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4-star hotels for Atherton employees?

Original post made by Jon Buckheit, Atherton: West Atherton, on Jun 30, 2010

A very interesting post by John Johns that I saw last night now has somehow been deleted. In that post, Mr. Johns detailed (presumably by perusing the publicly available Atherton financial reports on the web) that at the recent league of cities meeting in southern California (Carlsbad) that Atherton flew Jerry Gruber, Jerry Carlson, and Charles Marsala to, at least Mr. Gruber chose to stay at a four-star hotel (La Costa Resort and Spa) at the cost of $258 per night for the three day conference.

Why was this deleted? Atherton has a financial crisis and it is inappropriate for town employees to be using luxury accommodations instead of economical alternatives. Surely there are hotels in Carlsbad that are quite a bit less than $258 per night.

When I was the CEO of a highly profitable company, I would never stay in a four-star hotel on a business trip, and insisted everyone, including myself, stay in the cheapest hotel that offered reasonable accommodations. Admittedly, some employees thought my idea of reasonable was even unreasonable. I never believed that the difference in cost was negligible. I believed every dollar counted, and a general atmosphere of frugality was in everyone's best interests. I never would want one of our customers to see us coming out of a luxury hotel and then have to negotiate pricing with them.

Apparently in an atmosphere in which Atherton is asking its "customers" to pay more in taxes, Mr. Gruber has no such concerns.

Comments (9)

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I read Mr. Johns' post also and Mr. Buckheit's assessment is spot on.

Alamanac editors - why was that post deleted? It appeared to be in compliance with your terms of use.

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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I saw it also, and I must ask why is it Vanished

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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 2:12 pm

This is to confirm that the information I posted about Mr. Gruber staying at a 4 star hotel was obtained via a public records request. I have forwarded to Mr. Gibboney and Ms. Batti the Town's response to my public records request.

When I am on the road, the comfort inn or any other hotel costing between $100 and $150 per night is fine with me. This means that I usually stay in a 3 star hotel, one in the category of best western comfort in or homestead suites. This rule applies whether I am travelling domestically or abroad.

It is also worth mentioning that I attended only one conference at the town's expense during my six year tenure with the Town. Mr. Gruber attended 3 in the past year. Meaning no disrespect to Mr. Gruber, I would assert his time would have been better spent attending to Atherton's problems instead of networking with his colleagues from around the State.

Additionally, I have submitted a public records request for Mr. Jerry Carlson's and Mr. Marsala's expense reimbursements.

It would seem reasonable to me that if the Town is going to pay for the cost of preserving the value of Mr. Carlson's home on Mt. Vernon Lane by suing High Speed Rail, the least he could have done is foot the bill for his hotel stay.

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Posted by Renee Batti
associate editor of The Almanac
on Jun 30, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Renee Batti is a registered user.

An editor removed Mr. Johns' post earlier today out of concern that the information might not be accurate and couldn't be quickly verified by our staff. Since then, Mr. Johns has provided documentation, for which we are grateful. The thread has been re-posted and can be viewed at

Web Link

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Posted by Too funny
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm

You've gotta love it. Even the Almanac couldn't believe Gruber would charge such outrageous hotel bills to Atherton in the midst of a budget crisis, and deleted the post assuming it had to have been made up!

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Posted by LOUISE
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 30, 2010 at 5:23 pm


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Posted by Tera P
a resident of another community
on Jun 30, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Scandalous! They attended a conference in Carlsbad and chose to stay where the conference was hosted:

Web Link

Seems to me part of the value was the networking opportunities with other California Cities attendees. Staying at the hotel would be beneficial to meeting that goal.

Perhaps the better question is why did the League of Cities put on the meeting at such a nice place?

But, let's stay on topic. Dismiss that possibility outright. No, they should have stayed at the Motel 6 and shared rooms too!

John Johns has uncovered yet another extravagant expense by Town employees. Keep up the good work.

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Posted by Fiscal Responsibility
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Tera P – does the networking benefit Gruber, Carlson and Marsala, or the residents of the Town of Atherton? I don't want to be paying for Jerry Gruber or Charles Marsala to find their next job opportunity.

In very hard times, any conference attendance should be scrutinized as whether it's absolutely necessary. Further, if they do go, an effort should be made to stay in economic lodging even if it's not the suggested lodging right at the heart of the conference. As Mr. Buckheit pointed out, this is done in the business world all the time. Of course, there's a profit motive and a natural check and balance in the business world. Here in the public sector it seems anything goes.

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Posted by long memory
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 1, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Bill Conwell once told me he used to take red eye flights to Chicago when he had his business so he didn\'t have to pay for a hotel. He did this when he was young and continued to do it when he was old, simply out of being in the habit of being cost conscious.

If we still had people like Bill Conwell on the City Council, the Town probably wouldn\'t be in the terrible financial shape that it is in.

Jerry Carlson has presented a self-portrait of being a champion of fiscal responsibility.

It will be interesting to see what kind of hotel he stayed at when he accompanied Gruber to the conference. It will also be interesting to see who paid for it, he or the Town.

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