Atherton residents had a new finance director on Monday, April 19, but it's a safe bet they didn't know it. As part of the lawsuit settlement between John Johns and the town, Mr. Johns was reinstated as the head of the finance department, and soon after resigned -- basking in the satisfaction that he has won $225,000 and a letter of commendation from the town.
Mr. Johns, the former finance director of Atherton who sued the town over his October 2007 firing, signed the settlement agreement on April 9. His signed "irrevocable resignation from employment with the Town of Atherton" was effective 5 p.m. April 19. The agreement was approved by a 3-2 vote of the council at a March 29 closed session meeting, according to the town.
Mayor Kathy McKeithen and council members Jim Dobbie and Jerry Carlson voted for the settlement, with council members Charles Marsala and Elizabeth Lewis opposed.
Under the agreement, Mr. Johns also forfeits the right to sue the town, council members, current and former employees, and contractors, according to a statement issued by the town on April 19.
"The settlement allows the Town to limit its exposure to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional future litigation costs (including a possible award of attorney's fees to Mr. Johns if he prevailed on certain causes of action), should the case have been litigated through discovery and trial," the written statement said.
Mr. Johns has maintained that he was targeted for blowing the whistle on fiscal improprieties in Atherton's building and other departments, and filed his wrongful termination lawsuit in 2008.
Mr. Johns said the town pressed for a settlement provision prohibiting him from speaking publicly "on my experiences," but he wouldn't agree to it. Since the agreement was reached, Mr. Johns has issued numerous highly charged statements, both in a public meeting and on Town Square, The Almanac's online forum.
Another town watcher who has spoken publicly in recent weeks on his experiences with the town, Jon Buckheit of Atherton, laments the loss to the town resulting in Mr. Johns' firing. Mr. Buckheit hired Mr. Johns as a forensic accountant to sort out financial matters for the elderly Atherton woman for whom he is conservator.
"It's Atherton's loss that they kicked him out," Mr. Buckheit told The Almanac. "He's done a tremendous job ... working for me.
"I've also run a software company in Silicon Valley for many years, and I know what I'm talking about."
Mr. Buckheit is suing the town in federal court over police conduct related to his 2008 arrest for alleged domestic violence. Charges were never filed against Mr. Buckheit, and he recently won a court declaration of factual innocence in the case.