Town Square

Guest opinion: Police union's robocall intimidates residents

Original post made on Oct 9, 2012

Having just read a recent article entitled "Atherton Council responds to Police Association's 'scaremongering attempt' " I note the following statement by the Vice President of the APOA (Atherton Police Officiers Association): "Mr. Maltbie came and gave them a full-blown presentation. ... Now if they're not looking to contract out police services, then why did they have that meeting?"

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 12:00 AM


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Posted by Action must be taken
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Kathy McKeithen deserves gratitude for having the courage to challenge the police union on this brute force intimidation effort. It's worked. Even Greg Conlon is so intimidated he's now changing his tune on police issues.

This council needs to take decisive action to protect the rights of Atherton residents to vote without fear of retribution or retaliation. As Ms. McKeithen pointed out, the right to vote is fundamental. It was the basis of the American Revolution.

The middle ground approach would be to ask a San Mateo County judge to issue a restraining order to prevent further intimidation attempts by the police union to influence this election. It is a step that must be taken.

Two of the council members are in the back pocket of the police union. Two (McKeithen and Widmer) are clearly not. It remains to be seen whether the police union has successfully intimidated Jim Dobbie into being fearful enough to not follow through with his own agenda item to appropriately respond.

The union will giggle at dias statements from council members. A judicial action must be taken that results in a court order to stop this criminal interference with our democratic process.

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Posted by Is it Plausible ?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Is it plausible what Kathy McKeithen wrote?

Kathy McKiethen wrote and Mayor Widmer stated the same experience; "while receiving this robocall and within minutes thereafter, I received several telephone calls from residents concerned that if they endorsed candidates (Kupperman and Conlon) other than those selected by the APOA would they receive differential treatment from the police?"

Widmer stated: "he has heard from a "a number of residents who have said they're afraid to put out signs (for candidates Kupperman or Conlon) for fear there could be retribution."

The obvious question is: Since Kupperman and Conlon pulled papers to run for council more than two months ago and must have been planning to run months before that, what were so many endorsers waiting for? Why didn't they endorse Kupperman and Conlon two months ago and already have their signs up? Why are they waiting till October to give the approval? Suddenly these people who are withholding their endorsements decide to call both McKeithen and Widmer to state their fear to endorse?

All within minutes of each other? What made themn call both Widmer and McKeithen?

Is it plausible that Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie coordinated their efforts to negate the endorsement of the APOA? Here is what is plausible to have happened. The Almanac web site published a story on the APOA endorsements on Thursday Oct 4th. titled "Police Association tactics under fire". The story cites a letter by Dobbie and Widmer with the word "Scaremongering". Thus the Almanac was contacted by Widmer sometime before Thursday morning with the same story that McKeithen wrote and submitted to the Almanac before Friday noon.

By noon Friday McKeithen writes a article: "Having just read a recent article "Atherton Council responds to Police Association's 'scaremongering attempt'".

Is it plausible that it was coodinated for Widmer and Dobbie to write the letter to the council and to contact the Almanac to write the story and McKeithen to follow-up with the Guess Opinion in the Almanac citing the Widmer and Dobbie story? Why didn't the Almanac get a quote from McKeithen for the story? Espically since she writes that in 2010 she was Mayor and on the Finance committee that was researching Outsourcing the Police?

Since the APOA endorsement is on this month's agenda, it is plausible that Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie have discussed the issue between the three of them and violated the Brown Act?

Is it plausible that this is the same game plan Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie used on the Athertonians blog to attempt to restrict freedom of speech, by claiming "False and misleading Statements"?

The APOA has a right to Freedom of Speech. They have informed the residents of the town that the Council has discussed outsourcing the police and already outsourced two other departments.

Three council votes have the ability to outsource public works, the building dept, and the police dept. Three votes can "sunset" the Parcel Tax as Mayor Widmer wants to do.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2012 at 6:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The APOA has a right to Freedom of Speech. "


Should the AOPA be held accountable for what they say?


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Posted by Is it Plausible?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 9:15 am


What have the Police done wrong? I no not see anything.

McKeithen, Widmer, Dobbie have discussed Outsourcing the Police. The Police have informed the public that discussion is taking place. It should have been taking place in public per the Brown Act.

As McKeithen writes in her Guess Opinion; "As part of this directive, we looked at every conceivable means of lowering general and employee costs, including outsourcing any and every possible function then being delivered by the town."

Last year to make ends meet McKeithen writes: "We believed that was part of being thorough. In the end, the building and public works departments were selected to be outsourced by then Interim City Manager John Danielson and we ultimately ended with a balanced budget."

Note Danielson may have made the selection but council approved the decision and council would have given him direction to research outsourcing prior to his making the decision.

Next year Atherton has to make a decision if to have and probably raise the Parcel Tax to fund police services or to use the Sheriff. If 85% of the population would prefer to pay more to fund the police -even though to some that is not the best use of money- it is the right of the 85% to vote to maintain police.

The police know the details of what has been going on the last few years with Atherton Government and McKeithen has been telling the public a different picture. In 2008 Lewis had the courage to tell the residents the truth and in return McKeithen attempted to discredit her. The Almanac could do a story on McKeithen's tactics over the last 14 years.

As she writes above McKeithen was on the Atherton Finance Committee for a number years- maybe five. During those years surpluses from the Building Deptartment were placed in Atherton General fund- which is illegal. Employee Pensions were not being funded. Illegal increases in the Business Liscense Tax and Road Impact Fees added to those surpluses going into the General Fund.

Hence the reserve grew and the council did not see a need to ask the public for an increase in the Parcel Tax. There was even enough money to fund a lawsuits to stop the MA PAC, a couple from moving two urns across town, and three stop three construction projects. Everybody was happy.

McKeithen campaigned in 2008 on how she had improved Atherton's Financial Picture through her position on the town's Finance Committee.

Lewis however had esearched the town's finances for her 2007 and 2008 campaigns and told the town a different picture. She turned out to be right.

There is a good chance most of this information is on the internet- through old campaign sites and Almanac stories.

Before the 2008 campaign had started Finance Director Louise Ho brought to the council recommendations to make Atherton comply with state laws.

But with the election at stake, Ho's recommendations were tabled. Eventaully the council had to abide by the law and fix the problem. The General Reserves shrank and budget shortfall that was going on for years hit the council.

In 2010 Management became frustrated at the council and the City Manager, Asst City Manager, and Finance Director either retired of took jobs elsewhere.

By 2011 the Crisis lead to the Public Works and Building Depts being Outsourced.

In 2008 Atherton Staff knew the Atherton Financial Crisis was comning and the council was not advising the public. So in 2008 the Police did something they had never done before. They made endorsements and did not endorsement McKeithen.

If the APOA is to be held accountable, it should be thanked for having the guts to tactfully tell the residents it is time to end the power and agenda control that Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie have exercised.

Kupperman and Conlon are good people who have vollunteered for the town. The APOA statement was not designed to intimidate anyone. It is time for a change in power.

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Posted by Action must be taken
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 9:33 am

IF (if I could underline that and print that if in red, I would) the APOA's mission was just two inform, then:

1. It has a lot of explaining to do on the time lapse (as pointed out on the other thread) between the meeting in November 2010 in which outsourcing was allegedly discussed and the election in November 2012.

2. It should exercise its freedom of speech in a responsible manner that cannot be construed as intimidation, fear mongering, etc. Even if this is not what was intended, the robocall clearly could be interpreted that way, and the APOA should apologize for that and clarify that was not what was meant, at the very minimum. The lack of this clearly means the council must take action as I outlined above.

But, it is not the job of the APOA to inform, even though they have a right to. If Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest are candidates running in an election, they certainly can bring up the outsourcing issue as well. They have the duty to inform, not the APOA.

Why are they leaving the APOA do to their dirty work? I guess they quickly realized that they can benefit from the fear mongering, and not be accused of doing it themselves.

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Posted by Is it Plausible?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:10 am

In fairness the Almanac should do a story on freedom of Speech.

So the Police Union did not endorse Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie's choice. Is it right for council members to attack staff the way WMD have attacked the Police union? Isn't there a code of conduct for council members to follow?

[Portion removed. Seems irrelevant to topic.]

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Posted by Action must be taken
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

Great analogy. An actress states she supports Mitt Romney, and gets attacked for it. I agree, whoever attacked her is absolutely wrong.

If the APOA would have stopped where Stacy Dash did, no one would have any problem with what they did. If they simply would have said, "We support Elizabeth Lewis and Cary Wiest," that would have been fine (although I would question the intelligence of any resident who would pay any attention to that).

They went well beyond that. They said residents would not be safe unless they voted for Wiest and Lewis. They are intimately involved with the safety (or lack thereof) of residents. This is dead wrong. 100% wrong.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The crux of the matter is that Atherton has the most expensive and highest paid police officers of any community on the peninsula and their union (the APOA), unlike many other public service unions, refuses to even discuss any concessions. They have priced themselves out of the market and now are trying to convince people that there is not an alternative.

Talk to residents of Woodside, Portola Vally and Saratoga - they all get great service from their respective Sheriff's department including the different levels of service that they have each purchased and paid for, and have the same officers on patrol every day. And all of this at a cost of less than 50% of what Atherton pays.

We have a lot of superb police officers in Atherton but that have lousy union leadership. Free speech is not a substitute for responsible leadership.

Until the council makes it clear that we DO have alternatives Atherton will continue to pay excessive prices for the police services that we receive.

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Posted by Is it Plausible?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:44 am

Did the call actually say the words: "residents would not be safe unless they voted for Wiest and Lewis."

The APOA believe they can do a better job of providiing safety then the Sheriff. For decades Atherton residents have been told that the Parcel Tax is needed to supplement Police Pay.

The Council provides leadership to pass the Parcel Tax. The last time the Parcel tax failed, McKeithen was mayor. McKeithen also ran campaigns to defeat the Parcel Tax prior to being on the council.

Widmer announces last week he wants to Sunset the Parcel Tax.

The APOA endorses two candidates it believes have a better chance of passing the Parcel Tax.

This is not fear mongering.

Widmer only announced his "Sunset" position after the APOA endorsment. That gives credibility to the APOA making ensorsements.

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Posted by Is it Plausible?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 10, 2012 at 10:53 am


What is the pay difference between an Atherton Police Officer and the Sheriff?

Atherton officers are paid at the 70th percentile not the 100th percentile. That would mean they are not the highest paid on the peninsula.

Years ago the council decided to pay at that level. So maybe now the council should decide to pay at the 50th percentile? Maybe that is the question to ask candidates: what percentile do you want to pay?

Is there a big different in pay at the 70th or 50th?

How do you know the union has refused to discuss concessions?