Asst. City Manager discipline details released Palo Alto Issues, posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online, on Apr 25, 2007 at 8:11 am Tyler Hanley is a member (registered user) of Palo Alto Online
With the release of documents relating to the suspension of assistant city manager Emily Harrison (see story at Web Link) do you feel the suspension was an appropriate penalty and that the matter can now be dropped?
Interesting, considering our cities reputation for "civility", that apparently Ms Harrison was allowed to get away with abusive behavior for years.
The "common people" are expected to be civil in their discourse and there have been instances where people have been gaveled out of order by the mayor when they dared to criticize a city official. But I guess when you are part of the "inner circle" in Palo Alto you can say whatever you want to whomever you want. Therefore the support of Ms Harrison by our mayor should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with how our elected officials deal with concerns from the hoi polloi.
But to answer Tyler's question, no I do not think that a suspension was an appropriate penalty--given that this behavior has been going on for years, I think Ms Harrison should have been terminated from her position. If our city leaders will not stand from isolated instances of "disrespect" from the public, than they must now take a stand and demand that Ms Harrison leave her position
Posted by Interested, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 12:36 pm
Shame on the City Council for claiming that because Harrison is "effective" that excuses such behavior. Sure, executives need to be tough sometimes, but there is no reason to tolerate personal attacks on staff members. Also, I wonder how "effective" someone can be while refusing to interact with key colleagues for months on end. Why hasn't this woman been fired? Does her "competence" count more than the obvious harm she has done? I wouldn't be surprised at a class action suit by those she has wronged. Put the Council on the liability list for tolerating this outrageous behavior for the sake of expediency.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 1:24 pm
"Judge not, that ye be judged" - a simple homily that the posters above, and any who follow in their wake with similar sentiments, might read to themselves a few hundred times.
If we want to discuss abusive attacks on city staff, one only need look into this forum in some depth, or sit through a few "oral argument" sessions at the start of a City Council meeting. Under the microscope of the press and certain self-appointed "watchdogs", city staff in this town are put under enormous pressure. A little kindness is called for; a penalty has been leveled. That's enough.
Have any of you not made a mistake? Have any of you committed an action that you wish you could have pulled back from? Have any of you ever lost your temper with a subordinate?
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 1:41 pm
Sorry that quote is from the portion of the Bible that i do not believe in!!!
I think this is more than just a mistake--this is a 10+ year pattern of abusive behavior. I guess Ms Harrison is the PA version of Imus--she is allowed to make outrageous comments for years, when she is called to task for them, we have politicians and others making excuses for her and saying we should keep things "in perspective" (Ms Harrison is an "important member of the executive team and a major contributor" Imus does charity work and supported Harold Ford.)
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 2:10 pm
Of course I have made mistakes.
of course I have committed an action that you wish you could have pulled back from
Of course I have lost my temper with a subordinate.
However I do not engage in a pattern of disrespectful and offensive behavior toward employees by publicly rebuking and berating them in front of others and i also do not engage in vindictive and retaliatory conduct toward employees I feel may have wronged me.
And therein lies the difference between answering the questions you asked and behavior of Ms Harrison.
By the way--my not buying the "Judge not, that ye be judged" line is not a "selective belief". My religion does not follow the New TEstament--it is not selective it is a tenet of my religion.
Posted by Veritas, a resident of another community, on Apr 25, 2007 at 2:58 pm
Leadership is not only about giving direction; it is also about modeling behavior. Treating others - not just superiors and peers, but also subordinates - with civility and respect is the kind of behavior that those in leadership capacities ought to exemplify!
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 3:25 pm
Veritas, Everything you say is true. Some questions: "Do leaders make mistakes?" "Have leaders recovered from mistakes to go and do great things?" Perhaps we should look at the whole picture, and make our judgment from that.
Posted by I mean, seriously!, a resident of another community, on Apr 25, 2007 at 5:07 pm
After 10 years of being written up and reprimanded for her actions, and having the audacity to continue such behavior and direct it not only at her subordinates, but also her peers and superiors, the bigger picture here is an employment lawsuit waiting to happen with 300+ pages (according to these reports) of a paper trail as evidence against Harrison. I'm not passing judgment on the lady, but I can tell you that having worked at an employment law firm that her behavior absolutely puts her in a position where she could be fired with just cause.
Also, can I just say having been an administrative assistant to many executives with varied personalities, these allegations shouldn't be brushed off with "Judge not...". You have no idea the HUGE impact a manager's poor (or just plain mean!) treatment can have on those working beneath them.
Example: In a period of just one year while working for a former employer, I witnessed a malicious Partner be responsible for: 12 incredibly smart analysts (Stanford/Harvard/etc. grads) quitting after less than a year of employment; an incredible and unflappable assistant having a nervous breakdown; and I myself spending time crying at my desk -- all because our employer refused to acknowledge that this individual was an issue. (Many complaints were lodged by employees both officially and unofficially, all to no avail.)
Now years later, I know: I could have sued. (Oh, how I wish I knew that then.)
Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm
Wow!! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I've worked with and for people like this in the past. Male or female, the pattern of behavior is all the same. They act like children that continually push the envelope to see what they can get away with. A time out or a good swat on the butt will usually change a kid's behavior. With adults, suspension and/or a hit on the wallet usually does the job but job termination should always be on the table in case they don't. Maybe a good butt swat should be an option.
Posted by lazlo toth, a resident of another community, on Apr 25, 2007 at 8:14 pm
Now that she has the praise of city management and city council, can't wait for the employee harrassment lawsuits to roll in! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Guess that's what the reserve funds are for.
Posted by Swami Alto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 10:36 pm
Wow! The vitriol really rolls in when someone is down. Piling on has always been a Palo Alto tradition. Makes one wonder what most of those above, who are doing most of the piling on, would do if they had power. Character is truly revealed in times like this.
Shaudenfreude is alive and well in Palo Alto. Looks like most of the posters here could use a visit from the Dalai Lama.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 11:00 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
This whole thing is going to blow over, and our city will continue to run mostly pretty well, thanks to lots of cometent staffers, including the Asst. City Manager. Whether you like it or not, your computer is receiving electricity, and your garbage gets picked up at least partially from her efforts.
Have you ever taken time to thank her for that? Or any city employee? I doubt it.
Posted by Kara, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 25, 2007 at 11:19 pm
Let's not forget that this person is a top official who led the investigation into harassment in the Utilities department. Managers were fired there simply because they oversaw a department where harassment occurred. How can it be that even given the pervasiveness and duration of the behavior described in the articles about Harrison, it's not necessary to fire her? What message does that send to the community and to the employees in the organization (many of whom have apparently been affected by her behavior but are not likely to be speaking out right now because they still have to work with her)?
Posted by Bible Thumper, a resident of another community, on Apr 25, 2007 at 11:50 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I am NOT in favor of firing Emily, I have only observed her in public events and she always seemed intelligent and straightforward. Of course others have had other experiences. But I am NOT in favor of more punishment. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by lazlo toth, a resident of another community, on Apr 26, 2007 at 7:31 am
What good is having an open forum if the Online staff continually edits comments to favor their own staff opinion. I guess if you own the news you can bend it any way you want. Freedom of speech means nothing , just keep the advertisers happy!
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 8:47 am
how about Ms. Harrison reimbursing the taxpayers for the huge sums spent investigating this nonsense? Is must be difficult for normal city business to be conducted while all this is going on. And, if there is a lawsuit, I hope it's against an individual not the city.
Posted by Another Voice, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 9:07 am
Does it strike anyone else as ironic that so frequently the postings to Palo Alto Online seem to exhibit many of the same characteristics that Ms Harrison has apparently exhibited? Judgementalism, disrespect for other viewpoints and arrogance among others. At the same time, she has been recognized for exceptioal capabilities and committment to her job and the city.
We should hope that her acknowledgement of these shortcomings and committment to trying to correct them are sincere and successful. As with many exceptional people, there appear to be two very pronounced sides to her. Unlike what would be that practice for most people, her job position has resulted in these problems becoming a public matter.
Posted by Paul K, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 10:42 am
After reading today's Weakly story <Web Link>about the release of the Emily Harrison report, I'm struck by two things.
1. If the allegations made by her co-workers are true, she should have been fired a long time ago but hasn't because it's difficult if not impossible to fire a government employee. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
2. You can't trust the Weakly, particularly when it cites unidentified sources in a story. Go back to the Weakly's April 6th story <Web Link> and look at all the things that were wrong in that report.
Posted by Robert, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 11:13 am
Having read the document signed by Frank Benest, Emily Harrison has received 1) verbal warnings, 2) a suspension, and 3) notice that future occurences of this behavior may result in termination. I think that is the appropriate sequence, although it perhaps should have happened sooner. I don't agree with those who think that she should be immediately terminated. Every place where I have worked has a similar sequence of escalating consequences, and everybody deserves due process. Only in cases such as physically attacking a co-worker should the process be short-circuited.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 2:15 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Diana Diamond has recently taken her journalistic skills in a direction of attacking worthy initiatives, and people. Her most recent column tries to smooth over the fact that she got what she wanted with the revelation of these reports, and now realizes how much of a personal toll and further dissension city workers will suffer because of its release. Like I said before, Palo Altans like to "pile on". There is nothing "nice" about politics here, not at all - and certainly not as long as newspapers - including the Weekly - are determined to get to the bottom of every embarrassing little detail in the lives of our public workers and policy makers. Sad. Would they want the same revelations made of their misdeeds? I doubt it.
Posted by Danny, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 3:54 pm
Paul K. -
I'm surprised the Weekly editors haven't removed your offensive, ill-informed and outright nasty comment. If you're so disgusted by the Weekly -- or the "Weakly" as you so snarkingly label it -- why don't you take your commentary to another forum?
I have a great deal of respect for the Palo Alto Weekly and I find your behavior in very poor taste. If you're going to bash the paper I've come to appreciate deeply over the last 20 years, go somewhere else to do it. You're disrespecting the very outlet that's allowing your rude comments visibility.
Posted by Inhuman Resources, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 26, 2007 at 5:48 pm
I think this has got to be a candidate for the Guiness Book of Records for the longest Performance problem in history - 10 years!
The city council has said that Frank Benest is a "CEO" on par with other other big companies, but if something like this were to go on in a private company, Ms Harrison would have not have lasted more than a year, and if it did go on this long, there would be many more lawsuits.
I'd like to see a follow up to find out how many "terminated" employees were the result of Ms Harrison's abusive behavior. Apparently the city council doesn't care about the pain & suffering caused to those individuals.
I'm sure that 20 years of service, Ms Harrison has made positive contributions to the city, but that does not excuse what Ms Harrision has done. I'm sure the fired utility workers also did many good things for the city, but it didn't excuse their abusive behavior, and neither should it excuse Ms Harrision's behavior.
The city council members excusing Ms Harrision's behavior by saying she made positive contributions in the past 20 years is sending the wrong message to the staff.
Posted by lazlo toth, a resident of another community, on Apr 26, 2007 at 5:49 pm
How unfortunate that Peter Nolans well thought out comments regarding city management were deleted from a pulic forum by one palo alto online staff member because gordon from midtown felt we should keep the thread ON TOPIC? Sorry gordon, we will keep the subject as light as possibe so as not to offend. Ace Hardware rules right?
Posted by Alexander, a resident of another community, on Apr 26, 2007 at 8:08 pm
Here here for Inhuman Resources. The bad behavior, including mocking the religious faith, political views, and even gender of individuals trumps all claims of good service, no matter who makes such claims. She should go.
Posted by joe, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2007 at 7:47 am
I doubt this is as serious as some claim, or she would not still be employed. It sounds like some incidents over the course of a long career of hard work. I wonder how much of the current situation is motivated by the born again Christian trying to damage a secular person. Does anyone wonder if anyone but him could have sent the anonymous tipoff to the newspaper?
Posted by Alexander, a resident of another community, on Apr 27, 2007 at 8:39 am
Joe, read the disciplinary letter Mr. Benest sent to Ms. Harrison. The retaliatory, intimidating, and disrespectful behavior described had been going on for a very long time. Why is this serious? Palo Alto is a PC town, with what appears to be double stardards for moral and ethcial conduct. Showing disrespect to co-workers due to their religious faith (most particularly Christian), political beliefs (most epsecially conservative), and gender (most specifically male), as was documented in Mr. Benest's disciplinary letter, was seemingly ok for Palo Alto until recently. To rationalize acceptance, tacit or explicit, of this behavior on the basis of th "effectiveness" of the person acting in this manner surely speaks volumes about community values - or at least the values of a fraction of the community.
except for not naming the employee in the complaint, all criticisms of Ms harrison are attributed to specific people. In contrast all the support for Ms Harrison are attributed as "Summary of a witness statement". Interesting that no one will go on record with their name as supporting Ms Harrison.
It is disconcerting that 5 of our city council members are falling all over themselves to sing the praises of ms Harrison and seem to be turning a blind eye to her 10+ years of abuse towards those in positions above and below her.
I also find it amusing that former Mayor Birch (who many of you may remember for gaveling Aram James out of order when he dared to criticize Benest) seems to believe that nothing that Ms Harrison has done is "mean or malicious".
I guess this is all a perfect example of the "ruling class" in Palo alto closing ranks when one of their own if finally called to justice.
Posted by Alexander, a resident of another community, on Apr 27, 2007 at 10:25 am
What a sad reflection on the state of civic morality in our society. Why don't Palo Alto civic leaders just straight-forwardly condemn the egregiously bigotry toward a religious faith, a gender, and a set of political beliefs that is at the heart of this scandal - without any rationalizations about "effectiveness" of those whose conduct and statements were bigoted. These rationalizations have the effect, if not the intent, of excusing long years of ugly PC bigotry in Palo Alto as exemplified by Ms. Harrison and documented in Mr. Benest's disciplinary letter to Ms. Harrsion.
Posted by Citizen, a resident of another community, on Apr 27, 2007 at 11:47 am
If I behaved like that where I work, I would have been fired long ago. Evidently, the City of Palo Alto grants immunity from being fired for outrageous behavior and blatant policy infractions? Is this an official City of Palo Alto policy? This sets a very dangerous precedent that employes are free to ignore common sense rules of workplace etiquette , with little fear of serious consequences, other than a slap-on-the-wrist suspension....what a joke! Is paying Emily Harrison a presumably BIG salary a judicious use of tax dollars? I think NOT. I can't believe she had the nerve to return to work.....must be a really big paycheck! Wake up city council, it's time for a house cleaning.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 27, 2007 at 3:00 pm
Where is the leadership from our city council when a staffer exhibits such horrific behavior? I personally received her rather arrogant treatment as she verbally slices & dices through people and issues. Yes it is an effective way, but chain saws are for trees -- not citizens and coworkers. My only hope is that she will be the start, and not the end for some general house cleaning that should occur in City Hall. The salary vs. value ratio has grown out of bounds -- and accountability seems low. The story saddens me given the lack of responsiveness from our council to this problem.
I do appreciate the Weekly's diligence to bring the information out to public attention.
Posted by fireman, a resident of another community, on Apr 27, 2007 at 5:09 pm
Now that we have found out how parts of the City government have been treating coworker and employees, what about the PEOPLE who where hurt and mistreated along the way?? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2007 at 11:28 am
Although I probably represent just about all the beliefs and characteristics that Ms Harrison seems to have singled out for belittlement in these incidents, I still would rather place effective execution of her duties as a major priority over just the ability to 'get along'. I have long suspected that 'getting along' is a very high priority in our city culture, and maybe to the detriment of results.
A large number of the businesses here in the valley have to make choices between individuals who can execute and those who can lead frequent rounds of Kumbaya. Possessing both skill sets is not common.
Perhaps Ms. Harrison can just apologize directly to Al Sharpton, and we can move on.
Posted by Frank, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2007 at 5:57 pm
You interrupted a perfectly good on-line lynch mob here. What do you have against throwing out the baby with the bathwater? Surely competent managers must be easy to find and plug into an organization for little cost. If the next one turns out to have any character flaws, just drop the axe again until we find someone perfect. What could be simpler?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 28, 2007 at 11:57 pm
This is the other Mike; the College terrace Mike :)
Mike (in Crescent Park); no further apologoes are necessary, to anyone. The process has run its course, except for the gossipy blabber that the Weekly - an otherwise fine newspaper - wrong-headedly permitted to run, including the runnign at the mouth of Diana Diamond, some one who used to know how tp be a jpurnalist.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2007 at 3:21 pm
Managers are given quite a bit of lattitude, in order to get the job done. I agree with that. It's a tough job, and some eggs need to get broken in order to make the omelet. However, as a society, we develop certain lines that are not allowed to be crossed.
One of these lines is discimination based on religion. As I understand it, Harrison crossed the line. If so, she should be gone, period. Why are we still debating this issue?
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2007 at 3:56 pm
Regarding the questions and comments above from George and Mike College Terrace about my post suggesting 'apologizing to Al Sharpton': I think I have learned my lesson and will not in the future use sarcasm or attempt a dry wit on these posts.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2007 at 4:02 pm
Regarding the attacks and negative remarks about Diana Diamond:
To the contrary, I find her columns and blogs refreshing. She has opened up a lot of discussion on local issues that would not have received any.
Most of the rest of the editorials and other columns in the Palo Alto Weekly have been either PC or the extreme liberal viewpoint to the extreme. The paper was becoming useful for nothing more than a place to find out what local restaurants were like.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2007 at 8:56 pm
I also like Diana Diamond’s columns. She has the welfare of Palo Alto at heart. That’s why she exposes issues that others ignore. We can't solve problems if we sweep them under the rug.
What I don’t understand is the Weekly’s editing policy. Innocuous posts are deleted, but the editors don’t seem to have a problem with comments insulting Diamond, e.g., “The process has run its course, except for the gossipy blabber that the Weekly - an otherwise fine newspaper - wrong-headedly permitted to run, including the runnign at the mouth of Diana Diamond, some one who used to know how tp be a jpurnalist.
“Thinking on this more during a coffee, I've concluded that Ms. Diamond is now mostly irrelevant to Palo Alto's future. When will the weekly find an opinion columnist with fresh ideas?”
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on Apr 29, 2007 at 9:08 pm
Derisive comments about one's religion, including those made by a manager to a subordinate, are indeed way out of bounds for public servants since they are paid to serve citizens of all creeds. Not even even PC public servants are exempt from this most basic norm of civil behavior in the public realm.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 29, 2007 at 9:59 pm
John, Some religion isn't sacred. Not any more. When certain "religions" started sanctioning the bombing of abortion clinics, and claiming that homosexual and other inherited traits lead to "flawed human beings", they set themselves up for public scrutiny and direct criticism, including calling those who continue to profess discrimination what they really are, ignorant and hateful.
Religious believers that support the above points of view are fee to express their opinions in our culture, but god help them when they're doing so in front of those who believe otherwise. If they get dressed down, that's what they deserve.
I would like to know ALL the facts in this case; I'll bet there's more than meets the eye in those "official reports". Makes one wonder if some of the victims might have been perpetrators.
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on Apr 30, 2007 at 6:30 am
Religious tolerance may not be PC in place like Palo Alto, but its a core American value since our founding. Our founders disagreed on mnay things but were absolutely united on religious toleration being a bedrock American principle. Thank God that they were. That only PC faiths, or lack of any faith, qualify for toleration in the new American workplace is the utter antithesis of this American value. No one - repeat no one - in our country should be mocked for his or her religous faith or lack of any faith. It does not matter whether one is a theist or an antheist or whether one's views are just so PC or not. That's the "bright yellow line" Ms. Harrison crossed.
Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community, on Apr 30, 2007 at 8:56 am
George,Pat thanks very nicely sead... Funny how when I or other members of the employees of CPA spoke up we where attacked and made to suffer..When upper level employees where treated poorly it was wroung and action was taken..When I spoke up, I was blown off by so many people who did not or could not beleive..Again what about the people hurt along the way?? Edit them out of the picture.Religon is not the only thing people should be free to practice or not practice..Hurting people in any form or for any reason is wroung. Mike please learn to stick to your guns Move away from the screen and stick your head out in the real world for a short time..When you see a homeless person on the streets try not to look at him and think "Get a job you slob" No think how lucky you are not to be in his place..I is no work to judge..It is hard work to help..it might surprise you to find out that helping feels good and one should be proud to help...
Posted by Dapne, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2007 at 12:11 pm
A while back, Mike of College Terrace was forcefully arguing that now that Harrison had been punished, we should just move on and forget about the details - exposure of which by the Weekly, according to him, was pandering to some pathetic voyeurism.
Now, after an exhaustive story on the Weekly on the matter, he tells us: "I would like to know ALL the facts in this case; I'll bet there's more than meets the eye in those "official reports". Makes one wonder if some of the victims might have been perpetrators."
Leave aside Mike's weird speculation that Palo Alto's city hall is denizened by Fundamentalist Homo-hating Christians and Abortion Clinic Bombers who are harassing poor beleaguered Management Employees. What does he want: more exposure or less? Don't we have a right to expect at least a little internal consistency by posters?
Posted by Peter, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2007 at 12:16 pm
Which religions sanction abortion clinic bombing?
(I know that some of the bombers and crazies claim to be acting out of religious motivation. But I'm unaware of any organized religion - no matter how vehemently anti-choice - that sanctions bombing. It seems like we have to be careful with the innuendo here.)
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 30, 2007 at 10:32 pm
Amusing. I guess most of those who want to continue pursuing just one line of inquiry have seen and heard what I did at City Council meetings a few years ago - where spoken homophobic innuendo was spoken by certain citizens.
Peter, Some significant minority of certain religious groups sanction the most hateful actions against others. All this "hate the sin, love the sinner" malarky is pathetic, and should receive the most hostile retort from educated persons (short of violence). There is no room for tolerance of these opinions.
Also, it looks like Daphne doesn't want to consider that homophobia is alive and well - even in a PC place like Palo Alto. All I've seen on this and the infamous Diamond thread (for the most part) is people calling for more retribution, *after* the fact of imposed punishment. A real, nice, liberal crowd we have here.
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 1, 2007 at 8:55 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] All the abusive, harassing, derisive comments comments and behavior emanated from Ms. Harrison, who was disciplined for them by by Mr. Benest. No one was accused, much less proven, to have expressed any homophobic views in this entire scandal. Read Mr. Benest's letter of discipline and Ms. Harrison's letter of apology that was posted on Palo Alto Online. "Homophobia" is simply a PC smokescreen meant to distract from the real issues: abuse of power and religious bigotry.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 9:02 am
What is striking and disappointing is the response of our "city leaders"--the city council. They seem to have gone out of their way to heap praise on Ms Harrison, while claiming they had no idea what was happening. Even if they did not know what was going on, her actions should lead to a call from the council for her to resign. Where is the leadership that our mayor should be providing? (well considering she w at the forefront of praising Ms Harrison, we cannot expect anything from Yoriko). Does our mayor and our city council condone such actions by a high-ranking city official because they have been "part of the team" for 20 years? Or is it because this does not deal with climate change that our council does not care??
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 10:59 am
Hulkster, Phil, Marvin, What do you really know? I hope you're not basing your opinion on what you read in the newspapers, and from the one-sided "internal report. Further. the City has run quite well recently - why shouldn't she stay. Look at HP; they kept Hurd.
Posted by Dusty, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 1:18 pm
Once more Mike asserts facts not in evidence. If there is evidence of any of the 6 baseless speculations I listed in my previous post, Mike fails to produce it.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I'm sure Mike can conjure up all kinds of living hells and other neo-inquisitions. But he does nothing to show that city hall is such a living hell for Emily Harrison or others there.
Finally, the link Mike provides - a link to a pro-choice site - contains nothing to show that any religion or religious group sanctions abortion clinic bombings. To the contrary, the site says,"most of the violence appears to be the acts of religiously-motivated criminals acting alone."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
By the way,according to Time magazine, here's what Falwell - a man I don't agree with on abortion, or really like much - said about the bombings, "The bombings are criminal and terroristic and very damaging to the cause of the unborn." (Web Link)
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 1:49 pm
Back to the issue at hand, the people in the know, our City Coucil, backs up the suspension, as do they back up the retention of this outstanding employee. I know that's hard to take for some whose hobby has been gunning for city official jobs. But that's the way it goes. Live with it.
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 1, 2007 at 1:57 pm
Religious bigotry and abuse of authority are unacceptable in both the public sector and the private sector. It does not matter how very PC or how "effective" the bigot and abuser happens to be. It does not matter which religion or lack of religion is being mocked or what position those who abuse their authority hold. This behavior is cause for prompt dismissal. All other issues raised in mitigation, including "homophobia", are both unfounded and beside the point.
Posted by Dusty, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 2:20 pm
I dunno. Mike (in a post deleted by Palo Alto Online) asks for the evidence that Falwell and other Christian leaders condemn abortion clinic bombing. "We're waiting", he says. (even though he's the only one waiting it would appear.)
Such evidence - very forceful evidence, along with a citation, is provided. And Mike mocks it. Mike can't have it both ways.
Posted by Davey, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 2:26 pm
Phil is quite right. The real PC element of this situation is that if Harrison were a conservative Christian manager using her authority to demean and mock a liberal [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] subordinate employee, she'd be gone in a second - appropriately so. The same should be true now, especially as detailed in the Weekly, this kind of thing has been going on for a decade by Ms. Harrison.
No wonder things at City Hall seem in such a shambles. If the Assistant Manager can't get along with her employees to the extent that she stops talking to them for months at a time, it's no wonder that things are in such turmoil and nothing seems to get done by the City.
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 2:28 pm
Most of the Christians I have come across, are some of the nicest people I know. And whereas they may have views others may not like, I have never heard them thrown down my throats unless in a situation where civilised discussion is taking place. Then it has always been in a thoughtful well mannered way, with them listening to the views on the other side.
I don't know where Mike has been meeting the type of Christians he talks about.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 2:50 pm
Sorry, Phil - it appears that you want more "penalty" that was appropriately delivered. It's just the usual "pile on" group that is asking for more vengance.
Davey, the City is running fine, in spite of your outsider version to the contrary.
Bystander, go listen to a few Jerry Falwell lectures if you want to get at the truth. Or how about a few lectures by the hypocrite homophobic pastor in Colorado, who recently got his payback. There are MILLIONS ofo people who use their religious beliefs to chastise. It's about time we asnwered them in force. btw, are you a Falwell follower? Why are you defending him?
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm
The penalty suffered by Ms. Harrison on account of her actions may or may not be appropriate. Ms Harrison is the second ranking employee in Palo Alto, and her behavior and the appropriate response are a legitimate topic of discussion - as is occurring here.
What's really weird is to try to blame Christians or any other religious group for what's happened to Ms Harrison, as some seem to be trying mightily to do. There is NO public evidence that Ms. Harrison ever clashed with a Christian (or Jew or Muslim or ...). To imply that Christians have played a role in this event is akin to suggesting that Jews were somehow responsible for 911.
There's no evidence of either conspiracy, and to imply otherwise smacks of bigotry or worse.
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 3:05 pm
If I was a Falwell follower (as you put it), I would have heard many of his lectures.
I am not sure about the pastor in Colorado, you must give some more details as to whom you are referring.
There are millions (?) of people of all faiths who use their religious beliefs to chastise, from my experience many of these are only using their nominal faith as a cover up for their own political agendae.
How do you propose to answer in force? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 3:42 pm
Bystander, again, there are MILLIONS of Falwell followers out there.
Steve, do you know all the facts in the case? Doesn't look like it. Also, Mark Hurd, the _ist_ ranking employee at HP kept his job after a far more serious allegation - what about that? Looks like you want someone gone.
Also, it's interesting how many "new" members have joined this thread. I wonder...
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 1, 2007 at 3:56 pm
Religious bigotry and abuse of authority are BIG PROBLEMS in any work place. Juse because the religious faith or faiths [Portion deleted by Palo Alto Online staff] being mocked are not to your own liking or because the person who abuses authority is so very PC does not mitigate this behavior one iota. Religious freedom and toleration are bedrock American values and will be so as long as America endures - surely long after PC is discredited.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 4:06 pm
Mike (College Terrace),
I think you're riding a dead horse, but I have to give it to you for your tenacity.
Mike, what are the facts, that you know, and the rest of us do not know? Are you an insider with specific knowledge? I think you need to be specific at this point. Most of us just have the published material - what do you have?
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 1, 2007 at 4:11 pm
According to Mr. Benest's letter of discipline, Ms. Harrison mocked both fundamentalist Christian and Roman Catholic religious faiths and individuals who adhered to those faiths. Documentation for this can be found in the Palo Alto Online posting of this document.
Posted by Fireman, a resident of another community, on May 1, 2007 at 4:30 pm
Wow you got my head spinning..If people remember I was trying to let the public know how I was treated as a employee for the CPA.. I think I just was blown off as a coock..Also yes she is not the only one to treat employees wroung or in a way that breaks the law..What do we/the city do now?? What about the damage she and others like her have done.?? There are victums.PEOPLE who where hurt along the way..Now what???
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm
Oh, oh, here we go. :) Out of the woodword comes every single dissastified citizen (all 20 of them), and one or two ex-employees with an axe to grind.
In spite of all the innuendo, a punishment that _has already_ been given, and so on, we still have those whoh want to see more pain. The latter is a _teeny, tiny_ minority of our community. Thank goodness that common sense appears to ne reigning with the City Council.
Phil, thyere are plenty of oRoman Catholic fundamentalists floating around; they share many of the same radical ideas as the new neo-conservative Christian fundamentalists. I have seen this stuff first hand in the workplace, cloaking hateful innuendo under the guise of religious freedom. Sad.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 5:39 pm
Mike (College Terrace),
Just provide some unpublished facts. You imply that you know something that the rest of us do not.
Come on, Mike, be a man about it.
If you do not have any additional, pertinent facts, then I think you are just pushing your own agenda. You keep insisting that Harrison has already been punished. Really? My own expierince in the managerial ranks would suggest that she has been protected. Most people would have been long gone, by now, if they had come close to doing what she has been accussed of. Mike, you are covering for her. Why?
The essential question is whether the City Council will deal with the issue head on. So far, it has not.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 6:40 pm
Mike (College Terrace),
Regret it or not, I just look at the published reports. When I was in private industry, as a manager, I was required to fire several people. I hated it, lost sleep, etc. All but one of them was for discimination issues. I liked all these people, and they were doing a good job, but they had to go. I am telling you, Mike, that Harrison, based on published reports, would have been gone in an eyeblink. This one isn't even close. In fact, Palo Alto should really think about the possible litigation if it does not act.
Mike, you are either an insider with insider knowledge or you have an agenda, or both. Which is it?
Posted by mary, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on May 1, 2007 at 7:00 pm
"Phil, thyere (sic) are plenty of oRoman (sic) Catholic fundamentalists floating around; they share many of the same radical ideas as the new neo-conservative (sic) Christian fundamentalists. I have seen this stuff first hand in the workplace, cloaking hateful innuendo under the guise of religious freedom. Sad."
But he gives not one citation or example of this. Talk about "hateful innuendo". (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!)
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 2, 2007 at 11:01 am
Common Sense, (a curious moniker, given your stance) - there has also been no follow up on the fantastic job this person has done, or the motivational efforts that have resulted from her leadership. Why is it that some want to focus only on the negative?
This is FAR from somethingi lke the systemic problem that occurred within PAUSD (where there was executive disinterest and _systemic_ abuse of power). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It makes sense that anyone in a leadership position will make a few enemies over time, so what I'm seeing here is of little concern.
Punishment has been meted out, dire warnings have been put in place. That's appropriate, and it's enough. Now we need to let the city get on with its job.
This city runs exceedingly well; I hope that those few vocal types who want the most severe penance are ignored by our City Council.
Again, it's a shame that the details were let out by Council, and published by the press. That has done far more harm to city operations than anything else. We need leaders that have the guts to make tough personnel decisions *without* forcing someone who has already been disciplined to twist in the winds of public scrutiny. We also need newspapers that show better judgment about what they publish. Is all the current hand-wringing worth it? I think not.
Posted by Christy, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on May 2, 2007 at 11:26 am
I have no particular opinion as to whether the penalty suffered by Ms. Harrison was too lenient, too harsh or just right.
But I disagree strongly with anyone who says that the citizenry are not entitled to know the details of her behavior or the steps that were taken to correct it. Ms. Harrison is the second highest ranking employee of our city. As such, she inherently holds herself out to public scrutiny of her performance on the job. (And this episode had nothing to do with her private life - it was ALL job related.) What Ms Harrison did is decidedly not a matter between her and the affected employee, between her and Frank Benest, or between her and the City Council. It's something that affects the operation of the city - potentially in a major way. And so we're entitled to know the facts.
We have seen quite enough of what can happen in this city when the actions of city employees are hidden - witness the Utilities Department scandal.
As voters we need to know what's happening at City Hall if we're to influence the city in the proper direction.
I'm glad that this is being aired out in this forum. If Mike is right and the punishment is appropriate, then the voters can take that into account in the next election, or when communicating with our elected representatives. If the critics are right, then perhaps we'll see changes at city hall in the direction they desire. But if the facts aren't out there, how will we know?
I usually think the local press is pretty namby-pamby, but they've done us a great service by pursuing this and getting the story out.
And as for the innuendo by some here that we'd think differently if all the facts were known, it's time for you to put up our shut up: if you know something the rest of us don't or that the press is covering up, let's have it. Otherwise stick to the facts in evidence. (just my opinion)_
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 2, 2007 at 12:58 pm
HR departments tend to follow the same stream of thought, thus my expierence in the private corporate world would not seem, to me, to be different compared to a manager in the public sphere.
My experiece with HR lawyers was that certain types of discrimination are fine and encourged, for instance judging between competent and incompetent (and expressed on performance reviews). Personalities can also be disciminated against, in order to provide a workable environment. However, there are certain disciminations that are not allowed, for instance comments about religion, race, etc.
If the published reports about Harrison are correct, she should be gone...without passing go!
Posted by I mean, seriously!, a resident of another community, on May 2, 2007 at 3:58 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I'm just completely stumped at how it could be argued that 10 years of paper trail documenting reprimand for abusive managerial behavior is not just cause for termination. Don't those people who have endured the abuse deserve better than a sweeping under the rug? Mike (College Terrace), have you ever worked in a scenario where your daily work life was made miserable by a manager, or even a coworker? Maybe at a job that you really liked up until that point?
Never mind that, here's my real question for you:
Harrison has been suspended, now she is presumably back at work. What should happen if Harrison is documented repeating her bad behavior and again undermining her employees' and peers' morale? What if she disrespects her superiors again or disregards direct orders? At what point should she be held accountable?
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm
"... so what I'm seeing here is of little concern." This quote is from a recent post on the Harrison scandal by Mike (of College Terrace). Documented in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison are repeated instances of religious bigotry expressed toward those who adhere to the evangelical Christian and Roman Catholic faiths, abuse of power over subordinates, and insolent behavior toward peers and supervisor (Mr. Benest). Moreover, these are part of a decade long pattern. These should be MAJOR concerns in any workplace.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on May 2, 2007 at 10:47 pm
Seriously, if the behavior continues, then there is a final solution. The just-finished penalty was enough. The problem was NOT systemic. Why hasn't anyone mentioned that?
Common Sense, you are assuming the worst, when in fact, there was a problem that warranted serious repercussions, short of firing. I'm sure you can live with that.
Phil, how about the other side of the story? This sounds more like a strong leader who had a problem, but is definitely worth saving. Who are you to judge, _especially_ after punishment has already been meted out?
Posted by Phil, a resident of another community, on May 3, 2007 at 8:51 am
I am glad that the focus is now on the behavior, including religious bigotry, abuse of authurity over subordinates, and disrespect toward peers as well as a superior (Benest), all documented in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison. All the points raised earlier in this thread in mitigation of this behavior, including "homophobia", as well as statetments that the matters for which the discipline was meted out were "of little concern" are now gone and the focus is properly on what was done and the discipline required to redress the wrongs committed.