Town Square

Atherton: 2007 Grand Jury Report Findings

Original post made by Grand Jury, Atherton: other, on Dec 1, 2012

Here we go again. The 2007 report appears to be still valid as already the Council is already usurping Town Managers powers (reviewing payments).The sudden and drastic pay and benefit cuts have likely alienated town staff including the new Town Manager and Police Chief. Looking at the November 28 video (available on town web site) council members are already at each other. Some things never change. Atherton residents deserve better.

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.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

"The Grand Jury’s interviews with staff and Council members revealed considerable rancor, tension, antagonism and lack of collegiality among individuals."

So, basically, nothing has changed?

Like this comment
Posted by We will see
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm

McKeithen leaves Atherton council seat fighting
Atherton, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Nov 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

She came in fighting, and she's going out fighting. Kathy McKeithen, whose three-term tenure as an Atherton City Council member ends next month, is challenging the new town manager's decision to put a "confidential" stamp on a weekly report to the council that he has initiated since arriving in Town Hall in October.

Like this comment
Posted by Thomas Jefferson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

After watching the video of the Atherton Council's March meeting, it's safe to say ... nothing has changed.

The Grand Jury report cited: rancor, tension, and antagonism. All of that was clearly evident ... six years later!

Add to that grandstanding and micromanaging. And, of course ... lack of congeniality.

It's time for at least three residents who can play well with others to step up to the plate. The next election is approaching!

Like this comment
Posted by stench continues
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:00 am

It is very discouraging watching the behavior of Mr Dobbie and Mr Widmer who set a tone of criticism, disrespect for others on the Council and Staff that interferes with a collaborative process. They continue their micromanaging ways and do not understand their role as council members in a City Manger/Council form of government.
I find Mr Dobbie's particularly offensive question to George Roberts at the last council meeting regarding weddings in the park, "Did you wake up one morning, George, and decide to put this item on the agenda?" It is illustrative of his intentional meanness, lack of respect for staff and poor manners. The comment was meant to mock and accuse. Mr Dobbie missed the last meeting and did not bother to read the minutes where he would have learned the council directed the City Manager to put it on the agenda. No apology seems to be forthcoming.
At the meeting Mr Widmer had to be remanded to stop grandstanding.
Clearly Atherton residents need to do better in their choice of council members and not elect people to tear at the heart of the town government in order to support their need of self aggrandizement.

Like this comment
Posted by stupidity continues
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:31 am

I watched the video. I suggest you try, as hard as it might be, to separate personal feelings from actual content. I assume you are referring to the interchange between Bill Widmer and the city attorney on the telephone system contract as an example of micromanaging. You obviously don't have much business experience. Although Mr. Conners accused Bill Widmer of trying to usurp his legal function, all the points made by Widmer had to do with business issues in the contract. The most telling was Conners protesting that Widmer was wrong to question viability of the vendor since there is no way a viability requirement can be written into a contract. Conners is correct on that, but totally missed the point: the correct business process identifies weaknesses in the vendor, including viability, before it gets approved. This is an issue that a council member should question and consider. The substance of Widmer's comments were all correct.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 5, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?