Atherton council moves ahead with outsourcing

Town hires Interwest Consulting Group to do building department services

After a few words of regret by Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, the Atherton City Council voted Wednesday night, Aug. 17, to proceed with outsourcing certain town services.

The council unanimously approved a resolution to eliminate staff positions for a finance department assistant, a public works supervisor and the entire building department. These employees will be laid off Friday, Aug. 19. Three more public works employees are to be laid off Sept. 16.

Council members said they are taking the action to address anticipated budget deficits, including an expected shortfall of $856,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1 if no actions were taken to cut costs.

The Teamsters union representing town staff have sued the town over the layoffs and the outsourcing plan.

"I'm saddened to see this resolution come before us," Councilwoman Lewis said ahead of the vote. "I was hoping that the town and the union negotiators could have reached an agreement. I don't think we have any other choice."

In a related decision, the City Council unanimously approved a contract to hire the Interwest Consulting Group to perform building department services, a step that will save the town $350,000 in the current fiscal year, according to Interim City Manager John Danielson.

In response to questioning from Councilman Bill Widmer ahead of the vote to approve the contract, Mr. Danielson described the process that led to the selection of Interwest as "very transparent."

With eight proposals to analyze, Mr. Danielson said his team of interviewers consisted of a building official from San Carlos, a planning director from Half Moon Bay, a former city manager from Rocklin, California, and a developer from Atherton.

"Do your own scoring (and) be consistent," were two of their guidelines, Mr. Danielson said, adding that they were free to "follow questions wherever they felt they needed to go."

They were told to score the proposals on a matrix; the four highest made the final cut: CSG Consultants of San Mateo, Interwest Consulting Group of Elk Grove, 4 Leaf Inc. of Pleasanton, and Precision Inspection Co. of Newman, California.

One was later dropped. Of the remaining three, the interviewers were asked to rank them and justify their choices. Interwest ranked first with all the interviewers, Mr. Danielson said. Town staff did not participate in the ranking, he added.

Mr. Widmer asked that the references for Interwest be checked by calling officials in the cities cited. "(Their views) are important and we're taking a big step," Mr. Widmer said. "It's got to be successful. We've got an eye on the financials, but the key thing is the service level."

Councilman Jerry Carlson asked about steps to check on the quality of service.

The town will conduct forums that include checking with builders on how Interwest is doing, Mr. Danielson said. "We will have measurement criteria to measure against."

"That's something we're never had before," Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen noted.

Mr. Danielson designed the plan to outsource building department and public works services. The staff's union representatives convinced a San Mateo County Superior Court judge in mid-July to slow the process down with a temporary restraining order, but on Aug. 11, Judge Steven Dylina denied an injunction that would have prevented the layoffs, calling it "a very, very difficult decision."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Oh brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Who was the "resident developer" that Danialson appointed to to review applications and to "help choose" the new Building Department services contract recipient?
Was it Ackley or was it Weiss that has partnered up with Danialson?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Unbeleivable. With the problems Atherton has had in part caused by its "resident developers" why in gods name would you include one on a selection committee?

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Aug 18, 2011 at 8:01 pm

And still there is no report to back-up the outsourcing . Funny isn't it?

Like this comment
Posted by Oh brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 18, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Last Feburary, the Council voted to approve payment to Interwest Consulting Group for 48,000 dollars to produce a departmental study and then choose themselves. ???????????
Can we expect more of this as Danialson interviews hundreds of applicants to replace himself as the permanent City Manager and also decides to choose himself. Or will he be on the board of Interwest by then?
This has happened before in this Town, and more than once.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm

This is an old script that has played out in politics many times. For example, Dick Cheney was in charge of picking George W. Bush's VP running mate, and ultimately decided he would be the best choice.

The big disconnect with me remains not addressing the elephant in the room, the police department, which takes most of the money.

Because Atherton has not addressed stuff in a fiscal priority type of fashion, it has opened himself up to charges of ulterior motivations.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 18, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Actually, I think the APD just got cut out of their usual piece of the real estate pie which has been snatched back and redirected straight to management. A bit of improvement but not a lot.
I would still love to know which "resident developer" negotiated the cops off of the gravy train, and gave their cut to Danialson instead. They were getting sloppy.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Great front page article in today's PA Daily News by Bonnie Eslinger on Danialson's long history with Interwest.
Danialson is quoted as stating that "it is only a coincidence that the the last three cities he has managed also ended up contracting out services to Interwest".
Also while he had no involvement in the selection process, he did review each proposal as they came in and attach his comments on their strengths and weaknesses......................for resident developer Jeff Weiss to assess..........
Why even pretend anymore that the Town isn't run by and for a handful of development interests only.

Like this comment
Posted by The Big Picture
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Let's not get all crazy. This Atherton scandal(or collection of scandals) is just the beginning. read this, then maybe you'll think twice about going to speak poorly about somebody on the internet, where it is visible to everyone in the world.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Oh brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

The article attached to the previous comment is an extremely tragic story, but I am not sure how it is supposed to apply here to this thread. Should we all refrain from noticing the transgressions of public officials to protect the guilty from embarrassment?

After the enormous amount of time and money the Town has invested in supposedly "reforming" the Building Department, it is also sad to see that the end result to be nothing more than resident developer Jeff Wise choosing whom ever he wants in position of authority that might benefit his own future business. If Danialson's idea of management is to arrange deals between his own long time associates and the local players, then lets just outsource the entire concept of government and leave the special interests here to have at it.
Maybe this is what the Council meant by "hoping to run the Town more like a business"

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

It's all just too damn cozy for me. As Peter is fond of saying public officials should avoid even the "appearance" of impropriety. Well, this has a great deal of the appearance of impropriety. Having a developer choose the vendor for the outsourced building department? Come on. Is Danielsen really that tone deaf or is it as others have suspected, he's steering work to a company he is associated with. In either event it smells.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh Brother
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Did anyone catch the PA Daily News article by Eslinger in todays paper?
Atherton has agreed to cave in on yet another lawsuit from Peninsula Pacific Group.
Jeff Wise had just recently helped to negotiate a different settlement on one the several other PPG lawsuits for which he was also a beneficiary--who is this guy besides a resident builder who makes money here? I don't remember anybody voting him into any public office.
Anyway this has got to be at least the forth time now that the Town has been litigated into submission by Peninsula Pacific Group. If this resident developer is really what the new city attorney is going to call "a good corporate citizen" the maybe we should all be suing at the public trough.
Oh! thats right! It's too late already-hardly a crumb has been left

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 7,622 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 14 comments | 2,512 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 8 comments | 2,463 views

Good News: The New Menlo Park Rail Subcommittee Hits A Home Run
By Dana Hendrickson | 12 comments | 1,641 views

Premarital and Couples: Tips for Hearing (Listening) and Being Known
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,044 views


Register today!

On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More