News

Editorial: A half-hearted mea culpa

Proposed city response to Grand Jury falls short

While it acknowledges some sloppiness and poor judgment in keeping information from the public, the City of Palo Alto's defensive draft response to a highly critical and embarrassing grand-jury investigation hardly paints a reassuring picture of lessons learned.

The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury issued a report in June that found the city failed to follow its own policies and procedures, and quite likely the law, by keeping from the public the fact that developer John Arrillaga was proposing to develop a massive office complex next to the downtown train station and purchase a 7-acre parcel of city-owned land next to Foothills Park until months after they were under consideration by city officials.

In the case of the now infamous 27 University Ave. proposal, the grand jury and the Weekly's own reporting found that city staff held extensive private and undocumented discussions with Arrillaga in 2011 and 2012, and kept city council members in the loop through one-on-one briefings, but intentionally did not put the issue on a public council agenda until March 5, 2012.

By then, the staff was well along in a process with Arrillaga to shape a development proposal to ultimately bring forward, having obtained informal support and encouragement from a majority of council members without a single public meeting or discussion.

Once released to the public, a ferocious negative reaction to the scale of the development and the unabashed staff enthusiasm for it succeeded in slowing and then stopping the process. And staff was then hung out to dry by a council that not only failed in its duty to inform and involve the public but then blamed the staff once it saw the public outrage. It was a low point for both the staff and the council and gave rise to the current public suspicion and lack of trust in how the city handles major development proposals.

The Arrillaga proposal to buy the city-owned parcel of land wedged between his private estate and Foothills Park was also kept secret from the public, until revealed by the Weekly after the paper investigated an obscure closed-session agenda notice in September 2012 that only listed a parcel number.

The Weekly's requests under the state Public Records Act turned up emails arranging small group visits to the site by council members to avoid violating the state's open-meeting law, the Brown Act, and a draft purchase agreement for the property prepared by Arrillaga. In other words, the city staff, with acquiescence from the council, kept Arrillaga's interest in buying the property intentionally secret from the public, at the same time it was working with him on the 27 University Ave. proposal.

As was later discovered, the property in question was actually given to the city by Russell Lee on condition that it only be used for conservation purposes, and contrary to this condition the city leased the land to Arrillaga nearly 15 years ago for use as a staging area for construction of his adjacent estate.

The draft response to the grand jury report, to be considered at Monday's city council meeting, reveals new details on the history of the 7 acres and portrays a city bureaucracy unable to keep track of past actions and its own real estate holdings.

In addition, the staff response shows Arrillaga had "a long history of attempting to acquire the parcel" that involved numerous discussions with staff over many years.

Without explanation as to why, it also reveals that the staff decided, apparently without approval of the city council, to pay for an appraisal of the property in early 2012 (which came in at $175,000). After informing Arrillaga that it was "not conceivable" that the council would sell the land for that price, staff suggested that some additional consideration would likely be needed. Arrillaga then returned with an offer to fund the construction of playing fields at the Baylands. None of this was made public at the time.

The handling of these two matters was clearly improper and the city further embarrasses itself by not owning the mistakes instead of responding with a nuanced dodging of the underlying issues and statements, such as "Recommendation 3 will be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the public interest."

The public was intentionally deprived of its legal rights to know about and participate in debating these proposals, and the fact they were ultimately revealed by the Weekly and were never acted upon by the council is irrelevant. "No harm done" is neither an acceptable nor honest response to violating the public's right to know and participate.

Harm has been done, in both process and to the integrity of city government. The city can't sugar coat it, no matter how hard it tries.

Comments

 +   12 people like this
Posted by Senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2014 at 8:34 am

GOOD EDITORIAL.
Its good that some one is watching the Council and Staff, since its obvious they can't police themselves.
Thrie actions are almost criminal.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by The Shadow Knows......
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2014 at 9:52 am

The City's response was undoubtedly guided and edited by City Manager James Keene. It is typical of his style, which is that he never admits he personally did anything wrong, finds ways to blame issues on subordinate staff, and says only "we" can try to do better.

For this we pay him not only his salary, but also an additional $50,000 per year into a special IRS 401(a) "Government Money Program" that is tax deferred income above and beyond - not deducted from - his salary.

We should be able to do better for that level of expenditure.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by The Shadow knows.......
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2014 at 9:58 am

Keene's behavior is a long term pattern on his part. Take a look at this article describing his background.

Web Link


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:16 am


> Public Records Request Stats ..

The SCC Civil Grand Jury requested that the City send it a log of Public Records Requests for 2012, which it used to review that portion of the problems of City Hall.
I requested the same log, from which I derived a few stats—

Web Link

Unfortunately, the log was missing a lot of information, so I suspect that the stats are off a bit. (I also used calendar days, rather than business days, to compute the time-to-complete stat. So—for those requests with long delays, the actual delay time is off a bit.)

The key issue here is that State Law calls for a ten-day turnaround for these requests. The City doesn't seem to be close to that number, for many of these requests.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

Anyone who has observed the smooth council interplay at meetings where Planned Community proposals receive their approval must wonder if this behind the scenes Kabuki is the normal process. What is unusual about 27 University is that the Weekly exposed it before it ran its course. Else the bulldozers would be bulldozing as I write this.

This would explain the smooth choreography on the dais when Alma Plaza, Lytton Gateway, Smailey's "JJ&F" building, Hohbach's 295 Park Blvd, and of course Maybell, received their final council blessing. One might suspect it goes much further back that these examples.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by council watcher
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

Curmudgeon--you have been a strong supporter of Karen Holman. She has been on the council when all the things you state happened . So the question is you have a problem with the council, in general, but do you have any problem with her?? Oh and please do not tell us that she is a strong residentialist--the evidence that you present says the opposite


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Glen
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

It gets even worse. Former Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie, one of the key staff members implicated in this latest City of Palo Alto scandal, got a job facilitating big-time developers projects after he left the City payroll.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 5, 2014 at 11:31 am

Shadow, thanks so much for the article on Keene's past. It's outrageous that he has a history encouraging staff to stonewall the public and the press. We already know how difficult it is to get answers while he and his managers continue their charade of "getting citizen input" which they then ignore.

Everyone should read the article and demand answers from the City COuncil candidates on what they're going to do about Keene.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Maybe its time we get rid of Keene and the current council. We have to hold our "public servants" responsible.

When in doubt, vote the incumbent out.

I look forward to seeing a replacement for Keene.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Silly connivers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Those "mistakes" Keene refers to do not fit the definition of mistakes: they were not unintentional or accidental or well-meaning by any stretch of the imagination.

Those actions that Keene calls "mistakes" actually fit the definition of "corruption" or "violation" or " unethical" far more closely.

The man should resign, if he has any honor at all.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 5, 2014 at 1:02 pm

"After informing Arrillaga that it was "not conceivable" that the council would sell the land for that price, staff suggested that some additional consideration would likely be needed. Arrillaga then returned with an offer to fund the construction of playing fields at the Baylands. None of this was made public at the time."

I am not an attorney, but does this seem even remotely legal, or does it look like a billionaire developer was trying to speed up the sale of very valuable city owned land for a ridiculously low price by offering to build playing fields in the Baylands?

The culture of extremely close ties between council and staff members and big developers is now causing the chickens to come home to roost.



 +   7 people like this
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 1:44 pm

This city council and city manager are an embarrassment. This is unforgivable.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mayfield
on Sep 5, 2014 at 2:01 pm

By Monday, this will all be forgotten and they know it. No one will lose their job. It will be back to business as usual. If any one had any, their would be consequences. Who knows what else they have gotten away with.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Citizens, please remember this editorial when you vote. Should this council be re-elected? Weekly, please keep this editorial at the forefront of your publication.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

council watcher:

Yeah, yeah, that tired Holman smear thing again. Give it up. Holman's been certified a law abiding citizen by competent authority. No other incumbent running for re-election can claim that.

Holman's smart, principled, outspoken, and female. I don't consider any of those faults. You may disagree, of course.

Why not move on to the real sniffy stuff, like the career politician Sheppard, who's trying to rebrand herself as a residentialist to save her political career? Sheppard's hoping the manufactured Holman buzz will make voters forget how she went ga-ga for every overdevelopment proposal that came along during her term.

It won't work for me. You may disagree, of course.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Curmudgeon-- you are the one criticizing THE ENTIRE council. Note your comment above :
"This would explain the smooth choreography on the dais when Alma Plaza, Lytton Gateway, Smailey's "JJ&F" building, Hohbach's 295 Park Blvd, and of course Maybell, received their final council blessing. One might suspect it goes much further back that these examples."
Do you absolve Holman from any of the blame? Fair question by council watcher.
"Yeah, yeah, that tired Holman smear thing again. Give it up. Holman's been certified a law abiding citizen by competent authority. No other incumbent running can claim that"
And Holman was not " smeared" . A concerned citizen felt she did something wrong and filed a complaint.
No,complaints have been filed against Scharf, shepherd or any other council member, so,that means they are law abiding as well. Not sure your thinking via a vis Holman being law abiding-- the complaint was never a criminal one.

"Holman's smart, principled, outspoken, and female. "
Will agree with you that she is outspoken and female as for the other two,traits.....

But let's get back to,the original question, Holman was on the dais when all but alma plaze got their council blessing. Was she part of the " smooth choreography" you describe?


Posted by Suspicious
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Sep 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm


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 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"No,complaints have been filed against Scharf, shepherd [sic] or any other council member, so,that means they are law abiding as well. Not sure your thinking via a vis Holman being law abiding-- the complaint was never a criminal one."

Jeez, what a masterpiece of totally tortured thinking. Let me try to illustrate: if you run a red light, or exceed the speed limit, or commit the perfect murder, yet had no complaint filed against you, does that make you a law-abiding citizen?

"Was she [Holman} part of the " smooth choreography" you describe?"

Apparently not. She voted against Lytton Gateway. But Sheppard [correct spelling] was demonstrably part of the smooth choreography; she voted for Lytton Gateway.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

"Holman was on the dais when all but alma plaze got their council blessing."

Fact check: JJ&F got council blessing for its PC zone giveaway in 2009, with only Kishimoto dissenting (another smart, principled, outspoken -- and female -- councilmember who came under snarky fire from developer shills). Web Link

Holman went on the council in 2010.

So tell us: why are you trying to draw attention away from the major questionable dealings at city hall by bashing Holman, the only incumbent who's been cleared of wrongdoing? Clearly she's in the way of someone powerful who wants her out of the way. [Portion removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by No to karen
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Curmudgeon- if you feel that other council members have dine anything wrong then file a complaint. Holman was only found not to
have a conflict of interest. The fact she took
money and pushed for upzoning for her friend shows that she is lacking in ethics. You previously attack the entire council but now make excuses for holman . [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by funny curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by funny curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

resident 3--I agree that Keene needs to go. He is terrible. He makes Frank Benst look good


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Biscoli,

Wonder if the collapse of the land sale deal, and the withdrawal of Arrillaga's offer to build play-fields at the baylands, is related to the delays out at the golf-course?

"Amid uncertainty, golf course revamp delayed by a year"
Palo Alto Weekly - September 3, 2014 Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2014 at 6:50 am

Here is a web link to action item #9 on the City council agenda this Monday. It is about the grand jury report regarding this mess. Web Link

Read up and show up for the council meeting!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2014 at 8:01 am

Here is a paragraph from the grand jury report:

"On June 11, 2011, the Palo Alto City Council entered into a historic development
agreement with the Stanford University Medical Center (SUMC).

The agreement provided approximately $40,000,000.00 to the City, in consideration
for which the City would allow the SUMC to replace, retrofit, and enhance its
facilities located in the City of Palo Alto. The agreement also allows the SUMC to
expand its hospital, clinic, and medical office facilities to meet patient demand.
Pursuant to the agreement, the SUMC is required to provide the City with certain
community benefits and mitigation measures.


Shortly after the SUMC Development Agreement was signed, the same
landowner/developer involved in the Lee Gift Deed Property approached City
staff and proposed a major development on land owned by Stanford University.
The land is located at the corner of University Avenue and El Camino Real,adjacent to the Palo Alto Caltrain Station and a Valley Transit Authority bus
transit station. It became known as the 27 University Avenue proposal. The site
is currently occupied by the MacArthur Park restaurant."


You guys thought you were getting $40,000,000 cash, no strings attached?

So tell me ,at this point in time, how is this a public benefit?



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 6, 2014 at 9:11 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2014 at 9:33 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 6, 2014 at 9:55 am

[Post removed.]



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nieghbor
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 6, 2014 at 10:14 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2014 at 10:35 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

TS moderator,

Why not erase all of the campaign posts - pro or con?

Neighbor EPA,

"Here is a web link to action item #9 on the City council agenda this Monday. It is about the grand jury report regarding this mess. Web Link Web Link

Read up and show up for the council meeting!"

I will be paying attention to how they handle Keene. He really needs to go and anything less than that should be unacceptable. I agree these were not mistakes, not the kind you get to make in this job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pretend openness
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 6, 2014 at 11:15 am

Another staff trick is to issue V-e-r-y long staff reports. Much longer than they used to be. Guarantees fewer readers and keeps the public from knowing what's really going on.
Now council packets are hundreds of pages long. Pretending to keep the public informed, while making it harder to access the information.
Cool Move, Mr. City Manager!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Pretend Openness,

"Another staff trick is to issue V-e-r-y long staff reports. Much longer than they used to be. Guarantees fewer readers and keeps the public from knowing what's really going on.
Now council packets are hundreds of pages long. Pretending to keep the public informed, while making it harder to access the information.
Cool Move, Mr. City Manager!"

This is such a serious problem.

It's even more shocking to find out that Keene has a history of doing this. His playing residents needs to stop.

He's not our child, he's hired to do a job and has failed in the most critical part of his job. Trust. It's a colossal failure and when "mistakes" like this happen they can only mean either utter stupidity or plain corruption. Neither should be tolerated.

As the Editorial states

"It was a low point for both the staff and the council and gave rise to the current public suspicion and lack of trust in how the city handles major development proposals."

What on earth are people thinking, that this same person be allowed to remain in the middle of things like land use, revision of the comprehensive plan, or even fixing a sidewalk?

And Council needs to stop thinking about elections and do their job.

Find a City Manager who will work for the residents. One who will not have a problem with his real job, and will not spend his days at Palantir coffee klatches. To then use their software for the police department (?). Palantir has hoarded office space in downtown Palo Alto, and this could have more to do with City politics.

While more investigations should be done, this one with Ariillaga is enough to end Keene's tenure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by reading material
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Web Link


Web Link




Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ldw
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2014 at 2:19 pm

"[...] the paper investigated an obscure closed-session agenda notice in September 2012 that only listed a parcel number. "

That was illegal. Period. No ifs ands or buts. Some citizen of Palo Alto should file a Brown Act complaint against the City. Government Code section 54954.5, sometimes called the "safe harbor" provision for wording agenda items regarding closed sessions, in subsection (b) states in part:

CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS
Property: (Specify street address, or if no street address, the
parcel number or other unique reference, of the real property under
negotiation)

Since the property clearly has a street address, the law REQUIRES that the street address be included in the agenda notice. (There is also a published Attorney General opinion from years ago that if the property has no street address but can be described by location, for example "at the northeast corner of the intersection of x and y", that must be done, and that the ONLY time that only a parcel number is valid is if there is no address and no way to describe the location.)

Bottom line is that unless you're way out in the country somewhere, it is pretty much always illegal and always subterfuge when only a parcel number is listed for such a closed session agenda item. I suggest that citizens of Palo Alto stay on alert and call "foul" anytime you see a closed session agenda item with only an APN listed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on Sep 6, 2014 at 4:55 pm

""Another staff trick is to issue V-e-r-y long staff reports... Guarantees fewer readers and keeps the public from knowing what's really going on... Pretending to keep the public informed, while making it harder to access the information... It's even more shocking to find out that Keene has a history of doing this."

Cut Keene some slack. He's only continuing a long-established city staff Council manipulation practice: Snow 'em, give 'em the ol' razzle dazzle, dissemble when questioned, wear 'em down until they vote your way.

Let's be sure to elect only Councilmembers that stand up for their constituents instead of meekly submitting to this exploitation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by EIEIO - every incumbent out
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 6, 2014 at 5:58 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident 3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2014 at 6:28 pm

anon,

"not sure why my earlier comment was removed."

Campaigning - pro or against any one candidate.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Seelam-Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2014 at 4:57 am

Palo Alto City Council and the team, have disappointed us/you. To say the least, it is EMBARRASING!

Time for you all to consider a 'new team' that has INTEGRITY and 'no special interests'.

[Portion removed.]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

If you are truly for no growth, you have my vote, my family's votes, my neighbors and friends vote. There have been too many candidates who ran on a no growth, or slow and sustainable growth platform, and once elected, couldn't meet a development or developer they didn't like.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Glen
a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Lack of integrity, lack of transparency, arrogance, and mismanagement have been hallmarks of the City of Palo Alto organizational culture for years now. This culture can and must be changed.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by S. Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Today one of the candidates running for C Council, Eric Filseth, made a comment about this editorial, so I looked it up online, Wow! One of the pertinent points Eric made was that the city council is there to support the residents of the city, and that they, the CC, are in charge of the City Staff.
From much I now understand in P.A. it is the other way around. As Eric made the point that not all of us have the time to keep up on every issue with our busy lives, and we need a city council that is truly pro-resident, as it turns out that we the residents pay most of the bills for the city. Businesses do not pay most of the bills or even close. I want a city council that understands why they were voted in, and have a loyalty for residents and care about our quality of life.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2014 at 4:16 pm

The Closed Session item on the September 18, 2012, City Council agenda regarding the proposed sale of the 7.7 acre parcel adjacent to Foothills Park was not the first time that subject appeared on a Council agenda.

The same agenda description was also used for the June 4, 2012, Council agenda.

September 18, 2012, Council Agenda: Web Link

June 4, 2012, Council Agenda: Web Link

Even the Palo Alto Weekly staff was misled by these cryptic agenda descriptions as I pointed out in my response to the September 19, 2012, online Weekly story about the Closed Session discussion. (I have added links in brackets to the Weekly reports referred to in my 2012 post.)

--------------------
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm

The City Council Closed Session on September 18, 2012, for real estate negotiations regarding the 7.7 acre parcel next to the Oak Grove Group Picnic Area in Foothills Park was the second Closed Session the Council held for real estate negotions regarding this parcel.

On June 4, 2012, the Council also met in Closed Session on the same subject.

The newspaper's reporting of the upcoming discussions in Closed Session said the negotiations were with Arrillaga, but did not identify the property under discussion, because the Council's agenda description identified the parcel by its Assessor's Parcel Number, rather than by a text description that would have made the parcel's location next to Foothills Park obvious.

The September 14, 2012, newspaper report said, "The council plans to meet in a closed session for a property negotiation with John Arrillaga, who has proposed building a new office development and theater at 27 University Ave." [See Public Agenda on Page 8 of the September 12, 2012, Palo Alto Weekly: Web Link]
That description of the September 18, 2012, meeting identified who Arrillaga is, but it was vague about whether the property being discussed was at 27 University Avenue or some other place.

The June 1, 2012, newspaper report said, "The council will also meet with property negotiators to discuss the city's negotiations with John Arillaga." [See Public Agenda on Page 14 of the June 1, 2012, Palo Alto Weekly: Web Link]

That description of the June 4, 2012, meeting did not identify the property that was the subject of the negotiations.

The Minutes of the June 4, 2012, City Council meeting are at: Web Link
--------------------------------


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 7, 2014 at 8:08 pm

@ Herb

Tell us your solution to our problem regarding this matter.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Solution to the problem:

Be open with the community

Be manly / womanly about having stated your positions without wishy/washy ideas and hidden agenda.

We live in a democratic society and we need to protect our country freedom and the way we agree on things.

It is rather simple; no special interests; no growth period; be tough with Stanford, be tough with builders, be tough with people that litter and expect more from service providers like contractors including the city hall

No more 9/80 and closing on Fridays when the startups work 6.5 days a week.

Get back to basics. Revert back to Palo Alto values that people like David Packard and Steve jobs inspired us.

No easy money; work hard and earn hard. Do not be near speculators that add no value to the society and our innovative startups and industry.

Respectfully


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2014 at 11:05 am


It would seem that the City Clerk is responsible for generating the agenda for the Council, so it would seem to be her fault when these agendas are not correct, or violate any City ordinances, or State laws, dealing with accuracy, or completeness, of information that is in these agendas.

It is an open question as to why the City Attorney did not object to this misleading of the public.

Got to wonder why people at City Hall can openly break the law, and nothing is done about it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bemused365
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I seriously doubt the city clerk authors agenda wording. It's more likely that she simply puts down what is submitted to her by staff or council.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

> I seriously doubt the city clerk authors agenda wording

That's correct. However, she is the last point in the chain where information can be corrected. At the very minimum, she should have a check list of items that need a certain level of completeness in order to comply with State Law. If she can not provide this level of check-and-balance, what good is she? We're paying her over $130K a year to do what?

Even if she doesn't know how to determine what's the law, and what's not--there is no reason she has not requested help from the City Attorney, or budgeted money for a consultant to tell her how to do her job.

There are just too many people who are unaccountable in this government, and too few people who believe that those in charge should be accountable.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm

The city manager, some city staff, and the city council conspire to defraud the tax payers of Palo Alto on multiple occasions, they were caught, and their exploits documented by a grand jury. No one is fired, no one is punished, no consequences, period.

City council needs to fire the city manager and then resign in disgrace.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bemused365
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Wondering: I doubt the City Clerk has discretion to modify the calendar as presented to her by staff or the council. Her actions in that regard are purely ministerial. Hers is not the head to seek.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by JS
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

Let's not forget the role of the City Attorney in all of this. Do you think the City Attorney wasn't right in there advising Keene and City Council members how they should orchestrate this to avoid Brown Act problems. If the City Attorney wasn't dispensing such bad advice, then the City Attorney is still at fault for not giving City Council and Keene proper legal guidance.

From City Staff to City Manager to City Attorney and City Council, they ALL broke the laws associated with public governance.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

> I doubt the City Clerk has discretion to modify the calendar as presented
> to her by staff or the council.

Not suggesting that she should. Am suggesting that she should have the knowledge, or tools, to determine that the material presented is incomplete so as to comply with State Law—and not publish information that is not in compliance with State Law. In this case, she should have notified the submitting party, and the City Attorney, for the legally required information.

For instance, a poster above has pointed out that there is a State Law that requires a certain amount of identification for various items being considered in a City's closed sessions—

Web Link

In this case, the address (if known) needs to be published. In this case, the parcel number did have an address—27 University Avenue. Clearly, this was missing, as has been noted in previous postings.

Who is responsible for the correctness of the published City Agenda? Legally—that's probably going to require some research. We might find out that there is no legal requirement that the City Clerk be responsible for anything other than publishing something that has the words "Agenda" on the top of the document.

But certainly someone should be responsible. If not the City Clerk—then who?

What is being suggested is that the City Clerk be responsible for doing the best job possible—which would include some sort of effort to comply with all State/Local laws requiring completeness/correctness of information published by the Clerk's Office.

In this case—it's clear that address information was not published—so all of the parties involved in this process need to be asked: "Who do you think is responsible to comply with State Law regarding the identification of property being discussed in Council closed sessions?"

Currently—no one in the Keene Administration, or the City Council, seems to be taking any real responsibility for the deceptions that have led us to the outcome of this mess.


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Posted by New Leadership Needed
a resident of another community
on Sep 11, 2014 at 10:51 am

The Palo Alto political elected officials and present and former top level staff have let the community down. This is an organization in dire need of new leadership at the elected level and in high-level management. Integrity, honesty, and ethical conduct of government officials are essential for civic trust. The City of Palo Alto organization has not had these traits for years.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 12, 2014 at 7:40 pm

@ New Leadership Needed

It is not just Palo Alto, take good look at Santa Clara County officials. Look at there Zero Waste program. This is just a way to tax the public. They can divert the money to the general fund. This is a way to ensure there pensions. .For example: Around $4.00 a ton from solid waste goes into this fund. These are the same folks that invented the plastic ban rule. This just away to generate money for there coffers.There should be a grand jury investigation into this matter.


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Posted by The Shadow Knows....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2014 at 12:13 pm

As I said in the 2nd and 3rd postings above, this is all so very typical of City Manager James Keene.

He is quoted elsewhere as having said that the City official primarily responsible for the process with Arrillaga - former Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie - has left the City, the obvious implication being that the internal/staff problems have been dealt with.

How typical of Keene to attempt to place the responsibility on a subordinate staff member, particularly one who is no longer with the organization and has no recourse in defending himself.

While I have no doubt that Emslie was intimately involved in those discussions, neither do I doubt for a moment that Keene was involved every step of the way.

It is perhaps instructive to remember that Keene promoted ("kicked upstairs"?) Emslie from his prior position as Planning and Community Development Director to then become a Deputy City Manager responsible for "special projects" including large scale development proposals, restructuring the Development center, and hand holding and expediting for VIPs.

Emslie's office was about 50 feet or less down the hall from Keene's, both on the 8th floor of City Hall. Does anyone really believe that Emslie did not take direction from and report to Keene every step of the way?

For that matter, how could Keene have not been aware of the meetings between Council members and Arrillaga?

Plausible deny-ability didn't work in the White House, isn't working for Roger Goodell, and will not fly here either.

It's time for Keene to go - either by this Council or the next one. It just depends on whether this Council thinks they can save their reputation by getting rid of Keene, or whether the new Council will do so in a house cleaning move.

Either way, in the words of Eddie DeBartolo about Marc Tressman - "He's gone"!


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