in the report which the officer knows to be false, whether or not the statement is certified or otherwise expressly reported as true, is guilty of filing a false report punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or in the state prison for one, two, or three years. This section shall not apply to the contents of any statement which the peace officer attributes in the report to any other person.


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Posted by So sick of it all
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Dec 7, 2010 at 1:05 am

I'm so sick of hearing about this, and sick of hearing all the criticism of the Atherton police officers. I'm sick of Kathy McKeithen destroying the police department. I'm sick of Jon Buckheit, John Johns, Michael Stogner, POGO and Menlo Voter complaining. Just stop it. You're all acting like children!


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Posted by Interested observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2010 at 4:00 am

Re: Sick of it all's comments about being sick of it all.

On the contrary: Rene Batti and this paper are doing a spectacular and diligent job of reporting important facts.

For those who are sick of reading about this story, I would suggest that you stop clicking on the link to this story. It's as simple ast tha.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 7, 2010 at 7:53 am

wrong again:

how apt a handle as you are wrong again. A typo? Seriously? The officer falsified charges against a citizen. A report was altered after it was filed. As pointed out by Answer putting false information in a police report is a crime. It takes more than a simple typo to put false information into a crime report. Try again.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 7, 2010 at 7:55 am

Sick of it:

if you don't like what you're reading you have two options. Quit reading or get off your duff and demand your city counsil get out in front of this thing. Demand that your police department be cleaned up. As has been said before, if this could happen to Mr. Buckheit, it could happen to you.


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2010 at 8:14 am

There's a saying in my business about fraud: "The tone starts at the top".

If you read the second to last paragraph on page 6 of the heavily redacted Topliff report available at the following link:

Web Link

You will see that Chief Brennan lied to Topliff about an e-mail I sent him seeking to reconcile our differences. Evidence of the Chief's lie is included as Exhibit 3 to the Topliff report.

The Chief had me suspended, he then had his goons raid my office, he then had his goons falsify a report about what they found in my office and how they went about finding it.

For the Atherton PD lying comes easily. Dr. Buckheit's experience isn't an aberration, it is part of a longstanding pattern of conduct.


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Posted by HOLDING FEET TO THE FIRE
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:00 am

Interesting that former Oakland PD Pete Peterson is going to investigate this.

The Oakland PD has been notorious for misconduct, and tolerating misconduct in their own force. Given Peterson's base of experience, if he doesn't see a dead body or someone in a wheelchair for life, his own feeling will be nothing really bad happened.

Must be why Guerra picked him.

You have to ask the question: why is Guerra afraid to have a neutral person appointed by a judge to investigate? Despite the attacks, I think Mr. Buckheit's suggestion was very reasonable.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 7, 2010 at 10:45 am

Sick of it -

I can understand you being disgusted by reading about corruption in your town. Who wouldn't?

Just wait until you have to pay a parcel tax to atone for the sins of those public servants.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

Thank you, Answer, for the answers :-) I appreciate your input. What you said dovetails w/what I suspected. I'm not going to speculate as to the whys of the report being falsified. It would be great if the good officers in Atherton & the good citizens could go about their business assured that they are safe from police politics that have real and detrimental effects on them. Apparently, that's a long way from happening.


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Posted by Oakland...Atherton?
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 7, 2010 at 11:51 am

When it comes time for Atherton cops to be judged for misconduct, they want someone from the Oakland PD to determine what the standards are.

Yet, Atherton cops want Atherton cop salaries, and want Atherton residents to pay $750/year for the special privileges of having Atherton cops protect them.


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm

What I want to know is where were all you guys in 2007?

This blog used to scare the crap out of me.


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I'm thinking that the only reason they hired an outside investigator is because there is no intention to find wrongdoing.

If they don't prosecute, it makes the Town look bad. If they don't prosecute and it's an outsider finding it's all good, it's not on them.

This isn't that hard. It's a simple matter. It's felony testified to in court with factual evidence.

If they were going to find wrongdoing, they would have just done it because it would enhance the Town and the Department's reputation as clean good guys.

I come to the conclusion that outsourcing means a finding of no wrongdoing.

It's all I can see happening. Nothing else makes sense.

Outsourcing is their fall-back position when ignoring it didn't work.

It's all very obvious to me.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 8, 2010 at 7:32 am

Tim:

since there's no word that this officer has been placed on admin leave and the fact that the investigation isn't being done by someone that could be considered neutral, I suspect you are correct.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 8, 2010 at 8:58 am

The Town of Atherton has managed to maneuver itself into a lose-lose situation.

If the investigation exonerates Officer DeVlugt, then Mr. Buckheit has no alternative but to continue to pursue his civil case in court, painting the exoneration as a whitewash.

If the investigation implicates Officer DeVlugt, then Mr. Buckheit's case has been strengthened immensely.

There is a price to pay for obfuscation and delay. Nice going, Atherton.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2010 at 9:06 am

Here is the one man who has been silent on this little corruption issue.
San Mateo County District Attorney James P. Fox he is also a National leader of District Attorneys.

Web Link

Lets ask Mr. Fox what his thoughts are on this subject.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I believe that this is a test case for both the Police Chief and the Town Council. If the result is a fair and independent public report then we can move forward; if not, then I believe that the citizens will have no alternative but to call for A standing Citizens Oversight Committee established by either the Council or by referendum.


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Posted by Tim Wulff
a resident of another community
on Dec 13, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Gentlemen:

I believe Peter has just drawn a line in the sand.

I recommend you listen up.

You can police yourselves, or you can rely on the historical continuation of the self-involved disinterest, ignorance and reticence of the populace to get off their ass, organize and spend money to take the fight right in your face.

Your call.


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