Town Square

$230,000 settlement for Pilar Buckley Ortiz

Original post made by baywatch, Atherton: other, on Dec 11, 2009

Former Atherton Police Officer Pilar Buckley Ortiz has settled with the Town for $230,000 according to her attorney.

Information concerning the case can be found at the following link:

Web Link


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Posted by Parcel Tax Fraud
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

According to the Town of Atherton Web site,

Web Link

a special session was held (undoubtedly to approve this settlement) on October 7, 2009.

How is it possible this was not reported as a reportable item from closed session into open session?

Further, how is it possible that the Town of Atherton did not disclose this prior to residents voting on a parcel tax ("S&T") that spoke of how the S&T money would be used for infrastructure and police services? The $230,000 to Buckley is hardly for police services.

Disingenuous at best, fraudulent at worst.

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Posted by SAD
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2009 at 11:13 pm

I am truly shocked at what is going on in this town. Is our S&T money going to this type of behavior????? I thought it was supposed to go to helping our city. 230,000.00. Is it true 306 of our 2000 homes will be paying for this settlement? Just this settlement. Does our town have insurance for this type of settlement?????? Why is this happening at all.?????? Email EVERYONE in the town you know about how you feel about this and CC the council & ALL government employees. We need to document how we feel. Speak at public comment. Don't just sit back. I think you maybe paying for this if you live in Atherton.

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Posted by SCORE
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2009 at 11:24 pm

YOU GO GIRL WAY TO GET ALMOST A QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS. Some people marry money & some just sue Atherton. Can we say LOTTO!!!!!!!!! Until the town gets cleaned up you to can be the big winner.

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Posted by Louise
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2009 at 12:49 am

I thought this Pilar Buckly issue went to trial in the county court venue last summer, and she LOST a jury verdict on the accusations she had made--so why the heck is the town giving her our money now. Who ever suggested last summer, that the parcel tax would end up being spent on dumb legal costs was dead on. I'm starting to worry that the town attorneys just stir the pot with bad advice so they can keep billing for endless messes while the council sits there paralyzed. I notice that there is a performance review for the town's new legal team in closed session before the council meeting next week, Dec 16th --I wonder if any of them are ready to admit that this is getting to be ridiculous .

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Posted by Wonder
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2009 at 9:08 am

Makes you wonder what Pilar knew about the town. What is going on?

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Posted by Explanation
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

@Louise: I'm sure the City Attorney would say that Pilar Buckley's accusations this summer didn't rise to meeting the legal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt in those criminal proceedings, but her civil accusations need only have been proved to the standard of a preponderance of the evidence (> 50%).

That's really a rubbish argument if you took note of what some of the jury members said.

The real explanation, in my view, is that you are correct. The attorneys have repeatedly given bad advice to feather their own nest, and the council simply listens to them, particularly when it comes to entanglements with residents who pay the taxes around here. Their advice usually amounts to dragging the case on for as long as possible, generating as many legal fees as possible, generating as much embarrassment for Atherton as possible (though this is not their goal, just collateral damage), and then settling it.

Why was Pilar Buckley different? I think that's fairly obvious. She was a cop, and cops are organized and stick together through a union, and applied tremendous pressure to Jerry Gruber to "do the right thing" and not fight this obvious victim of "sexual harassment". The same line of pressure was applied to Gruber to promote Mike Guerra from within (without any public process or even vetting of the council), I'm sure based on arguments of how Atherton cops would be disenfranchised without realizing there are internal opportunities for advancement, and this would be underscored by promoting Guerra (who little more than a year ago was a beat cop patrolling the school).

This really all begs the question: "WHOM DOES THE COUNCIL REPRESENT?" The RESIDENTS? Or the EMPLOYEES/COPS and the DEVELOPERS? The legal answer is very clear, but the practical answer may not be. If the Council truly represented RESIDENTS then it would not permit improper entanglements with RESIDENTS. If the Pilar Buckley settlement was justified on the notion that it would cost that much to defend the case, plus there is a chance (naturally) Atherton might lose, then I would say it was a proper fiduciary decision to settle for $230,000 even though morally and ethically (in my view) she was not entitled to the money. But, they have not applied that logic in other situations with RESIDENTS, or with John Johns (lest we would not have a legal budget approaching $1M per year), and therefore it calls the process and judgment into question.

The other important question that comes from all of this is that Buckley was suing both Atherton and Troy Henderson. I'm sure Atherton's $230,000 payment also ended her case against Troy Henderson, but this brings up issues. Normally the municipality will defend its employees who are sued for accusations coming up in the performance of their duties (e.g., town employee gets into car accident during work hours, cop is sued for excessive force, etc.). I'm not sure how the allegations of sexual harassment against Henderson can be construed as being part of his job duties. Does he pay part of the $230,000? Does part of it come from his pension? I firmly believe Buckley milked this situation, but Henderson definitely enabled it on some level.

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Posted by train wreck
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

What does the ACIL has to say about the way the town spends money on litigation and the quality of advice the town has been willing to bankroll. Is the story true that there are town attorneys on the ACIL board who are also billing the town???

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2009 at 8:12 am is an explanation for you.....There is a certain employee of Atherton, whose name I will not mention (since the Almanac would have to delete this post) but who is now well known to you, who has cause to visit other governmental agencies in our area. He is a pig. His comments to female members of the staff of those agencies are notoriously well known.

The reason Atherton settled this before deposition was because they knew for a fact that they would lose. Before anyone chastises this police officer for her suit you should be aware that she is just one of many.

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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 15, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Ahh Atherton. Rich people and hush money for scandals. OK OK I agree there should be insurance and not taxes for this cost. But hey, it's still funny.

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Posted by Youben Fooled
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 15, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I voted NO on the Parcel Tax, as did other thoughtful Athertonians, so my conscience is clear but my anger is high. We know what a bunch of spend-happy, self-important types fill our City council. They're keeping up the Atherton tradition of one scandal after another using taxpayers' money while lining the pockets of their supporters. So now, where is our well-paid, illustrious attorney to show even a little concern that this extravagant decision was made prior to the parcel-tax election but withheld until afterwards? Hmmm? How long is your memory, citizens? Can you remember to vote NO on the Atherton Parcel Tax next time around? Or, better yet, file a complaint to dislodge the pompous, over-paid and underqualified City Manager and his police-union-supporter friends who made this whole fiasco possible using OUR MONEY. Almost a quarter-million dollars! Shameful! What dupes we have for residents! Where's the outrage?

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Posted by come on ladies
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 1:36 pm

O.K.--so dispatcher Pilar needed 230 thousand dollars and full pention to recover from perceived verbal slights from an old man who has been with the town forever-------and as I recall Chief Brennan actually went to the D.A. because he felt so physically threatened by a nerdy 100 pound finance director who may or may not have also spoken irreverently---hope there was no flirting involved or mean things said to the ex chief or these pay outs to sensitive officers will likely continue