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Town Square

Why the rush in Atherton city manager shuffle?

Original post made on Jan 31, 2012

> This is an expanded version of a previously published article.<
With the town of Atherton scrambling at the 11th hour to secure necessary outside approval to let Interim City Manager John Danielson remain in charge at Town Hall, the question arises: Were the council and the interim city manager asleep behind the wheel?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 10:35 AM

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""There were other things that were very pressing that took priority with regards to the staffing and the outsourcing," Mr. Widmer said."

I certainly feel that the Town is in much better shape as a result of Danielson's effort and year on the job. In many ways he has laid the ground work for hiring a permanent manager who can start with a stabilized situation rather than a having to do all of the house cleaning and repair work that Danielson has done. If a new manager had been brought in six months ago she/he would have had to use a lot of their institutional capital to accomplish what Danielson did while serving as interim manager.

As for the 'rush' discussed in the article I am pleased the the council dealt with the Danielson/DellaSanta transition in a timely manner. What would the author prefer - that we go on for months without resolving this matter Well done Town Council.


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Posted by Malcolm Dudley
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2012 at 8:21 am

In my opinion it would be in Mr. Danielson's and the town's best interest for Mr. Danielson to move on. We appreciate the effort he has made, but there are a number of factors that negatively impact the town if he continues on in any capacity. Most importantly there are very good reasons why Calpers restricts the number of hours the retiree can work without giving up their retirement pay and medical benefits. Based upon the 70% calculation it appears that Mr. Danielson probably receives a pension of about $175,000, plus medicaL benefits. Under the law he is not allowed to work more than 960 hours in a fiscal year, which he has now done for two fiscal years.

The town needs to set the standard for strict compliance with the spirit of the law, as an example for the community. We expect the community to fully comply with the spirit of the law, all of our town ordinances and regulations, not trying to find ways to get around the law. Calpers has already said that it is a "SHAM" to try to keep him on in some capacity. Clearly the town has worked hard to craft a contract that would pass muster, attempting to make it appear that he has no capacity to influence town decisions and actions. In addition to paying him $12,000 per month, plus recruiting expenses, the town will continue to provide free housing, worth approximately $8,000 per month. This house has never been provided for anyone that is not an employee. I am not an accountant or tax expert, but I believe the town would have to give him a Form 1099 to cover the value of this rent free home (about $24,000 for three months.) He would have a significant tax liability for this benefit, not in his best interest.

Beyond the factors mentioned above, having the town adhere to the spirit of the law, not trying to find a way around the law, and the potential financial consequences of the contract, home, etc. there are other important considerations.

The town has had unprecedented problems, with a very divided community, and Mr. Danielson has been a part of all of these difficulties. The best hope is to hire a new city manager who has not been on either side of the issues that presently divide the town. It is very important to get a fresh start, and having Mr. Danielson involved in the recruiting process would not lead to a fresh start. He must also feel less than opptimistic about where the town is at this time with the divisiveness. His feelings would certainly impact the feeling of possible candidates for city manager. The new city manager will have a uniquie opportunity to build their staff, as most senior staff positions are filled with interim employees. A new city manager should not be influenced by the past city manager's decisions and employees hired by the past manager. It truly is time to move on with a fresh start.


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Posted by exactly
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:52 am

Malcolm, you have made a very compelling argument. There is something very unseemly about how the Town is behaving with CalPers. Sort of makes you want to take a shower.


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Posted by Robert D.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Malcom,
Thank you - I have been saying the same thing albeit not to the level you did.
Fresh start is needed and get Atherton back to a place where the internal fights are not the topic of conversation


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Individuals and organizations have to start from where they are, not from where they would like to be.

Given the dynamics of the existing council, I believe that the Town is better served by having Danielson organize the search for a permanent manager than having the council perform that role. There is nothing in the CalPERS rules that prohibits such a consulting relationship.

It is naive to think that any really good candidate will not be able to discern on their own the level of divisiveness that exists amongst the council members. Any candidate who perceives otherwise should be immediately disqualified.


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Posted by Baffled
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Peter writes: "As for the 'rush' discussed in the article I am pleased the the council dealt with the Danielson/DellaSanta transition in a timely manner. What would the author prefer - that we go on for months without resolving this matter?"

Seems to me, the council and Danielson were the ones who went on "for months without resolving" the matter that Danielson was hired to resolve: finding a permanent manager.

So Peter, being such an advocate of transparency and responsible actions on the part of public officials, how could you possibly defend a process that led to the council voting on a contract that they didn't even have a chance to read because they got it only two hours before the meeting? And part of the contract sent out before the meeting wasn't even correct, and the attorney had to read the corrected section from his cellphone. And of course, the public didn't have a chance to read it either.

McKeithen appeared to be the only councilor who read it thoroughly, and she had a list of concerns about it. Is this responsible action by public officials? Can't you acknowledge that something went seriously wrong with this process if it concluded with the council approving a contract they hadn't really read because they felt under the gun to approve it? Do you really want our elected leaders to say, we have a problem with doing things this way but I guess we'll have to trust Danielson to do the right thing? Given your record as an advocate for transparency and holding public officials accountable, I simply can't understand your defensive stance.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have not defended the process but I support the outcome. The council backed themselves into a corner and as a result they did not have a lot of options.


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Posted by Remembering
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm

"Why the Rush in the Atherton City manager shuffle?" This smarts of a similar situation in Washington regarding Obamacare when San Francisco's Queen Pelosi declared, "We have to sign it to find out what's in it!" Rush-rush seem to be the new tactic for getting shady deals passed and maneuvering around the law. What an embarrassment for a formerly peaceful community!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"shady deals passed and maneuvering around the law."


No such deals here, so what is your point?


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Posted by Seenthis Before
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Maybe someone who worked for Danielson in the past will be hired as Atherton's new City Manager - similar to the occurrence in Southern California. Lets see what happens.


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Posted by Robert D
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Peter - nice quote above...
"I have not defended the process but I support the outcome."
In 1537 Machiavelli wrote something similar, today it has been changed to "The ends justify the means"
So by supporting the outcome, you just justified (defended) the process.

The Town needs a fresh start - get a new interim in if needed, someone unknown to the council; yet who carries a reputation and for the price they are paying, the line should be long, then start your interviews.


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Posted by Seenthis Before
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:02 pm

This happened before in Wildomar.


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Posted by Seenthis Before
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

See below link about Wildomar

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"So by supporting the outcome, you just justified (defended) the process."

No. As I stated I have not defended the process. I do support the outcome. Those are two different independent positions.

I eat sausage but that does not mean that I necessarily like the way it is made.
I support the laws of this country but that does not mean that I like the way that each one of those laws was made.