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Comments by Cowards

Original post made by James Dobbie, Atherton: Lindenwood, on Apr 9, 2010

I am very sad to see so many anonymous comments on the town square.
I have no problems with people disagreeing with me but the word that is used for people who say nasty things but don't sign their name is "coward".
I have lived inm Atherton for 16 years and have been involved in town affairs for much of that time,only recently as a council member.
Kathy McKeithen in my mind is the best Council member I have been privileged to work with. She spends an enormous amount of time on town affairs and is beholden to no special interests. That is not the case for all council members. One of our members has accepted the endorsement of the Atherton police officers association and received most of the election funds from people associated with the builder and development business.
How can one be objective in town decisions under these circumstances.
I voted against rescinding road impact funds which could amount to 1.6 million dollars because I believed that the impact of heavy dump trucks on our roads should be paid for by the people that use them.
This fee may or may not be illegal. We never went the distance to explore that possibility.
The parcel tax which required a vote of all residents raises about 1.8 million per year and we, without much thought decided to raid the towns coffers which are nearly empty for 1.6 million.
Atherton needs council members that can be ethical and honest.

I am signing my name
Jim Dobbie, Vice Mayor

Comments (13)

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Posted by John P. Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Dear Mr. Dobbie

I am aware of other communities in California which have maintaned their road impact fees in spite of a California appelate court ruling that Ms. Furth probably referred to in her confidential communique to the City Council during closed session (a communique I have not had the privilege of seeing I must add).

I object to any notion by Ms. Furth that the road impact fee is illegal. I know of one law firm in Southern California that knows far more about the legality of impact fees than Ms. Furth ever will, because they specialize in this highly complex area of law. The firm's name is the Sohagi Law Group. One can go to their website to learn more.

I know that back in 2006 this firm opined that the road impact fee was in fact legal but expressed concern over the excavation surcharge. As we all know the excavation surcharge was rescinded, despite the fact that the former City Attorney had opined the fee was legal when it was adopted. Nonetheless, the attorney from the Sohagi Law Group that I spoke with wanted to litigate the Excavation Surcharge instead of waiving the white flag without a shot.

At that time, it was decided that to litigate the excavation surcharge, although the right thing to do, would risk the much larger source of revenue, the road impact fee itself.

Now here we are, with Jerry Carlson, calling the road impact fee an "ill gotten gain". Now here we are ready to refund the road impact fee, despite having taken a single deposition. (Gee where have I heard that before.....)

I am displeased by Jerry Carlson's characterization of the funds collected. Mr. Carlson seems to suffer from a lapse in memory. Mr. Carlson seems to believe the lies he is being told. Mr. Carlson, meaning no disrespect is being played for a fool. Mr. Carlson served as a world-wide controller for HP. Yet Mr. Carlson acts as though he just fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

I challenge Mr. Carlson to ask the one person who knows how the $1.1 million in general fund reserves got there. I was the one who made the journal entries over the years. Did Jerry Carlson stop to think of asking me? No, he made up his own mind without doing the necessary due dilligence. This kind of behavior is a disgrace.

Charles Marsala in his many attacks on me claimed that I was at fault for designing the fee excavation surcharge. He went so far as to infer that I had somehow misled the City Council in doing so. This is one of the many lies that Charles Marsala has told.

Now that I have signed my settlement papers. I am at liberty to take the gloves off and to call a spade a spade. Marsala is the kind of dirty politician that does not belong in Atherton nor should be welcome in any city in America.

Worse yet, now that I have signed my settlement papers, I stand exonerated. I speak with moral authority, because I stood up to the corruption that was going on in town. I got run over. I was treated as road kill, as yesterday's news. Now, like Freddie Kruger in the Friday the 13th Series in a nightmarish scene to the likes of Marsala and Lewis "he's back!".

I have also called out Elizabeth Lewis, I have heard no response from her. She did not even acknowledge my presence at the evening of the 7th. Her husband refused to take the documents I offered to him evidencing her criminal conduct (yes criminal conduct).

I dare Ms. Lewis respond to my allegation of her having falsified her permit fee and of her having violated the very conflict of interest code that Ms. Furth cites in her "analysis of stipulated facts" by voting for the recision of these fees. She did so in closed session, sure and her vote has not yet been recorded. However we all know that without her vote, had she recused herself as she should have, a motion to rescind the fees would not have carried. It does not take a rocket scientest or even a fornsic accountant to figure that out.

Yes, there is a war going on in Atherton, but the first casualty in that war does not have to be the truth.

In fact I do believe that a necessary and eventual outcome of this war is that the truth will reveal itself. I believe that because I believe in democracy. I am an optimist. I believe that there are too many honest, smart people who are capable of leadership to let this town destroy itself.

I believe like Alexis DeToqueville in the coloquialism "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time".

Mr. Dobbie you have been courageous in standing tall with Kathy McKeithen. If only Jerry Carlson would have the wisdom and the moral courage to stand at your side, Atheron would be a much better place at the moment.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

James Dobbie says:"I am very sad to see so many anonymous comments on the town square."

Jim - Unfortunately the Almanac sees fit to accommodate such anonymous postings. I have learned to simply disregard what anyone who lacks the courage to give their real name says. There is no source credibility when you don't know the source.

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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Mr. Dobbie,

I cannot, as a human man, drawing breath in this life, not speak out in admiration and support of you and your statements, so simple, pragmatic and correct they are in each and every respect, in my opinion.

So I just have to thank you for the effort you have made in this Town, and I know it has been a sacrifice. Courage is measured by sacrifice, and in this you are not alone in these circumstances.

I beg your forgiveness for my anonymity, but I have lost a great deal as you know, and I am no longer interested in giving to a people who not only do not perceive, or understand, but who do not appreciate the sacrifices made on their behalf.

You are not subject to persecution, loss, banishment from your profession. So please be, in some instances, forbearing towards some for their unwillingness to expose themselves to further risk of punitive result.

Peter, you live in an Ivory Tower in some regards. Try to consider that life is not the same for everyone as it is for you.

When one is threatened, and is powerless, everything changes.

Consider that you may not always know of what you speak.

In exchange for my exception, I shall make every effort to be loving and respectful.


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Posted by Jim Who?
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Jim you are perceived as a rubber stamp for your boss lady. You might as well post anonymously.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:22 am

Jim Who - Quit taking cheap shots from behind closed doors.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:32 am

Some pertinent comments from the NYT:
# The New York Times
This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers here or use the "Reprints" tool that appears next to any article. Visit for samples and additional information. Order a reprint of this article now.
journalists, more than ever, are questioning whether anonymity should be a given on news sites.

The Washington Post plans to revise its comments policy over the next several months, and one of the ideas under consideration is to give greater prominence to commenters using real names.

The New York Times, The Post and many other papers have moved in stages toward requiring that people register before posting comments, providing some information about themselves that is not shown onscreen.

The Huffington Post soon will announce changes, including ranking commenters based in part on how well other readers know and trust their writing.

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Posted by John P. Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

Mr. Dobbie

I see that the most personal, pernicious attacks from anonymous posters are upon you and Ms. McKeithen. I seem to be mentioned as well on occasion. One attack on your Mayor referred to her as Mayor McCheese with "Johnny John John" as a supposed accomplice of sorts.

I find it remarkable that neither Ms. Lewis nor Mr. Marsala have not spoken out against these postings.

I also note that the most vehement, divisive and destructive comments appear to be from the Marsala/Lewis camp.

For that reason I call upon Marsala and Lewis to "call off the dogs" if you will.

I call upon Marsala and Lewis to make this debate over policy, not personality.

I call upon Marsala and Lewis to be honest with one another and with the community.

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Posted by Mike McPherson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I have spoken twice before the Council (though the second time was not an official meeting due to lack of a quorum) regarding the road impact fee refund. It is a travesty. The city manager and city attorney wrote two memos to the council in or around January of this year; they are available to the public, and it is obvious that the attorney feels as though the town has no legal obligation to refund fees for anyone who was given notice that the fee may be illegal, which dates back to Dec. 2007, I believe. They gave the council a number of different options, using different criteria, almost all of which would result in a lower, or no, refund. The town is running out of money, and to refund these fees for any reason other than a firm legal obligation is wrong. If the allegation above is that one of the council members stands to receive a refund based upon the criteria set forth, and did not recuse themself then that is, in my opinion, absolutely a conflict of interest. This issue must be revisited by the council.

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Posted by John P Johns, CPA
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Dear Mr. McPherson

Elizabeth Lewis would not receive a refund if the Town refunded all money collected since 2006. She paid her fees in 2003. Hence a potential refund is not the source of a conflict of interest I was speaking of.

I have objected to a conflict of interest in appearance if not in fact by Ms. Lewis having received political contributions from Mr. Steve Ackley, a principal of Pacific Peninsula Group, the firm threatening to sue the Town over Road Impact Fees.

Mr. Ackley's residence was one of several I identified during my audit of the building department. As was reported in this paper, Mr. Ackley was one who was allowed to proceed on the construction of his accessory structure after the permit had expired.

News of Mr. Ackley's litigation with the Town and Ms. Lewis contributions can be found at the following link:

Web Link

As indicated in the article above, Mr. Ackley was one of Lewis' leading political contributors.

It is also a matter of public record that Ms. Lewis received the same kind of favor that Mr. Ackley did. She was allowed to begin construction on her residence after the permit had expired.

Additionally, as was the case with Mr. Ackley's accessory structure, Ms. Lewis' home did not and does not conform to the Town's zoning ordinance.

Ms. Lewis did obtain a conditional use permit for a remodeling of her home. However, contrary to the instructions of the Planning Commission she did not go back for Planning Commission approval.

No it appears as though she relied upon friends, who had friends in the Building Department. The end result is a McMansion on a postage stamp-sized lot.

I offered to give Mr. Joe Lewis a copy of the documentation in suppot of this very serious allegation I raised at last week's meeting. Mr. Lewis brushed me off after leaving the podium, where he had just denied the very allegations I am raising now.

Some say that the Lewis residence is tastefully done and that she should be left alone. Others would say that she has failed to respect the rule of law and that her home is an "ill gotten gain".

I hope people in Atherton see it for what it is, one of many monuments in Town to a former building official who had many friends and who's friendship was relied upon in exchange for who knows what price.

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Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Mr Johns:

" Ms. Lewis having received political contributions from Mr. Steve Ackley..."

Were those contributions illegal? Should all politicians recuse themselves from votes that may effect their contributors?

Or are you advocating public financing of elections?

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Woodside High School
on Apr 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Jim confounds several issues: Atherton tax policy, anonymity, facts v. opinions v. nastiness.

Can't comment on the first arena - but as has been discussed in other threads, presenting facts is appropriate under anonymity when there is potential for
a) retribution
b) losing facts based on who the messenger is.

Nastiness has no place and generally self-defeats the posting automatically. Regretably, dismissing anyone who is aware of the need for anonymity as "cowards" teeters on that very border.

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Posted by update
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

To Mike McFerson-- In his attempt to clarify, I believe Mr. Johns left out the important point that Peninsula Pacific Group, which is owned by the Ackleys, is who designed and I believe built Ms. Lewis' illegal home, which was intentionally never resubmitted for plan review.
I thought this info might put the conflict of interest into better perspective for when added to all the rest of it.
Also it was no remodel---the real point is that there are too many thing wrong here to even remember to list them all

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Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 13, 2010 at 12:34 am

Well, darn it!!

I finally get it.

Peter is right.

The principle is that through being reduced by the lack of integrity of the minority to the lowest common denominator(as is usual in our culture now), and by the importance of protecting good, public people from anonymous slander, the intimidated, defenseless, contributors must be either silenced or exposed.

I've once again been self-centered.

I accede.


My value has been established by relativity.

Good luck, all.

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

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