From the 2007 Grand Jury report:
According to Atherton ordinance §2.12.070, the Town Manager has very broad powers and responsibilities, some of which are given in the attached Appendix. The essence of these laws setting up the Town Manager form of government is that the Council provides policy guidance to the Town Manager, whereas the Council is generally constrained from interfering with the Town Manager in the execution of his or her day-to-day duties. The Grand Jury did not observe adherence to this constraint.
A permanent Town Manager has been hired, thereby providing an opportunity for a fresh start in Atherton’s governance.The Grand Jury hopes to prevent past events from having a chilling effect on any staff who might otherwise be inclined to report future government irregularities or offer constructive suggestions. The motivation for this report is to provide an outside viewpoint and some recommendations that may help avoid future disruptive events similar to those outlined above. All cities must be open to continual public review. The Grand Jury believes that this report can benefit other city administrations. Therefore, a copy of this report is being sent to all cities in the County.
The Grand Jury conducted 17 separate interviews with Atherton elected and appointed officials, management, employees, and concerned citizens. Four people were interviewed twice. In some cases, the accounts of the events differed.The Grand Jury requested and received from the Town numerous policy documents and copies of informal notes taken by various staff members. Those notes described various meetings, incidents and staff interviews. In addition to material provided by the Town,other documents and website resources relating to good management practices were analyzed. Local news reports and the reports from last year’s 2006-2007 Grand Jury were also taken into account.
The Grand Jury finds that:
There was a considerable difference of opinion within the Council and Town administration regarding the above-mentioned audit reports.
The public pronouncements to local newspapers by individual members of the Council, audit committee and staff exacerbated animosity among the Council,Town administration and staff. These pronouncements also created considerable uncertainty among the Town’s constituents about the nature of the dispute and the Town’s position.
The Grand Jury’s interviews with staff and Council members revealed considerable rancor, tension, antagonism and lack of collegiality among individuals.