Atherton councilman no longer a defendant in Buckheit lawsuit


This is an expanded version of a previously published article.

A federal judge has removed Atherton City Councilman Jerry Carlson as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Jon Buckheit, an Atherton resident whose claim also names the town of Atherton, three of its police officers, and San Mateo County.

Judge Joseph C. Spero on March 4 issued his ruling to grant a motion by the town and Mr. Carlson to have the councilman dropped from the lawsuit.

Mr. Carlson said he had no comment about the decision "except that I'm pleased."

Last year, Mr. Buckheit added Mr. Carlson to a lawsuit he filed in 2009 stemming from Mr. Buckheit's arrest during a domestic violence incident at his home.

Mr. Buckheit said naming Mr. Carlson as a defendant was based on his belief that the councilman retaliated against him in April 2010 by not voting for his appointment to the town's Finance Committee, although he was clearly qualified. He said he was told by Councilman Jim Dobbie that Mr. Carlson stated he wouldn't appoint him because of his litigation against the town.

"The government is not supposed to retaliate against people who air grievances," Mr. Buckheit told the Almanac last year. "It's actually against the law -- the Civil Rights Act -- and for obvious reasons."

Judge Spero ruled that the claim of retaliation was based on hearsay and speculation. " ... (N)o reasonable jury could conclude on the basis of this speculation alone that (Mr. Carlson) retaliated against (Mr. Buckheit) based upon this lawsuit," he wrote.

Mr. Buckheit said he was disappointed with the ruling, adding that "some wires have gotten crossed somewhere in (regards to) truthfulness."

Meanwhile, a mediation session was held on Feb. 28 between Mr. Buckheit and the town to try to settle the legal complaint. Although he said he couldn't talk about what transpired during the talks, Mr. Buckheit noted that the mediation has concluded and "the case is continuing."

A trial is expected to be scheduled in federal court sometime this year.

Mr. Buckheit was arrested in 2008 after calling the police to his home, saying he was the victim of an assault by his then-girlfriend, who was living at there at the time. He was never charged, but the police refused to give him the police report on the incident until he sued to obtain it.

Once he had it, he found that, in addition to a charge that he had been the aggressor during the incident, the report included a charge of child abuse against the girlfriend's young son. He later added the three police officers involved in the incident as defendants in the lawsuit.

In early 2010, Mr. Buckheit obtained a declaration of factual innocence in San Mateo County Superior Court.

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Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I was rather surprised that Mr. Buckheit chose to involve Mr. Carlson as part of his action as I felt it denigrated the merits of his lawsuit, at least in the court of public opinion. I think he was rather fortunate that the judge threw out the addendum to his suit since if there was nothing other than what Mr. Dobbie told him, than clearly it was hearsay and I am somewhat astonished that his counsel felt that was actionable. Should this go to trial, hopefully his counsel will not include into evidence the video Mr. Buckheit filmed at town hall. Jurors are not sympathetic to litigants trying to find cures through vigilante justice.

Even if it were true, it would stand to reason that Mr. Carlson had a valid reason for not voting Mr. Buckheit on the finance committee and it would be difficult to prove that it was in retaliation for suing the city. Of interest is the evident discord that exists between council members as it seems they don't know who is flying what flag in the matter and the attorneys will eventually end up the winners. The council members would do a great service to the town by all getting on the same page and resolving this matter.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 9, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Today's police log in the Daily Post's listing for Atherton, mentions a domestic dispute between a husband and wife on Tuscaloosa, in which the responding officers resolved the situation WITH OUT arresting anyone and by simply having the wife spend the night in a nearby hotel.
Wouldn't it have been nice if the officers responding to Dr. Buckheit's call for assistance had made a similar decision about how to defuse the fall 2008 situation at the Buckheit residence, by escorting the girlfriend to the same hotel. I am glad that this couple will be spared the damage that Buckheit has been put through as the result of a poor judgement call by poorly supervised officers on Neilsons watch. Residents should feel able to call the APD for help when they need it without having to worry that they will regret the consequences of having disturbed busy officers.

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2011 at 9:46 pm

The recent development in the lawsuit is unfortunate.

It is my understanding that Mr. Dobbie was the one who brought Mr. Carlson's retaliatory motive for refusing to allow Dr. Buckheit, a highly successful entrepreneur to serve on the Atherton Finance Committee.

If I am not mistaken, the Judge didn't excuse Mr. Carlson from the case because what Mr. Carlson did was excusable, he did so because Mr. Dobbie would not come forward and take responsibility for the disclosure he made to Mr. Buckheit earlier.

It appears as though Mr. Dobbie took a path he considered to be the lesser of two evils: placing the Town in further legal jeopardy or refuse to take responsibility for the disclosure he made about Mr. Carlson's motives.

All this recent development shows is that Mr. Dobbie would rather turn his back on a friend and supporter rather than to confront a colleague in response to official misconduct.

Like this comment
Posted by CS
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm

The predictable response from John Johns should be taken as who it's from, but I would think that someone like Thomas should realize that the council (with the probable exception of Ms. McKeithen, who just wants to cause trouble as usual) is on the same page with this lawsuit: nothing wrong was done to Mr. Buckheit, so there is nothing to resolve other than having to deal with his baseless lawsuits. This is a council that realizes that police officers have a difficult job to do, that wealthy people are not subject to a different set of laws than other people, and quite simply it's not always the case that people who are arrested are guilty of a crime. If that were true, there would be no court system of criminal justice. Mr. Buckheit is upset, perhaps understandably, but he is taking out his rage at the wrong people. The council is supporting the town and its police department, as it should.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

To C.S.
Pray tell.
Who would be the correct people for Buckhiet to hold accountable?--If not the arresting officers, their management supervisors, or the council who hires and fires them?
Did you mean all the town residents who choose to demure.
Or were you thinking of the town's insurance litigators who's only obligation really is to themselves--to save their own business from any payouts by defusing accountability.
Or do you find it perfectly acceptable that Buckheit go through life with a permanent felony record for a completely false charge

Like this comment
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:14 am

While I'm not surprised that Mr. Dobbie decided not to come forward and testify against a fellow council member, I certainly would be blaming my attorney for not having his ducks in a row before suing Mr. Carlson.

I've lost count with the number of lawsuits Mr.Johns has filed against the Town of Atherton, but his latest revolves around the town's decision not to rehire him back with regards to a position he felt qualified to fill. After filing his latest lawsuit, he subsequently posted on this website on February 18th and described "working for Atherton as though it was like stumbline (sic) on the combined sets of the television shows Dynasty and Mayberry RFD." If this was Mr. Johns feelings while working for the town, why would he want to re-apply for another position given all the dysfunction he claims in his February 18th post? If Atherton is to be compared to Mayberry, Mr. Johns has my vote to be their Goober. Certainly council members made the right decision in not hiring him back. I'm baffled why Mr.Buckheit continues to use this loose cannon as his mouthpiece.

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen Anderson
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

CS Kathy McKeithen is a stand up person. Please do not run her down. She is truly respected by a number of us. I like both Elizabeth & Kathy. As far as the lawsuit goes Jim Dobbie under oath has to tell the truth weather he likes it or not. By law he isn't allowed to lie. Have you ever thought Jerry never said what Jim said he said? I asked Jerry point blank if he said it, and he said no. How much did this hearsay cost the town. Someone paid for depo's. Ask Jon what else Jim Dobbie has told him or asked him to do. It is my understanding Jerry isn't the only council member Jim has tried to get into trouble.

Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

I have followed the Atherton elder abuse case really closely and I find it really disappointing that any of you are demonizing John and Atherton is treating him like an enemy. If only you knew, and you don't. He has been a great person on this and I believe what he says. What a screwed up upside down town you live in.

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