News

Atherton city manager resigns

Jerry Gruber takes position with Cambria Community Services District

The Atherton City Council will have to start looking for a new city manager. The current manager, Jerome "Jerry" Gruber, has announced his resignation effective Oct. 22, according to the town's deputy city clerk, who issued a written announcement this morning (Sept. 23).

Mr. Gruber, whose tenure in City Hall will have been just short of three years, has taken a position with the Cambria Community Services District on the Central California coast, said Theresa DellaSanta, the deputy city clerk. Mr. Gruber has owned a home in Cambria, near San Simeon, since 2005, according to the announcement.

City Councilman Jim Dobbie said Mr. Gruber's decision was his own, not the council's.

Mr. Gruber will be leaving behind several headaches for whoever takes his place.

■ The town has been making deep cuts to its expenses to get them in line with income.

■ The town is dealing with one lawsuit after another, recently settling two, with former employees, for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

■ Employee morale is extremely low, according to a number of people close to Town Hall.

■ Internecine feuding nettles the City Council.

■ The building official recently retired after coming under intense criticism by some residents, including a couple likely to sue the town for "gross neligence" on the part of the building department.

■ The city attorney is under fire for what the mayor says are issues with the attorney's ethics, transparency and attitude.

■ With the installation of lights on the field, evening athletic contests and practices are coming to the high school after six decades of afternoon games, with potential side effects on the peace and quiet of dusk and nighttime. A group of Atherton residents is suing the school district.

Prior to his nearly four-year stint as head of the Department of Water and Power in Big Bear Lake, California, Mr. Gruber was the water operations manager and water reclamation manager at the South Walton Utility Co. in Destin, Florida.

Originally from Southern California, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 until 1985.

Renee Batti contributed to this report.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

What kind of reporting is this? No mention of Mr Gruber's accomplishments, reason for leaving, just rehashing the garbage posted on this forum! Did you bother to contact Mr Gruber? Did you read the press release from the Town? The mayor accuses the City Attorney of ethics lapses, and it is mentioned in the City Manager's resignation notice? Pretty pathetic reporting.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Here is the press release:

PRESS RELEASE
Town of Atherton
September 23, 2010
Atherton City Manager Jerry Gruber has announced his resignation from the Town of Atherton on September 23, 2010. Mr. Gruber’s last day with the Town will be Friday, October 22, 2010.
Mr. Gruber’s accomplishments include maintaining a fiscally responsible course through three budget years and safeguarding the Town’s reserves through escalating legal costs, multiple litigation matters including two large settlements, business license tax refunds, road impact fee refunds, and the Lehman Brothers meltdown. In addition, Mr. Gruber was responsible for restructuring the budget format, implementing a Budget Stabilization Fund, Emergency Disaster Fund and a fund balance policy for the General Fund. Gruber addressed and funded the Town’s Unfunded Liability, purchased Employee Practices Liability Insurance and hired Cut Water & Associates for asset management, implemented a Master Fee Schedule and cost recovery program, and oversaw the reconciliation of all accounts and payroll going back to 2001.
Mr. Gruber assembled a strong management team which includes an Assistant City Manager who oversees the Town’s Human Resource Department, Police Chief, Finance Director, and Interim Building Official, in addition to the staff that was already in place including the Public Works and Planning Directors. With the help of his staff, Gruber was able to complete the Town’s Housing Element, implement new financial software, allocate appropriate funds through the budget process for capital improvements projects, and ensure that Atherton remains a safe place to live by working cohesively with the Chief of Police to maintain a properly funded and staffed Police Department.
Jerry has accepted a position with the Cambria Community Services District where he has owned a home since 2005.
For further information, contact Assistant City Manager Eileen Wilkerson at 650-752-0546.


Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Why he sounds just wonderful.
I can understand wanting to go to his home in Cambria.I certainly do miss my home in Cap D'Antibes. Also, my wonderful friends there.
Well, it is sudden and a surprise.
I imagine he handled a lot of money,so he is going to be undoubtedly a source of inquiry.
The people he worked with, all have impecable records I am sure, although it appears he had to handle money in all his budgeting in so many many departments.


Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

I was just informed of Michael Murphy, City Counsel having put in his resignation a few days ago.
Is something afoot?
The timing is most peculiar when positions and the elections make it all so much like a political maneuver.


Like this comment
Posted by Ron Ziegler
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm

PRESS RELEASE - RICHARD M. NIXON RESIGNS AS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

Mr. Nixon's accomplishments included managing the Watergate situation to keep the United States safe.


Like this comment
Posted by John Milton
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Editor
I take it the Almanac has no rules regard the posting of comments which are nothing more than innuendo and bearing on slander.


Like this comment
Posted by Whyisit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Come on people. It is time for Atherton residents to wake up. Since Kathy McKeithen joined the council we have had five,some interim,city managers and soon to be six. We have had the five police chiefs, and a couple of city attorneys.

When we have a council member, currently the mayor, disrupting the town employees, working behind the city manager's back, etc. it is no wonder the employees are demoralized. It is time to place the blame where it belongs, squarely on the back of Mrs. Mckeithen. Who knows who will be the next victim of her wrath.


Like this comment
Posted by Kathy is Great
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Whyisit, sure, blame Gruber's incompetence on Kathy McKeithen. While you're at it, it's her fault that cops falsified a police report, right?

And tell you what, if the employees here are "demoralized" when Atherton pays the highest rates in San Mateo County, including making the employees' own CalPERS contribution for them (at the management level), let's get some hungry, smart people who want to work here. Kathy McKeithen has done an excellent job on calling people to task for real issues rather than pretending the Emperor has clothes on.

Hopefully Wynne Furth is the next body to fall. Then the cops. She's going to clean up this Town, even if you stand in her way.


Like this comment
Posted by Edwin Stanton
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:34 pm

"Now he belongs to the Ages."


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm

As posted on the other thread on this subject:
This is unfortunate. I believe that Gruber had the potential to be an excellent Town Manager but the Council failed to recognize that California law provides for a "strong City/Town Manager" with the elected officials providing policy direction. Therefore, Gruber was never really given the opportunity to lead and his tenure here was also marked by a lot of dissension amongst the Council. Hopefully with a new Council in November the issue of the proper role of the Town Manager will be sorted out beforehand and we will be able to recruit someone with talent and leadership and then all of us can support him/her to actually MANAGE the town.
************
This is what the Town Ordinance specifies are the responsibilities of the Town Manager:
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)
***********
Hopefully the next Town Manager will be selected with these duties in mind and then given the support of the council to carry them out.


Like this comment
Posted by Chesire Cat
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Seems like an appropriate time to pour some salt in this wound:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

It is true that Mr. Gruber was an at will employee who could have been dismissed at any time by the Council. However, doing so came with a heavy price, a very generous severance package.

Gruber had leverage. He had the rule of law behind him as Mr. Carpenter points out and he had financial leverage. Mr. Gruber failed to use that leverage skillfully.

The town employees who I spoke with lamented Gruber's lack of assertiveness with the City Council. The complained about how by failing to stand up to the City Council, Gruber let the City Council micromanage the Town.

I think it is far too easy to blame discord amongst the City Council for the failure of leadership from which the Town has suffered recently. I think it would be more proper to say that in a Council Manager form of government the buck stops at the corner office.

A new City Council that respects the rule of law will help, but that is no substitute for a City Manager who has the ability to get tough with individual members of the Council if and when they violate the public trust.



Like this comment
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 23, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Mr.Carpenter, the fact that there is " a lot of dissension (sic) amongst the council" was only one of the problems that Mr.Gruber was
having to deal with. One only has to look at the public records of his detractors in San Mateo County and realize that he was dealing with a lot more than a couple of inept city council members. There is a history of litigation with many of those that post on this forum all of which is not complimentary and that took place long before Mr. Gruber's arrival. While I'm sure his departure has to do in part with the some of the problems created by the city council city attorney and APD, the additional problems created by individuals with a history of litigation and too much time on their hands additionally contributed to his decision to leave.

While I have never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Gruber, it is my opinion that he was trying to solve the city's problems rather than trying to conduct city business clandestinely. It comes as no surprise to me that he found a new position so quickly and I'm sure he is happy to move on from all the nonsense. While you may have not been happy with his performance, I think it is only proper to wish him well rather than imply he did not possess "talent and leadership" to manage the town with the circumstances he did not create but that was ultimately dumped in his lap.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:47 am

Doubting Thomas states:"imply he did not possess "talent and leadership" to manage the town."

I never said and never implied the above. My statement was "I believe that Gruber had the potential to be an excellent Town Manager"


Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:08 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

In response to John Milton's inquiry about the Almanac having no rules about the posting of "comments which are nothing more than innuendo and bearing on slander", it would mean that we have to accept as truth ALL that is written without the ability to have someone "out there" possibly being able to bear light on something which could bring something not "proper or legal".
While the banking scandal with the Vatican is reopened, it doesn't deal with religion, but business, just as inquiries about politics open the doors to banking improprieties which should be made clear.
Rome has to deal with the Mafia again, while few people on the Peninsula may not know that the Mafia was accused of being very active right here on the Golden Corridor, but proof was never substantiated.BUT, living in San Francisco, it was almost a given on the corruption by that organization and its members being some of the most celebrated homeowners of the mansions which made the Peninsula famous, along with the few authentic "blue bloods" whose "genealogy" actually began with the Gold Rush...that is to say, except for the truly aristocratic Spanish who brought culture.


Like this comment
Posted by mary ann
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 25, 2010 at 10:59 pm

One member of the City Council said that the Council would have gotten rid of Gruber earlier but that it did not want to pay him a severance.

What a pitiful thing, to let a guy run the Town into the ground because the Council didn't want to pay a severance. It should never have granted him this perk in the first place.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 10:28 am

I feel badly for any Town Manager that had to or has to work for this Town Council. It is truly a "no win" situation.

Candidates to replace Mr. Gruber will now be even more cautious about working for this Council. Lesser candidates may not care, but the best ones are certainly paying attention.

Just part of the continuing price Atherton's citizens are paying for electing these officials.


Like this comment
Posted by insider
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm

By resigning Gruber has opened the door open for Johns to return to town hall. This has Janz, Marsala and others who ran the ex finance director out of town extremely worried at the moment.


Like this comment
Posted by fait accompli
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm

The counter-revolution has begun. General Buckheit is firmly in command.


Like this comment
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 26, 2010 at 9:41 pm

How quiet stories become when someone suggests looking at the public records of those that post deragatory opinions on this website and have a history of litigation. I also would point out Mr. Carpenter's propensity to address posters with euphemisms such as "Doubting Thomas" or "Just Wandering" or all together questioning the validity of posts from "Finally" is nothing more than his inability to responsibly reply to those that disagree with his opinion. Again,I commend Mr. Carpenter's efforts to provide a forum for resident's to ask questions of the prospective candidates but make no mistake he clearly has his own agenda for Atherton which I don't feel represents the majority of it's residents.


Like this comment
Posted by reality check
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 26, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Thomas. Right you are. Carpenter does have an agenda. Carpenter wants to promote himself, to feed off the chaos. I have seen no solutions from the guy, just carping.

If only he would take a stand. If only he would stop spouting platitudes, like the City council should just get along.

Carpenter should get out in front of an issue or get behind someone who is out in front.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:09 am

This thread is about Atherton City Manager Resigns. That would be Jerry Gruber

In this video you will see him obstructing and denying access to the public records of the building department, while all the time he had a staff member who was qualified and available
to supply the requested information.

Also the town of Atherton contacted Youtube to have this video removed.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Dick Givens
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 27, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Cool, am I the only one that got the Ron Zeigler referance?


Like this comment
Posted by Litigation
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2010 at 12:13 am

Isn't it interesting that (pro-police) posters accuse Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit of engaging in frivolous litigation when the fact is that Atherton paid a larger settlement to former police officer Pilar Buckley than it did to Mr. Johns, and Ms. Buckley's lawsuit (essentially that an Atherton employee came on to her) truly was frivolous.


Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2010 at 7:32 am

The Buckley suit was anything BUT frivolous. The settlement was based on the knowledge that a trial would raise a pattern of harassment.


Like this comment
Posted by Litigation
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

Wrong. The settlement was actually based on her alleged back injury. Read it. I happen to know various people who saw her doing stuff with this "back injury" that would make a weightlifter proud (such as throwing her son across a swimming pool).

As for the pattern of harassment, a jury had already acquitted the alleged "attacker". I know it's a different legal standard, but it was not a good sign. And, what were her damages from someone coming on to her? $250,000? How so? What were her actual losses?

The "pattern of harassment" was a line made up by the cops to justify the settlement to the town council to "take care of their own".

Nope, sorry, more of the litigation in this town has been by the cops themselves than by Johns or Buckheit:

Buckley.

Anita Blick, a dispatcher who was prosecuted for worker's comp fraud.

Two captains who were let go as part of a reduction in force, Chaput and McTaggart.

In each case, the claims were highly questionable. Johns was run out of this town based on a personal vendetta by the cops, and was vindicated through the legal process. Buckheit has a court decision by a neutral judge saying he was right and the cops were wrong. Both of these suits are far, far less "frivolous" than the lawsuits by the cops themselves.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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