On the heels of an Aug. 20 showdown in Town Hall over access to public records, Atherton officials are scrambling to fix the problem they've identified as the root of the town's difficulties in producing building department records of housing permits, inspections and other documents.
The problem, City Manager Jerry Gruber said, is that not all data was migrated from old software to the software installed in 2007. "Unfortunately, we made the assumption the migration was complete" when the town switched to the new record-keeping software, he told The Almanac.
"We're doing everything we can at the staff level to resolve this," he said, adding that he will also approach the City Council for funding approval to hire an expert to complete the data migration so that "we'll be able to pull reports really easily."
At the same time, Mr. Gruber is taking a conciliatory approach with the two people who confronted him on Aug. 20, demanding to see public records they had requested via state Public Records Act letters. The records were not made available that day to resident Kimberly Sweidy and former town employee John Johns.
Mr. Johns, who successfully sued the town over wrongful termination, threatened to take legal action to force the town to produce the records if it didn't do so by Aug. 27.
Mr. Johns said on Sept. 3 that he had not taken the legal step after receiving assurances from the town that real efforts were being made to retrieve the records he was seeking. In an Aug. 26 e-mail to Mr. Johns, Mr. Gruber wrote: "I would like to express my regret for the frustration you are experiencing. ... (T)he town is committed to working with you to provide any disclosable public records you request."
On Sept. 1, Deputy City Clerk Theresa DellaSanta sent Mr. Johns a sample page of data the staff had retrieved through an involved process, and said she would prepare a disk with all the material -- numbering more than 25,000 pages -- once he confirms the data is what he requested.
"The town does appear to be making the necessary efforts" to retrieve the records, Mr. Johns told The Almanac.
Town staff also worked with Ms. Sweidy to arrange a meeting between her and the town's part-time interim building official to discuss the records she is seeking on the permit approvals, inspections and other building department involvement with the construction of her home. Ms. Sweidy has accused the department of "gross negligence" in the performance of its duties.
The town switched from Q&A software to Trakit software after questions were raised about record-keeping and other discrepancies in the building department in an audit performed by Mr. Johns, who was the town's finance director at the time.