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Atherton fires its finance director

Original post made on Nov 1, 2007

Atherton has fired its finance director following an investigation into charges that he created a hostile work environment. John Johns has been on paid leave since Aug. 29. At that time, he denied the allegations and said he was a victim of retaliation over his work to uncover improprieties in the building department and with employee expense accounts.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 31, 2007, 3:45 PM

Comments (23)

Posted by Jeanne
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:16 pm

For some reason you have opted to censor my comments about John Johns.

Posted by Sally Spaulding
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:19 pm

Why does the above article fail to mention that John Johns fraudulantly contracted with Sutter County to work for them full time while he was employed full time by the Town of Atherton? I can't remember his name, but a former Chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District was fired several years ago for the same reason.

Posted by Barbara
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Why does the Almanac continue to defend Mr. Johns? Why are they reluctant to print all the news on this gentleman?

Posted by Charles
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 1, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Methinks Mr. Johns, Ms. McKeithen and Mr. Goodman have somehow managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the Almanac, The Grand Jury and the Residents of Atherton. What will the Almanac say when the full report is released and proves you wrong? The people of the Town deserve to be told the truth. No wonder the public has so little trust of the press!

Posted by Marc
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 1, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Kathy McKeithen has been on a long time crusade to bring down certain officials in Atherton. She conducts one investigation after another, monopolizing the valuable time of staff in her efforts to find wrong doing. All this disension does nothing but keep the Town from moving ahead. Wake up Almanac!!!!

Posted by Andrea Gemmet
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 1, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Andrea Gemmet is a registered user.

Finance Director John Johns said he took a consulting job with Sutter County earlier this year. According to the contract details posted online, the job was for 400 hours of work over a period of six months for “payroll project management.”

According to City Attorney Marc Hynes, while many towns have rules prohibiting employees from taking outside work, Atherton does not. Up until he was fired on Monday, Oct. 29, Mr. Johns was a full-time, "at will" management employee for the town of Atherton. "Generally there's an understanding that if you want to do anything else, you check it out with your boss to make sure there's no conflict of interest," Mr. Hynes said.

Mr. Johns told the Almanac that former City Manager Jim Robinson was aware of his contract work when he was hired in 2001, and that he had Mr. Robinson's approval to continue to take on outside jobs. His outside work was disclosed to the city manager, the Atherton Audit Committee, and, up until 2005 when reporting requirements changed, to the Fair Political Practices Commission, Mr. Johns said.

Mr. Robinson could not be reached for comment.

I believe the post from Sally Spaulding refers to the situation with former Menlo Park fire Chief Rick Tye that is summarized in this 2003 Almanac article: Web Link .

Chief Tye took a teaching job in Texas while on medical leave, just days before filing for a disability retirement from the district. He was not fired by the district.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 1, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Re Andrea Gemmet's remarks: Since when do reporters take editorial stances? I thought that was for op ed pages.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2007 at 7:27 am

Carla, Where in Andrea Gemmet's post have you found an editorial stance? I reread her contribution again, hoping to find the stance you refer to, but all I could find was reporting of fact. Could you point me to the two or more lines you were reading between to conclude that she was taking some sort of position one way or the other?

Posted by Elsa
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:07 am

What everyone seems to forget is how much Mr. John's audits and investigations (not to mention his ill-fated and illegal "Off Haul" Tax) have cost Atherton. The budget for legal expenses has been way over-extended, and the toll on time and morale is immeasurable.

Posted by Carla
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:10 am

An at-will employee is just that(i.e. he, or she works at the will of the City Manager), and that employee may be let go at the will of the city manager.

Posted by William
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 2, 2007 at 9:55 am

I have been a resident in the Town of Atherton since 1965. I've been through numerous City Councils,City Managers and more than my share of Finance Directors. I've enjoyed my life here in Atherton always confident that these representatives had mine and my fellow residents interests at heart, no hidden agendas, no personal axes to grind, no personal vendettas, just what they could do for us, the residents. In the year 2000 I started noticing with the new City Council things began to change drastically. It was no longer serving the residents, Kathy Mc Keithen changed all of that. She has used this forum to vent her hostilities towards residents, employees, neighbors, contractors and anyone else who bucked her actions. She and her handful of possee have in 7 years started the cancerous decay of our beautiful Town. I am appalled and outraged that this one individual was given this power. I have voiced my concerns to Jim Robinson and no action was ever taken. It has just gotten worse. It's going to be very hard to convince myself and a vast majority of my fellow residents to vote in another parcel tax. How can she justify this tax when she has authorized the outrageous expenditures in legal fees we as taxpayers are having the burden of supporting. I have a question in reagrds to you as a newspaper how can you justify,support and condone the travisties that Kathy Mc Keithen and John Johns have inflicted on us.

Posted by Marc
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 2, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Right on, William!!! Hopefully, more Athertonites will discover the truth and share our view. Remember the "very expensive cowboy boots" that Ms. McKeithen accused the building dept of buying? Only they turned out to be work boots to wear while walking through and checking out the state of the rock and glass strewn Atherton Channel! And how about her discovery that the Town was giving out extravagent, alligator-skin gifts to long time employees when, in reality, the employees were given ball point pens in cardboard boxes which were imprinted with an alligator-skin motif? At one point, she was accused of going through a neighbor's trash looking for evidence of, in her mind, a supposed wrong doing. What does she have on the Almanac? Former Mayor Charles Marsala wrote a very detailed letter to the Almanac which gave a good accounting of recent events in the Town; For some reason known only to the editors, the paper refused to print the letter in full.

Posted by Liz
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 2, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Is the Almanac listening to any of these comments? Is an apology in order from them? I think so.

Posted by is this for real?
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Nov 3, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I have just reread the above article over and over just to make sure I am reading correctly. Sam Goodman is quoted as saying he as well as past and present members of the audit committe, which it also states includes current council members Kathy Mc keithen and Jerry Carlson are going to fund a lawsuit against The Town of Atherton for John Johns. Kathy Mc Keithen and Jerry Carlson are elected council members to protect the The Town of Athertons residents best interests. The town has already spent thousands of our dollars on lawsuits which Kathy Mc Kiethen states in earlier articles she authorized. Are we going to let this continue? How much more blatant can this abuse be? PLEASE lets unite and stop this now!

Posted by Jane
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 3, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Please tell me that the above isn't true! That Mr. Goodman, Ms. McKeithen and Mr. Carlson are not going to fund this mess with John John. What on earth are they thinking? Obviously, not what is best for the Town!

Posted by Sandi
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 3, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Obviously, they do not have the best interests of Atherton at heart, but are merely pursuing their own power play, for reasons no sane person understands. I've been told that a complaint has been filed with the San Mateo County District Attorney. I hope that's true and that it will lead to the truth finally coming out.

Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2007 at 8:31 am

"The town of Atherton has fired its finance director following a nearly two-months-long investigation into charges that he created a hostile work environment. At least one complaint against him came from the Atherton Police Department."

It has come to my attention that Mr. John Johns was about to audit the Atherton Police Department which had not been audited in over 6 years. 60% of annual budget.

That could explain the alleged Hostile work enviroment, and the complaint from the Atherton Police Department.

Hon. Judge Robert Foiles will be hearing a matter connected to this story this next Tuesday AM

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 4, 2007 at 9:50 am

Michael Stogner, "From Another Community" has obviously been too removed from Atherton to see for himself, the chaos and havoc MR. Johns and Mrs Mc Keithen have wreaked upon the Town.

Posted by Pro Active
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2007 at 5:15 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if the post by “Curious” is from no other than Mckeithen herself. Who else would defend such a slanted (and fortunately local) newspaper? The paper’s calculated, consistent and deliberate omit ions are what makes it so biased!

Until the Almanac gets it strait the only method I know to steer it in the right direction is by persuading advertisers to withdraw their ads until this paper serves its community rather than its deviant and vindictive representative.

Posted by annoyed
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 5, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Michael Stogner was the person who threatened to have Sheriff Munks and Undersheriff Bolanos removed from office. I guess he didn't do too well with that stupid idea and now he has stuck his nose into a place he has absolutely no busniess. In fact, Stogner is a resident of San Carlos...not Atherton. Mr. Stogner needs to getr a real job to keep him busy!

Posted by Charles Marsala
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 5, 2007 at 11:26 pm

I want to comment on the sub-title of this story "His audit of building department uncovered improprieties." Building Official Mike Hood announced in early June 2006 that he would retire on June 30th. On June 28th John Johns provided to the press his first audit claiming "improprieties", he would issue two more audits claiming more "improprieties" after Mr. Hood was not around to defend himself and his department.

When I investigated the audits, although I found a few minor errors out of more than 6,600 permits, I did not find any "improprieties." Mr. Hood required independent liscensed engineers to verify building height and setbacks and all monies were collected on several hundred million dollars worth of construction during Mr. Hood's tenure.

City Manager Jim Robinson brought in Gary Binger from the Association of Bay Area Governments who did a report on October 2006 on the Building Deptartment. Mr. Binger did not have findings of "improprieties" but did make recommendations on improvements to handle the increased workload.

Mr. Johns Phase 1 Audit reported that the Building Department should have been charging the Off-Haul fee on elevan projects that were applied for before the fee went into place on May 17, 2006. Mr. Hood made the right call- you can not charge a fee before the effective date.

Mr. Hood also understood that the fee was wrong and advised as such. Finally in September 2006 the fee was recinded and all monies collected were returned.

Mr. Johns reported on his resume which was attached to the Sutter County proposal of February 2007 that he had implemented a increase in Road Impact Fees of $700,000.

Some of the findings of the Phase three audit were wrong.

I hope this clarification helps restore the personal integrity to both current and former staff in the Building Department.

Charles Marsala
Council Member

Posted by Millie
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 7, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Why is The Almanac so locked into defending John Johns? Now that we know that he's trying to supress the investigation of his doings from being aired, it seems obvious that there is something in there which he does not want to see the light of day. GET REAL!!!!

Posted by Michael G Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2007 at 7:38 am

"Michael Stogner was the person who threatened to have Sheriff Munks and Undersheriff Bolanos removed from office"

I Michael G. Stogner did not threaten to have Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos removed from office. I did however send a certified letter to Sheriff Greg Munks demanding his and Bolanos resignation for being CUSTOMERS of Human Trafficking Sex Slave business in Las Vegas April 21, 2007....Operation Dollhouse,

There are a lot of people in San Mateo County who support the Sheriff and UnderSheriff as CUSTOMERS of Human Trafficking Sex Slaves. The entire Board of Supervisors for example.

This San Carlos resident does not. I said I will file a Notice of Recall if they did not resign.
That is not a threat in any way.

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