Atherton faces more legal claims by former employee


Atherton officials may have thought they put the nasty business of finance director John Johns' firing behind them when they approved a $225,000 settlement with him last year for wrongful termination.

But that has proven to be wishful thinking. Mr. Johns has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the town of Atherton retaliated against him when it declined to hire him to be interim city manager late last year.

Mr. Johns applied for the interim manager position after the town's permanent city manager, Jerry Gruber, resigned last October. The town considered a number of applicants, and hired Nadine Levin as "bridge" interim manager in October, then a longer-term interim manager, John Danielson, who began work at the beginning of the year.

In his EEOC claim, Mr. Johns cites his advocacy, during his tenure as finance director, on behalf of two female town employees. He had complained to town officials that the women were being subjected to sexual harassment, but his complaints were not followed up on, he said.

In a brief written for a planned mediation session, Mr. Johns wrote that the town responded to his complaints by first dismissing them as insignificant, and then by retaliating against him. The retaliation, he said, consisted of his 2007 suspension and, after a two-month investigation by the town, his firing.

Now, Mr. Johns states in his complaint, the town is again retaliating against him by refusing to rehire him.

Mr. Johns has also filed complaints against the town's police department based on what he alleges was his illegal detainment by the department during the 2007 series of actions by the town against him. The complaints allege evidence tampering and the falsification of two police reports pertaining to his detention and investigation, he said.

An internal investigation of the complaints is now under way, he said, and he was recently interviewed by the town-hired investigator, Pete Peterson, the former police chief of a small California town who also investigated a complaint by Atherton resident Jon Buckheit that the police report of his arrest had been falsified.

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