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Atherton City Manager tries to keep a lid on the Police Chief's Investigation

Original post made by Ricochet, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Apr 8, 2011

To the dismay of at least one City Councilman and another prominent member of the community, Interim City Manager John Danielson has refused to calendar for discussion the budgetary impact of a personnel investigation of the Atherton Chief of Police in response to a citizen's complaint.

The issue at hand is whether or not the City Council should approve the selection of an investigator in open session given the limits placed on the City Manager's authority to purchase services or supplies.

According to the Municipal Code, Mr. Danielson must seek City Council approval to spend $15,000 or more for services or supplies of any kind, and he must do so publicly.

Mr. Danielson who doesn't seem to be well informed of the ordinance has insisted that he has "authority to investigate this matter thoroughly and completely".

In a terse e-mail to the gentleman requesting the matter be put before the City Council Mr. Danielson also stated that he has "no plans to bring the matter be council at this time".

In recent communications, it also appears as though Mr. Danielson wants to stick around for quite some time. One subtle but significant signal of his intention is the fact that he has dropped the preface of "Interim" when he refers to his job title.

If Mr. Danielson doesn't respect the will of the Council or of the community he'll get a very real sense of how short the shelf life of a city manager can be here in Atherton.

Comments (24)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm

There is no need or requirement that this matter be placed on the Council agenda. The last thing that we need is to politicize this investigation. The Town Manager is acting within his authority.

2.12.070 Powers and duties.

The city manager shall be the administrative head of the government of the town under the direction and control of the city council, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. He shall be responsible for the efficient administration of all the affairs of the town which are under his control. In addition to his general powers as administrative head, and not as a limitation thereon, it shall be his duty and he shall have the powers set forth in the following subsections:

A. To see that all laws and ordinances of the town are duly enforced and that all franchises, permits and privileges granted by the town are faithfully observed;

B. To control, order and give directions to all heads of departments, except the city attorney, and to subordinate officers and employees of the town through their department head, and consolidate or combine offices, positions, departments or units under his direction;

C. To appoint, remove and demote any and all officers and employees of the town except the mayor, councilmen, chairman and members of the planning commission and the city attorney;

D. To represent the town in its negotiations and working relationships with the state, the county and other governmental jurisdictions; provided, that any contracts negotiated for the exchange of services from any such other governmental jurisdiction shall be subject to approval by the city council;

E. To perform all of the duties and powers imposed by law on the city clerk or city auditor;

F. To attend all meetings of the city council of the town unless excused therefrom by the council;

G. To recommend to the city council for adoption such measures or ordinances as he deems necessary or expedient;

H. To keep the city council at all times fully advised as to the financial conditions and needs of the town;

I. To prepare and submit the proposed annual budget and the proposed annual salary plan to the city council for its approval, and to supervise the administration of the budget after its adoption;

J. To purchase all supplies for all of the departments or divisions of the town. No expenditures shall be submitted or recommended to the city council except on report or approval of the city manager. He shall approve all warrants drawn on the town before payment thereof;

K. To make investigations into the affairs of the town or any department or division thereof and any contract for the proper performance thereof;

L. To investigate all complaints in relation to matters concerning the administration of the town government and in regard to the service maintained by public utilities in such town;

M. To exercise general supervision over all public buildings, public parks and all other public property which are under the control and jurisdiction of the city council;

N. To devote full time to the duties of his office and the interest of the town. The city manager shall not be employed by or work for any other person, corporation or entity, whether or not compensated therefor;

O. To perform such other duties and exercise such other powers as may be delegated to him from time to time by ordinance or resolution or other action of the city council;

P. To attend any and all meetings of any commissions or boards created by the city council upon his own volition or upon direction of the city council. At any such meetings at which he attends, the city manager shall be heard by such commissions and boards as to all matters upon which he wishes to address them. (Ord. 274 § 7, 1967)


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Posted by Rick Tyler
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:13 am

Atherton Municipal Code:

3.16.100 Informal competitive bid and small purchasese
(E) Professional/Consultant Services (over $15,000). Departments contracting for professional services over fifteen thousand dollars shall write their specifications in a Request for Proposal (RFP). Selected professionals shall be interviewed to consider the experience and capability of each firm and/or individual. The contracting department shall request city council authorization to negotiate and return for council approval of the completed contract. All written bids will be retained in the town's files for a period of one year after placing of order. (Ord. 543 § 1, 2003; Ord. 538 § 2, 2002; Ord. 483 § 2 (part),

There's no way Danielson can get a complete and thorough investigation on corruption in the PD and Guerra' efforts to conceal this scandal for less than $15k.

A top notch investigator will require $15k as a retainer just to get started.

It looks like Danielson is a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

This guy is more interested in self-preservation than in solutions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:21 am

Rick asserts:"There's no way Danielson can get a complete and thorough investigation on corruption in the PD and Guerra' efforts to conceal this scandal for less than $15k."

And what is the factual basis for your wisdom on this issue?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:27 am

Peter:

wasn't it $4500 for the non-investigation of Buckheit's complaint? If that cost $4500 isn't it logical to assume that a REAL thorough investigation of at least two people (Guerra and Wade) will likely cost in excess of $15000?


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Posted by Alex
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

Dear Peter

I'm puzzled by your statement to the effect that there's no need to "politicize" this issue.

Weren't you the who was so concerned about police corruption that you called the FBI?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:33 am

Alex - fortunately the FBI is NOT a political entity but an investigative and law enforcement entity.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:40 am

Menlo Voter asks:"wasn't it $4500 for the non-investigation of Buckheit's complaint? If that cost $4500 isn't it logical to assume that a REAL thorough investigation of at least two people (Guerra and Wade) will likely cost in excess of $15000?"

No, it is not logical to make that assumption. The number of people involved has little impact on the cost and the cost of one past investigation may or may not reflect of a current investigation.

The cost will be what is turns out to be - when and IF the cost approaches 15k then the Town Manager can seeks approval from the Council before exceeding 15K. Seeking such approval at this time, before anything has been done, would simply be political theatre.


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Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 9, 2011 at 7:55 am

Here are some techniques used in actual investigations that would likely cause this one to be in excess of $15,000. Note that I have no indication that Mr. Danielson is trying to do anything less than a full investigation at this time. He simply may not have considered some of this.

1. The investigator interviews the complainant. As a taxpaying resident, I was outraged that Pete Peterson refused to do so with me even after several written requests to Chief Guerra from me to that effect.

2. Speaking of the FBI, use an investigative technique that they routinely employ: polygraph examinations. Although in California a peace officer cannot be compelled to take one, he or she can certainly be asked (and the refusal taken into a general account of things). As a complainant, I will submit to a polygraph at any time as part of an investigation.

3. Hire a retired judge to either investigate, or supervise an investigation. If you really want to be able to say the investigation was independent, and people who might be hurt by findings of wrongdoing had no influence or control over the investigation, this is way to go, and it costs money.

I am the first to admit Atherton has a budget problem and needs to watch every dime. However, I think these general issues are costing the town far in excess of $15 or $25 thousand dollars by continuing to languish without a highly credible conduct investigation.

A free way to do all of this is to ask the FBI to come in and investigate, but that would be an investigation of possible criminal conduct, not one of conduct and ethical job performance. There is certainly precedent for both; just ask Mr. Johns (although his criminal investigation was performed by the San Mateo DA for some 18 months over what amounted to a $200 iPod purchase). When he was investigated by Topiff, I suspect she actually spoke with the people who had alleged wrongdoing against him (unlike my experience with Peterson).

I guess what I am saying here, Peter, is that there is a history in this town of how these investigations were done prior to Mr. Peterson. I know John Danielson was not involved in them. However, if his investigation turns out to be less rigorous than those, at least the people involved will feel they were shafted, even if he has absolutely no intention to do that. Given the opportunity to put this to bed once and for all, why would it not make sense to take that type of excuse generation away from them, for a relatively small differential in money?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:00 am

John asks:"Given the opportunity to put this to bed once and for all, why would it not make sense to take that type of excuse generation away from them, for a relatively small differential in money?"

Your question presumes a fact not in evidence - that a proper investigation will inevitably cost more than $15k.

As I stated above
"The cost will be what is turns out to be - when and IF the cost approaches 15k then the Town Manager can seeks approval from the Council before exceeding 15K. Seeking such approval at this time, before anything has been done, would simply be political theatre."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:35 am

From: John Danielson <jdanielson@ci.atherton.ca.us>
Date: April 8, 2011 11:53:04 AM PDT
To: john johns <johnpjohns@gmail.com>

Subject: RE: Your February 26 2010 Citizen Complaint

Dear Mr. Johns,
I appreciate the concerns you have on this topic. As City Manager I already have the authority to investigate this matter thoroughly and completely. I have no plans to bring this to Council at this time. The investigation will proceed once the investigator has been retained. I am completely neutral in my appraisal of your complaint but I will aggressively encourage the investigator to review all aspects of the case and render completely independent opinions. I would ask that you be patient and allow the independent investigation to do its work.
*******
A very reasonable request:"I would ask that you be patient and allow the independent investigation to do its work."


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Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:41 am

Dear Peter

I am in receipt of a reply to the e-mail from John Danielson that was forwarded to me. I see that you were copied on this reply.

In the interests of full disclosure I think you should have posted that as well.

Please note that Mr. Johns makes a very good point. Getting Council approval for an investigation that is likely to cost more than $15,000 is essential to protect Mr. Guerra's rights.

from john johns
to John Danielson <jdanielson@ci.atherton.ca.us>
cc Peter Carpenter <peterfcarpenter@gmail.com>,
Renee Batti <rbatti@almanacnews.com>,
Ryan Riddle <rriddle@padailypost.com>,
Kathy McKeithen <kmckeithen@ci.atherton.ca.us>,
Jim Dobbie <jdobbie@ci.atherton.ca.us>,
Bill Widmer <bwidmer@ci.atherton.ca.us>,
Elizabeth Lewis <elewis@ci.atherton.ca.us>,
Jerry Carlson <jcarlson@ci.atherton.ca.us>
date Fri, Apr 8, 2011 at 5:08 PM
subject Re: Your February 26 2010 Citizen Complaint
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details 5:08 PM (15 hours ago)
Dear Mr. Danielson

Atherton's purchasing ordinance requires the City Council's approval for any contract with an expected cost of $15,000 or more.

I respectfully assert that the complexities inherent in this case will require more than $15,000 to be expended for a thorough investigation to be performed.

Please rest assured I speak with experience on this matter. In 2007 after having been suspended in response to the complaint of a hostile work environment, the Town spent over $25,000 to investigate me and to produce a 35 page report documenting the purported findings of Mary Topliff.

During the course of my personnel investigation, the City Council met in closed session to authorize an expansion of the scope of the investigation and to approve the spending of funds required to do so.

This was a mistake on the part of the majority which formerly comprised the City Council. By authorizing an expansion of the scope of my personnel investigation in closed session, the City Council violated the Brown act.

I was not notified of the disciplinary action the City Council was considering. This is one of the reasons I was reinstated.

Investigations if done properly require considerable time, effort and expertise. Of this I am sure you are well aware given your length of experience in city management.

I ask that you respect my request for a thorough and independent investigation while respecting Chief Guerra's right to due process. If Chief Guerra feels as though the authorization of public funds to conduct a proper investigation of his conduct is warranted, then Chief Guerra should be given the opportunity to defend himself. I reiterate my request to you, to the Mayor and to the City Council to place this matter on the April agenda.

Thank you again for your consideration in this regard.

Sincerely,

John P. Johns


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Posted by Answer the question
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

Dear Peter

To get to Alex's point. You did call the FBI to express your concern over police misconduct didn't you?

If such is the case, wouldn't you as much as anybody want to make sure that an investigator isn't hampered by an artificial constraint?

Also I'm not sure what you mean by "political theatre". Are you suggesting that matters of significant public concern such as police misconduct and the chief's possible involvement in concealing misconduct is not something the Council should involve be involved with?

If something like this doesn't justify City Council involvement then why have a city council at all?

I don't mean to sound disrespectful Peter, but I sense a certain degree of inconsistency in the positions you have taken. It appears as though your apparent desire to support the current interim city manager is getting in the way of your looking at this issue objectively.

Getting back to my earlier point. Since you were the one who called the FBI, wouldn't you want an investigation to be thorough?

The way I see it, an independent investigator can only help draw the FBI in if as you suspect the FBI's intervention is warranted.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 9:56 am

Answer the question (whoever in the world that might be) asks:"Since you were the one who called the FBI, wouldn't you want an investigation to be thorough? "

Yes

Answer the question (whoever in the world that might be) asks:"Are you suggesting that matters of significant public concern such as police misconduct and the chief's possible involvement in concealing misconduct is not something the Council should involve be involved with?"

When there are facts then the Council will have something to deliberate, at present the only two facts are that a citizen has requested an investigation and the Town Manager has agreed to have such an investigation.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 10:59 am

"From: John Danielson
Date: April 9, 2011 10:52:59 AM PDT
To: john johns
Subject: Re: Your February 26 2010 Citizen Complaint

Dear Mr. Johns, I've carefully considered your request. I've come to the conclusion that a progressive investigatory process will serve your citizen complaint well. If there is a need for additional resources I will not hesitate to address those with Council."

That seems to settle the above questions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

Concerned Citizen (aren't we all?) states:"I am in receipt of a reply to the e-mail from John Danielson that was forwarded to me. I see that you were copied on this reply.

In the interests of full disclosure I think you should have posted that as well. "

If you received the email then why didn't you post it???

Why in the world is it MY responsibility to do ALL the posting, particularly when the original post on this topic already covered the material in question. Come on fellow concerned citizens - do YOUR part!! If you think it is important then POST IT !!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ricochet
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Here are facts:

Danielson approved Guerra's recommendation to hire Pete Peterson to do the investigation of a falsified police report by Dean DeVlught.

Danielson approved Guerra's recommendation to re-hire Peterson to conduct an investigation a falsification of a police report by Sherman Hall and others.

Pete Peterson claims to have found no wrongdoing, despite testimony in open court in the former case and e-mails documenting misconduct in the latter case.

Pete Peterson supervised a police department that was found to have engaged in racial profiling in federal court.

During his tenure of the Clayton Police Department Peterson said he conducted an investigation of racial profiling and found no evidence of misconduct.

Danielson, whether he likes it or not suffers from a credibility problem. Like it or not, Mr. Danielson bears a certain amount of guilt by association.

The facts clearly demonstrate that it is the City Council who should be driving the investigation of Guerra. Not the interim city manager.


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Posted by Erol Kertz
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm

The large number of comments posted and the strong feelings expressed clearly show that this is a matter of significant public concern.

The investigation of Chief Guerra should go to the City Council.

That's my opinion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Erol states"The large number of comments posted and the strong feelings expressed clearly show that this is a matter of significant public concern."

A large number of anonymous comments on a matter in the absence of facts does not constitute a justifiable subject for the Town Council - I believe that the planned investigation may well provide some facts to that end.

How misguided it would be in the Town Council based its agenda on the number of anonymous postings on this forum.


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Posted by For the record
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Ricochet, For the record, the first of your "facts" has to be wrong. Peterson was hired before Danielson took over from another interim manager whose name I can't remember. She had to be the one who approved the hiring.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

For the Record - Thanks for the fact checking.

There are a lot of 'facts' posted on this forum and claimed to be true by people who are so certain of their 'facts' that they don't even use their real names. This is the reason why source credibility is so important.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm

The lynch mob mentality - "Besides, Danielson was once the subject of an investigation himself. He was accused of looting the Elk Grove City Treasury through excessive demands on compensation."

"Accused" - Isn't our standard of justice innocent UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY?

This forum is a haven for unsubstantiated allegations by anonymous posters who would never have the courage to confront the people whom they disparage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by William White
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 10, 2011 at 6:19 am

In 2004, John Danielson failed to act upon a conflict of interest with respect to his city and its contract with the Sheriff's department.

The following is an excerpt from the 2004-05 Sacramento County Grand Jury report which is on point:

The City Manager knew that conflict of interest problems relative to law enforcement services occurred repeatedly. He was aware that conflict of interest requirements were not being observed. He could have, but did not, establish a process to ensure that conflict
of interest issues were dealt with explicitly and in accordance with the law.


The full report can be accessed here.

Web Link


Danielson cannot be trusted. That isn't an unsupported allegation by a lynch mob. It is a finding of the Sacramento County Grand Jury.
The full report can be accessed here

Those calling for the City Council to be involved in the selection of an investigator are justified in doing so. They are not a "lynch mob" as one poster has charged.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The Council stated the following when it hired Danielson:

"Before selecting Mr. Danielson, the Town hired an independent third party to conduct an extensive background check on Mr. Danielson. Mr. Danielson has the experience, skills, and fortitude necessary to handle the difficult issues the Town will face in the coming months. The Council is confident that Mr. Danielson will be an effective leader of the Town staff and will provide the Council with the guidance it needs while it is recruiting and hiring a permanent City Manager."

Clearly they were fully informed and he has their confidence.


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