Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 22, 2010

Palo Alto to pay, honor 'retired' public works head

City's settlement agreement with Glenn Roberts calls for $130,655 in severance; official retirement 'proclamation'

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto Public Works Director Glenn Roberts will receive $130,655 and a special City Council proclamation in exchange for an immediate retirement and a promise not to sue the city.

The council announced Roberts' retirement just before midnight Monday, after nearly an hour in closed session.

City Manager James Keene issued a statement Tuesday morning acknowledging Roberts' 18 years of public service and wishing him "the best in the next phase in his life."

The city's settlement agreement with Roberts, made public Tuesday morning, indicates that Roberts' departure was neither voluntary nor amicable.

The agreement bluntly states that a "dispute has arisen between City and Roberts regarding the continuance of Roberts' employment with the city." It says the parties wish to "save the time and expense" of potential claims, arbitration and litigation.

Under the terms, Roberts would receive $130,655 and a "proclamation for Roberts upon his retirement consistent with proclamations issued for other employees who have retired voluntarily from City service in good standing."

In return, Roberts agreed to waive "any rights he may have had, or now has, to pursue any and all remedies available to him under any cause of action against the City" or any city officials. Roberts also agreed not to "apply for any permanent, hourly, consulting or any other position with the City, unless invited to do so by the City."

Roberts approved the settlement on Oct. 8. The council agreed to the settlement terms Monday night, at the end of its meeting. The closed session was listed on the agenda as "significant exposure to litigation."

Roberts' forced departure ends what has been a long and at times tumultuous career at the helm of one of the city's most complex and controversial departments. Last fall, Roberts issued a public apology after his staff authorized the felling of 63 holly oaks on California Avenue before the public-notice period concluded. Roberts vowed to do a better job reaching out to the public during future tree-removal operations.

In July, Roberts again found himself in the hot seat after Public Works officials discovered a $6.7 million deficit in the city's Refuse Fund after Roberts' department listed a reserve of more than $6 million but neglected to tell the council that under state regulations it had to be kept for closure of the landfill. The council last month approved rate increases and cost-cutting measures at the city's landfill to help close the budget gap.

Several years ago, Roberts strongly advocated creating a major recycling operation known as the "Environmental Services Center," that was to be housed in a large metal building near the city's wastewater treatment plant on land dedicated for parkland once the landfill operation ends in the next year or so.

The ESC proposal significantly different than the present, partially below-ground-level plan for a composting operation divided environmentalists and community members until it was voted down by the City Council.

The department is currently in the middle of a heated dispute over the local landfill, which is scheduled to close in the next few years. A coalition of environmentalists is lobbying for the city to build a composting/waste-to-energy plant on the landfill site. Others argue that the landfill should be quickly filled and the site converted to parkland.

Roberts is one of several department heads who have either retired or announced plans to retire in recent months. City Attorney Gary Baum will conclude his tenure at the end of this month, while Library Director Diane Jennings said she would retire later this year. Fire Chief Nick Marinaro retired this summer.

Roberts is one of several Palo Alto department heads whose contracts include a six-month severance provision. Lalo Perez, director of the Administrative Services Department, also has such a provision in his employment agreement.

Keene, who took over as city manager in 2008 and who has the authority to hire and fire department heads, has been designating all his new executive-team hires as "at will" employees.

Keene said in his statement that he plans to name an interim public works director within two weeks. He also said Roberts had not filed a claim against the city, as had been erroneously reported by the Daily Post.

Roberts' 2009 salary was $179,902, city records show. His severance pay, Keene said in a statement, "is similar to the standard built into contracts for other Department Directors on the City's Executive Leadership Team."

"The administrative leave approved allows Glenn to retire, effective December 30, but also permits me to begin to plan the transition in the Department immediately," Keene said.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Next?, a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2010 at 5:42 pm

This is Jimn Keene's continued house cleaning, pure and simple. Nearly all the top administrators Frank Benest had on board are now gone. Some forced over board, some having jumped just in time before being forced to walk the plank. Human Resources Director Russ Carlsen should be looking over his shoulder nervously and keeping well clear of the ship's railing about now.


Posted by George S., a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by who cares, a resident of Triple El
on Oct 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Probably the biggest problem is that Keene will still be the city manager. Here's an city employee that gets $270,000 a year + a $2,000,000 home loan paid for by city taxpayers + a remodel of his city house paid for by city taxpayers + payment of county property taxes by city taxpayers on his city house + car allotment paid for by city taxpayers .... and the list goes on. Here is a manager who looks at every task as "the glass is half empty". I thought Benest had the city council buffaloed, but Keene definately raises the bar. So the city council is willing to bury it's secrets by paying Roberts $131,000 with a "no speak, don't tell" clause in his retirement payout, not to mention bonus money for administrative leave until the end of the year. Too bad Roberts sold out so cheaply. We are entering a period where management employees will be required to be "YES" men for the city manager or forfeit their "at will" employment. City council, under the direction of the city manager, are leading the city to new lows.


Posted by CHinCider, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:20 pm

To "George S"

You have the audacity to talk about transparency when you hide behind a screen name while casting false aspersions without any backup or documentation? A "cloud 18 years ago"? What proof do you have of such an allegation?

The records show Roberts came to Palo Alto after a 22 year career in San Jose, leaving there as the Assistant Director to take a promotion as the Director in Palo Alto. How is that a cloud?

Sounds more like fog in your brain. Absent any back up for your weak assertions you are just being intentionally inflamatory. As the saying goes - "put up or shut up"!


Posted by Downtown And Around, a resident of Professorville
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm

"We are entering a period where management employees will be required to be "YES" men for the city manager or forfeit their "at will" employment. City council, under the direction of the city manager, are leading the city to new lows."

Then Palo Alto voters should consider giving the city council das boot. After all, they work for us. If we are not minding the store, then we have only ourselves to blame.


Posted by gossamerthread, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm

gossamerthread is a registered user.

It's interesting to see how upset residents are with the salaries, bonuses and golden parachutes of management. Will anything constructive result from this justified anger? What can we do? Oh, right, I forgot. Our feelings can be expressed on Election Day by transferring our outrage to Palo Alto's unions.


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