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Palo Alto Utilities changes tests for gas workers

Original post made on Nov 16, 2009

Dogged by a federal investigation and accusations of fraud in its gas division, Palo Alto's Utilities Department has quietly revised the testing procedures for its gas-line operators to make sure they are fully qualified for the work. The department has been in the spotlight since Feb. 6, when a group of federal agents from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) seized seven boxes of operator-qualification tests.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, November 15, 2009, 10:21 PM

Comments (20)

Posted by Sonny, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Did any of the alleged fraudulent test takers have any involvement in the gas leak explosion on Maureen Drive. That would be most telling.

Posted by Alex, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

The key point for Palo Alto is not to sweep the Utilities Department test taking scandal under the rug. Sunshine is the best antiseptic.

Posted by Sonny, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Seems as though there might be a bit of truth to the employee's complaints that "management doesn't know what to do" if they blatantly disregarded federal regulations in favor of bureaucratic expediency. Weren't most of the managers either new or brought in from different departments? Might be the tip of the iceberg in how PA operates.

Posted by Fred, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Keene - First, the DOT, then the trees of California and then he can't even reach agreement with his workers and imposes terms on them. When is the City going to see this guy is not the answer and does not reflect the values of our great City. He was run out of two other Cities. We should show him the door.

Posted by trying to believe, a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

After reading all of PA's issues Tree,s, Fires, Corruption, ETC.I am sure glad I got out.

Posted by thomas, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Sonny, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I would still like to know if any gas personnel reponded to a gas odor on Maureen Drive prior to the explosion. If so, were these people properly trained?

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2009 at 12:01 am

Keene is like Obama. He inherited a mess, but also like Obama, he has just made it worse.

Posted by David, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 18, 2009 at 5:39 am

The low ethical standards at City Hall during the Benest years appear to be continuing in the Keene era. The organizational culture of sweeping issues under the rug, then panicked, ham-handed "issue management" when the sh** hits the fan still prevails.

Fundamental change will only come when the Benest era department heads leave or are pushed out.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:10 pm


Is this what you are referring to:

Web Link____

If so, I would like to hear your side of PA's involvement. Please let us know where we can find that.

Posted by TOM, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Karyn Sinunu, Assistant District Attorney

John Fioretta, Deputy District Attorney
Environmental Protection Unit
(408) 792-2638

For release on March 18, 2005


After a trial that spanned six weeks, yesterday Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman convicted Thomas Medeiros of felony and misdemeanor charges for dumping restaurant grease into the Palo Alto sanitary sewer. Medeiros' former employer, A-1 Septic Tank Service, Inc., and coworkers Richard Murillo and Mark Hetrick, Jr. previously pleaded no contest to the same charges.

A-1 Septic Tank Service is a liquid waste hauling business based in Hayward. On December 3, 2001, A-1 Septic employees Medeiros, Murillo, and Hetrick cleaned a substantial amount of grease from the Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club. Instead of lawfully disposing it at a treatment plant or landfill, they discharged the grease into a pipe that emptied into the city sewer. The grease overflowed several manholes near the corner of Alexis Drive and Page Mill Road into Matadero Creek. A cyclist slipped on the grease, a truck was disabled when it hit one of the open manholes, and city crews spent hours attempting to clean up the pollution.

A-1 Septic Tank Service, Murillo, and Hetrick pleaded before trial. A-1 will pay a fine and penalty assessment of $108,000. Murillo and Hetrick will each serve 90 days in jail, perform 300 hours of community service, and pay a $13,500 fine and penalty assessment.

Medeiros will be sentenced on the felony and misdemeanor convictions on May 12th. The maximum sentence is three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

This case is the third successful prosecution of a grease hauler by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office in the last three years. The illegal disposal of restaurant grease is a statewide problem. Legislation to address it is currently pending.

The District Attorney's Environmental Protection Unit investigated and prosecuted the case, assisted by the City of Palo Alto Water Pollution Control Plant and Public Utilities Department.

Posted by outside, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:28 pm

George Kennedy, District Attorney

Deborah Medved, Deputy District Attorney
Environmental Protection Unit
(408) 792-2732

For Release on December 1, 2003


Today, Hayward-based A-1 Septic Tank Service, Inc. and three of its employees were arraigned after being indicted by the Santa Clara County Criminal Grand Jury for criminal discharge of kitchen grease into a Palo Alto sanitary sewer and Matadero Creek. The Grand Jury also indicted one of the Corporation's Officers for perjury.

A-1 Septic Tank Service, Inc.; Mark Hetrick, Jr.; Richard Murillo; and Thomas Medeiros were indicted for violations of the state's Water Code, Penal Code, and Fish and Game Code arising from their discharge of kitchen grease into Palo Alto's sanitary sewer on December 3, 2001. The Corporation and its employees were hired to clean Palo Alto Hills Golf and Country Club's grease interceptor. The grease from the interceptor was discharged into the sanitary sewer, in violation of state law. The grease inundated the sanitary sewer, dislodged manhole covers and overflowed into nearby Matadero Creek. A vehicle was disabled when it hit one of the dislodged manholes. Approximately 1,000 to 3,000 gallons of kitchen grease was discharged.

Vice-President of A-1 Septic Tank Service, Inc., Jack Shane III, was indicted for perjury arising from false documents submitted in response to a subpoena by the District Attorney.

The employees indicted for the grease discharge could receive up to three years in prison and be fined between $5,000 and $50,000. The corporation could be fined between $5,000 and $50,000. The corporate officer charged with perjury could receive four years in prison.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2009 at 9:16 pm


Thanks for the postings, but what was the involvement of Palo Alto Utilities in all of this?

Posted by Tom, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 22, 2009 at 9:32 am

Yes it was..I and I have more names..

Posted by Sonny, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Defend yourself! If PA Utility workers were involved with any of this say it.

Posted by tom, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2009 at 7:18 pm


i am it took me 8 years to clear my name i lost everything
and i mean everything from my home to my houseboat everything i worked for i have to live on $106.00 a month on food stamps
it this feeds me my wife and my son who is 5 they know they framed me


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2009 at 7:55 am

Silly rabbits, don't you know that Public Works is the entity responsible for enforcing the rules on sewer discharges? Utilities was only responsible for cleaning up the mess inside the pipes.

Tom, your posts above only prove your guilt by trial. If you "cleared your name", then you should post the appeals verdict. It sure sounds like your company made a big mess in the foothills and polluted the creek. Why should anyone feel sorry for you?


Posted by tom, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

i posted what the goverment did to me and what they lied i appelled
and won my case and im looking for justiced they think im going away if only you all can see what they did and how they got away with lieing in court even the D A got cought lieing and makinging things up because they wanted to protect the golf course if you could read my trassscrips you would say how could the system do this and get away with is and when i post things on this page it gets taken off and it so hard it let people known what happen i was told not to say anything but living on food stamps at 100 a month and not even this paper is willing to help I WAS PULLED OVER BY A PALO ALTO CITY WORKER AND I TOLD HIM TO LOOK IN MY TRUCK HE SAID NO NOT HIS JOB WHY DIDNT HE LOO IN MY TRUCK


Posted by Herb Borock, a resident of Professorville
on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

The Consent Calendar on the City Council's December 14, 2009, agenda includes a request to add $155,000 to the contract with the law firm of Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke, P.C. to increase the contract total from $60,000 to $215,000.

According to the request from the City Attorney, "Duncan Weinberg has provided expertise in reviewing Department of Transportation regulations of gas systems and the City's compliance with the DOT's gas operator qualifications program."

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Dec 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Sounds like legal action is going to come from the DOT.

Thanks for the ever-vigilance Herb.

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