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Harrison may sue city of Palo Alto

Original post made by Tyler Hanley, digital editor of Palo Alto Online, on May 3, 2007

Assistant City Manager Emily Harrison has filed a claim against the city for invasion of privacy, the first step before suing in court.
Story at: Web Link
Claim at: Web Link

What are your reactions to this development? Can Ms. Harrison remain in her senior management position and carry out her duties while pressing a claim against the city? Should the city have kept the disciplinary report secret from the public and media? How should the City Council respond to the situation?


Comments (69)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Unless she can figure out who the Palo Alto Deep Throat is she won't have much luck.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fire Her Right Now, Before it is too late
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2007 at 8:44 pm

If Emily is going to pursue the lawsuite she must resign. I am disappointed that she was not fired.

When a person is fired they are usually not eligible for some retirement benefits.


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Posted by Peter
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2007 at 9:32 pm

I am not surprised. In her place, I might do the same.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 3, 2007 at 10:00 pm

Hulkster, it should be easy to track the perpetrator, as only a limited number of people have access to those files. If it was sent via the City's server, it's a no brainer. If not, it may be more difficult. Also, if something like this went to trial, ifi the offender has told anyone what s/he did, those persons may be deposed, and put at risk for purjury if they try to cover up/ Not too swift, if you ask me.

In any case, _someone_ in the city let that doc go, and the city is therefore liable. This is what happens when a feeding frenzy follows a disciplinary action that should have ended with her return to work.

100-1 this will cost the taxpayers through a settlement.

btw, the Weekly's "help" in exposing those stolen documents has helped to cause this furor, with the Weekly profiting nicely because now it has another headline to offer. Who wins? Nobody, except the Weekly. I hope the Weekly thinks twice next time, as this kind of "news" doesn't help anyonre else. Letting those documents go public only served one side of the argument.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Butch
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 3, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Fire her before she sucks our coffers dry. Why is she allowed to mock a fellow employee about his Christian religion [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] and allowed to retain her job?


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Posted by Jill
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 3, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Well I for one am glad to have MORE information about how my city is being run, not LESS information. The report that was released showed not only what was going on with Harrison but with Benest, who should have been intervening instead of looking the other way all these years.

When you're in a position of authority like those two are, and your job is being funded by us, the taxpayers, your behavior IN THE WORKPLACE is entirely up for scrutiny. Why wouldn't it be?

And the council better step up to the plate. The last thing we need is representatives sitting around like a bunch of bobbleheads, nodding in agreement with whatever pat reassurances Benest is giving them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by joyce
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 3, 2007 at 10:53 pm

I'd do the same. I'm glad she has some legal recourse. She's been invaluable to the city during the long periods when the city manager was absent or distracted by personal business, and it sounds like her fellow employees were harrassing her because [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] she was a woman in power. I also hope they catch the document leaker, and she wins a suit against him for big bucks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2007 at 11:24 pm

Mike, et al

There was no document leaked or stolen. All the documents pertinent to the investigation were released by the City Council. The only "leak" was the anonymous note to the Weekly which said that Ms. Harrison had been suspended. With such a widespread investigation going on, people are bound to talk. I don't think it was a big secret, except from the press.

To me, her actions (filing a claim and an appeal) do not indicate that she is "reformed" or is ready to move on. Not too smart, in my humble opinion. Better to let things die down and keep whatever dignity is left.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 6:00 am

What does mocking people for their religious faith, political affiliation, and gender have to do with being "a woman in power"? That's demeaning to all those highly effective women managers (99.9%) who do not even think of much less do such things. While it might be politically correct to play the gender card, the documents posted online about Ms. Harrison's statements and actions speak for themselves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 8:11 am

"...it should be easy to track the perpetrator, as only a limited number of people have access to those files. If it was sent via the City's server, it's a no brainer."

People talk. People talk a lot about someone in power who's been nailed for a transgression. Who knows how far the story spread before it was leaked.

It it was e-mailed (stupid mistake) then there is a easy way to find trail. If it came in vis USPS then the only chance is DNA from the stamp. The Weekly won't give up any evidence.

"...the Weekly's "help" in exposing those stolen documents has helped to cause this furor..."

The Weekly is doing their job. Would you have an Official Secrets Act like the UK has implemented to squash any and all news of government dealings?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 4, 2007 at 8:25 am

I am sure as character witnesses at her lawsuit hearing, Ms Harrison can call the City Council, especially Mayor Yoriko, since they have been just full of praise for Ms Harrison (while ignoring and/or turning a blind eye to her malfeasance)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 8:31 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 8:55 am

Another thing that the "pile ons" haven't thought about is how disrruptive the public revelation of details will compromise efficiencies at City Hall at a time when we need very efficient coordination towards infrastructure builds. City Hall is running very lean these days; removing personnel as key as an assistant city manager will threatenen everything a lot of people have worked so hard and long for - especially given the key and wide-ranging taks of this asst. mgr.

This revelation in the press has been a BIG mistake, at Exactly the wrong time. It was NOT necessary. So far, not ONE good thing has come about as a result of these further revelations.

If there is a lagal action, and settlement, I hope that the Weekly and other perpetrators are named. This has been a shameful display of gossip and piling on a person who had already served a ligitimaye punishment. We will ALL pay for the self-satisfied smirking and gossip-mongering of a few.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 4, 2007 at 9:02 am

Gossip?? Piling on??
The documents released containing the reports are pretty clear as to what Ms harrison did. Those are facts not gossip. Ms harison has basically admitted to the problem.
as for piling on, I think that residents of PA are a little disturbed by the fact that this has been going on for 10+ years. that the city council was either ignorant about it or did not wantto deal with it and to add insultto injury they are heaping praise on a person that made comments that the city councilw ould not tolerate from an ordinary citizen.
Now Ms Harrison has the nerve to sue the city for invasion of privacy??? i di dnot realize that the actions of our government officials were meant to be kept secret. Fir Harrison now and recall any council member that continues to support her and her conduct.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 9:56 am

Marvin, you have proved my point, perfectly. Instead of thinnking about the larger issues in this matter, like the further internal dissension caused through the unnecessary revelation of the documents; like the protracted struggles (community-wide, and otherwise) that are sure to follow, etc. All this at a time when we are least able to afford it, given the necessary mandates of our city's officials and workers. And all without talking maeaured time to hear the other side of the story, which shouldn't have to happen, because the matter had already been dealt with, internally.

If you can even come cloase to showing that this behavior caused a _systemic_ environment of dysfunctinality within city hall, you might have a point. No one has shown that, and in fact, the person underscrutiny has mostly been quite effective, even superlative. She also has many supporters within city hall.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 4, 2007 at 10:50 am

Maybe you should go back and read the initial reports on this matter:

Web Link
Web Link

Note that they mention a pattern of "disrespectful and offensive," and "vindictive and retaliatory" behavior and the Ms harrison created a "culture of fear" at City Hall.

Ms Harrison must go.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Patti
a resident of Barron Park
on May 4, 2007 at 11:29 am

So the city needs Ms. Harrison to run the city efficiently, even though according to the public records, she [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] would be fired at most places. Thus, say some, we should just bury this whole matter and pretend we didn't hear about it.

Mussolini made the trains run on time ... but I be a lot of Italians wish they'd been more aware of and more vocal about his darker side early on.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 11:34 am

"Instead of thinnking about the larger issues in this matter, like the further internal dissension caused through the unnecessary revelation of the documents; like the protracted struggles (community-wide, and otherwise) that are sure to follow,..."

Mike, as you continue to carry water for Ms. Harrison, you will be the one driving the dissention. Once Harrison is fired (and she WILL be fired), the City can begin to get back on track.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 11:42 am

Marvin, Just so you get a chance to read the "other side" again...

In no way do I condone what has happened; it was wrong, and pushed delicate limits. Does that mean healing can't take place? That Growth - personal and organizational - isn't possible? That our city staff can't come out of this stronger than before?

from the report:
"However, other employees praised Harrison's professional behavior, saying that she "does not beat around the bush" and is highly competent, hard-working and productive. Several mentioned her work reorganizing the Utilities Department following a scandal in 2005, noting that she "did a great job turning a very bad situation around."

Harrison began working in Palo Alto in 1987 in the Finance Department, of which she was promoted head in 1993. She was promoted to deputy city manager in 1995 and finally to her current position in 1997. She has been working with Benest since he was appointed in April 2000, serving, in his words, as the city's "chief operating officer."

Benest said Tuesday that Harrison is a "tremendous asset to the community," and said the incident must be considered in the context of her 20 years of work in Palo Alto. In past evaluations, he praised her for being "hard-charging, hardworking and results oriented." But he also noted as far back as her 2001 performance evaluation that she had to work on "interpersonal relationships" and monitor her "occasional caustic or critical comments" at meetings. Dating back to 1995, June Fleming, the city manager at the time, warned Harrison to "give a second thought to what she is going to say."

In a March 12 letter to Benest, Harrison expressed her "deep regret for events recounted in the disciplinary action" and apologized to Benest, Baum and Erickson, among others. She noted that there were "numerous inaccuracies" in the investigative report, but said she had changed her behavior.

"These past several months have been enormously difficult but I believe I have shown the sincere changes I've made in my life," she wrote.

Council Member Bern Beecham said Tuesday that he was familiar with the report.

"As one reads the report, one could say 'yes, Harrison has been an a------,' but in many organizations your chief operating officer needs to be that way to get things done," he said.

Beecham said Harrison had exceeded the limits of appropriate behavior, but was still "wonderfully competent."

"Going forward I believe the city will benefit from her abilities," he said. "The issues she's had, we've seen the last of them." "


 +   Like this comment
Posted by L. S. Davis
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 4, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Apparently, we haven't heard the last of these issues -- and if so, the fault will be largely Ms. Harrison's.

Like all soap opera-esque issues in town, this one already had started receding into the background of public consciousness - and within a few weeks, we on this board and the rest of the city would have moved on to the next scandal or outrage de jour.

Now with Ms. Harrison's escalation of this matter into the legal arena, we are destined for more revelations, accusations and acrimony as the various issues are played out in the courtroom in addition to the newspapers and online blogs.

Ms. Harrison may be "wonderfully competent", but anyone who's ever been involved in a lawsuit knows it distracts and enervates to a degree that effects everything in one's life - including especially job performance.

So Mike is likely right that the city's operation will be effected by all of this...but the fault is Ms. Harrison's, not the Weekly or those who've expressed opinions about the appropriateness of the penalty she suffered for her behavior.

The aggressive abrasiveness described in the reports about her are on display again in the way she's chosen to keep the hostility level high.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fair play
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 4, 2007 at 1:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Davey
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 1:33 pm

What will fuel the next phase is the always fascinating back-and-forth of the legal process dealing with a juicy interpersonal spat.

Get ready for depositions and testimony of everybody who's worked around Ms. Harrison. Get ready for denials and accusations. Get ready for lawyers stating the case for Ms. Harrison to the public.

Get ready for the city to spend big bucks on the lawsuit and/or settlement of this matter.

Ms. Harrison could have let the matter drop and. She did not, and we will all be poorer (if also titillated) as a result.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 1:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sammie
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 4, 2007 at 1:43 pm

I think we have a right to know when the second highest city official is disciplined for abusing and harassing subordinates on religious grounds. There's no privacy right involved when city officials violate the rights of others in this way (and perhaps even break the law....how long before the employee Harrison abused files his/her own lawsuit for religious discrimination?!)

This should have come out far earlier. If it had, perhaps the public disclosure would have resulted Harrison receiving treatment for her condition - or in her being fired.

How are we residents supposed to exercise our right to control what goes on in our government if its actions are kept shrouded in some "privacy" wrap?

Those who argue in favor of non-disclosure of "personnel matters" involving high government officials sound to me a lot like the apologists for the Bush administration's handling of the fired US Attorneys. They always say it's just a personnel matter - not something the public needs to know.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 1:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Mike,

Clarity is important. Mocking people for their religious faith, political affiliation, and/or gender would not be tolerated in the private secotr and should also be cause for immediate termination in the publci sector. Ms. Harrsion did all three according to Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrision, findings which led to the penalty that she has decided not to appeal after all. In a PC place like Palo Alto, of course, the fact that the religion mocked was Roman Catholic, the political affiliation deried was Republican, and the gender scorned was male made the abusive, discriminatory behavior less egregious. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 2:15 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This outrage by Harrison has, naturally, produced an outpouring of feelings, so no wonder there are people expressing their feelings.

We need to praise our local papers for exposing this sewer. Palo Alto should not be about hate. It has been hidden for far too long. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Once Harrison has been fired, we can begin to heal...and then get back to business.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sammie
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 4, 2007 at 2:39 pm

Mike infers much more than I state. In fact, I have no particular opinion as to whether Harrison's punishment was enough.

My post was meant to counter the notion that all of this should be swept under the rug instead of being disclosed and discussed openly - as controversial issues should be in a democracy.

Those who want to hide facts normally do so because they're afraid that they can't make their argument on the merits. That's what the Bush administration is doing with respect to the US attorneys. And in my opinion, that's what those who think this dirty laundry should have never come out in the Harrison case are doing.

Those who think Harrison's punishment fit her actions should make their case on the facts that have come out - or introduce new ones that support their position. Those who think Harrison's punishment was too lenient, should act similarly. But to argue that we don't need to know what the facts are is fundamentally undemocratic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 3:14 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Juliet
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2007 at 3:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 3:36 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I don't spend much time at City Hall, but I do know some old players there. Some of them like Harrison, some don't. But they all say she has been protected. Even those who like her wince at some of her remarks, and these same people say that if she was a he, he would have been long gone.

Mike, I am willing to be the judge on this one...she is so far over the line, that to keep her would put Palo Alto in far greater jeopardy than keeping her. If she is honorable, she will resign.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 4:01 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 4:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 4:20 pm

Mike and Phil (and others)

This debate is either about City Hall or it is about Christianity. If it is about City Hall and those who work there, fine. Some of the people involved may be of different spiritual backgrounds and their views may be the topic, but it is their behavior that is being discussed not their faith. If it is about Christianity and other religions, it belongs elsewhere. Don't mix oil and water.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 4:25 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 4:38 pm

Resident,

The debate is about 1. whether Ms. Harrison's expressions of religious bigotry along with sexism and gender bias - all documented in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison - are in any way acceptable, 2.if not, what sanction needs to be applied to Ms. Harrison in the interest of justice. A small number of posters have suggested or implied that expressions of religious bigotry are mitigated by politically correct notions about various religious faiths. This latter view is profoundly counter to the American values of relgious freedom and religious tolerance and opens up the issue of why religious bigotry appears to be PC-acceptable in places like Palo Alto.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Phil

Agreed on 1 and 2

But don't get into the pros and cons of actual religions. That is not what this is about.

If the person in question was of religion X, we would not be debating the rights and wrongs of that religion. It is not the religion that is in question, it is the way that religion is practiced by one individual.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 5:12 pm

I agree, Resident. Its about individuals, their behavior, and being held to account for that behavior. We rightly cherish our freedoms in this country, but these do not include the freedom to mock others at work for their religious faith (or lack thereof), gender, or political affiliation. Those are all the lines that Ms. Harrison so wantonly crossed as described in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms.Harrison.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 5:38 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Mike,

A good case can be and has been made in this thread that "the punishment did not fit the crime"; that it was not strong enough. Ms. Harrsion's offences in the private sector would have led to her prompt dismissal, period. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The issues are justice and what is and is not acceptable behavior for individuals in today's American workplace.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 5:55 pm

Many people in America's workplaces commit these same unfortunate behaviors, every day. Many of those persons are caught and not dismissed. They are taught a lesson with a punishment and a warning.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Mike,

This is not about "ignoble ends" or "vengence", but about justice and Ms. Harrison being held to full account for a decade-long pattern of abusive and bigoted behavior in the workplace, as documented in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 4, 2007 at 6:11 pm

"Many people in America's workplaces commit these same unfortunate behaviors, every day. Many of those persons are caught and not dismissed. They are taught a lesson with a punishment and a warning."

Did they get away with it for ten years?

Are they the second in command of their company?

Are they in a position to ruin someone's career?

Are you justifying Ms. Harrison's behavior by saying everyone does it?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 4, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Questions?
How many times was the behvior committed? What were the conditions that precipitated it?
Are not executives often more hard driving and borderline "abusive" than subordidnates? Are executives in a position to lose their jobs if lazy or ineffective subordinates don't follow through? Are hard-driving executives that prove themselves over and over again, often cut a little slack? Was Ms. Harrison's behavior a deliberate pattern of conscious abuse, or due to outbursts of temper? If the latter, would it not be possible to see corrective action, rather than dismissal? Are all of Ms. Harrison's subordinates wanting her gone? (no, far from it). Has Ms. Harrison performed in a stellar manner? Have most of her subordinates performed in a stellar manner? Was Ms. Harrison punished for her mistake? Does abusive behavior enter the common workplace every day? If so, does corrective action always involve dismissal, or can lessons be learned that bring an orgaization back stronger than before?


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Posted by Dispensible
a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2007 at 12:57 am

Ms. Harrison is dispensable. Her continuing to work for City of PA can bring about more lawsuits against the city.

She must move on. City of PA can find the next person to fill that role VERY easily for the salary being paid to Harrison.

I repeat - Ms. Harrison IS dispensible. City should not put itself in legal jeopardy.




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Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2007 at 8:18 am

Mike,
You have been all over the map in your posts on this and other threads related to the Harrison scandal. In your most recent post -with no evidence at all to offer – you once again "blame the victim(s)", this time for being "lazy" and "ineffective". In past posts you have sought to minimize or mitigate Ms. Harrison's pattern of religious bigotry by resorting to politically correct notions about the various religious faiths. You have also claimed that Ms. Harrison was indispensable to Palo Alto, thus needed – as you say above - to be "cut a little slack". This last claim is made in the face of the findings summarized in Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison that Ms. Harrison refused to speak to both the City Auditor and City Attorney for months at a time, that she created a "climate of fear" in the workplace, and that she had a highly abusive behavior pattern for at least a decade. There is no excuse for nor should there be any tolerance of religious bigotry or gender bias in American workplaces. A decade-long pattern of such behavior requires prompt termination.


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Posted by MikeH
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2007 at 10:08 am

At this point, no matter what, it seems to me that Ms Harrison must leave, or be terminated. Taking the preliminary step to bringing suit of filing a complaint against the city is going to ensure that she cannot be effective going forward with the rest of the city workers and managers, or the city council.

She must have come to that conclusion, and taken her last action as a way to get in line for a settlement (we are famous for being held hostage to settlements)and as a cover for leaving the city on what can be made to look like 'her terms'. Now she can leave on the grounds that she was wronged, and not fired.

I think if you are a public employee, there is no privacy in any matter pertaining to your job, only personal matters that are not connected to the job. The cause of 'privacy' has become a new and oft heard rallying point in the last few years. It has been used to distort all manner of issues.


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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 5, 2007 at 10:58 am

College Terrace Mike wants to justify Harrison's actions by using "hard-driving" execs who are "cut a little slack" for good performance as an example. Michael Eisner was a hard-charging exec that brought Disney back from the brink. But, as years passed, he added layers of unneeded bureaucracy, made bad strategic decisions and destroyed the relationship with their largest profit-making partner. The shareholders, led by a Disney family member, rose up and fired Eisner.

Will the Palo Alto stockholders do the same? From the tone of the posts on this forum, it looks very likely.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Will Palo Alto be better off without Harrison? Are there others in the pipeline prepared to step in and provide the leadership so obviously missing from the top? Perhaps Harrison got tired of doing the work without the perks. Perhaps Harrison needs classes on blowing smoke, a talent much in demand hereabouts.
Don't know if I would want to have drinks with Harrison, but I might trust her to run my store.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2007 at 3:35 pm

I'm not betting either way. That's up to the asst. city manager. Surely, the revelations have damaged her, but people have recovered from far worse onslaughts, including this one, where it seems some want to follow hard line moral issues w/o cutting an otherwise well-intended person some slack.

I've personally seen people learn a lesson that changed their lives, and made their organization stronger after something like this. In fact, I've seen it happen twice.

Unless the problem caused a _systemic_ climate of fear _throughout_, I'm staying the course in favor of healing wounds - with the knowledge that those wounds were made larger by the detailed revelation of every single incident. I will always maintain that that was not - and should never be - necessary.

We know what she did; she paid a penalty. There was justice. Some may disagree with the amount of justice. That's their perogative.

We've all made mistakes, many over a long term. We've all learned from those mistakes. What impresses me about the pile ons in this thread is that there seems a personal vendetta against the asst city manager. The vitriol seems beyonf good reason, and absent even a sliver of inclination for healing. To me, that says something about these posters, and makes me wonder whether they're not reacting in this way because they themselves carry these tendencies and want to stamp them out wholesale in others - a kind of "reaction formation". I could be wrong, but who knows, after all...

There is something weird about the "personal" nature of these attacks. Rather than just saying something like so-and-so is not a good fit, those who want the worst seem hell-bent on really hurting a person who has already paid a penalty. It would be as if within PAUSD, one would wish the outgoing Sup a bad time, instead of simply admiting what was more the case, than not (a bad fit for the PAUSD environment).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2007 at 3:38 pm

Dispensable, Right, no one is indispensible, but some people are more indispensible than others. Just a thought.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Mike,

With all due respect, your statement in the post above that "no one is indispensible, but some people are more indispensible than others" is inherently contradictory. As to the lack of "systemic" problems due to Ms. Harrison's conduct you have repeatedly referenced, Mr. Benest's letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison describes a "climate of fear" she created in the workplace. That certainly qualifies as a major "systemic" problem.

Walter_E_Wallis,

Would you tolerate the person "running (your) store" to mock other employees for their religious faith, gender and/or political affiliation like Ms. Harrsion did within the City of Palo Alto "store" as Mr. Benest documented in his letter of discipline of Ms. Harrison?




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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 5, 2007 at 11:07 pm

Phil, you're overstating the case, and exaggerating. There has been no _everyday_, or even _every week_ violations. Looks like you want to second guess the City Manager. Maybe he knows a few thinfs about running City Hall that you don't?


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2007 at 4:18 am

Phil, if you look for offense you will find it. There is a difference between twitting someone and insulting them. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] People who publicly announce their identity issue, politically, sexually or athletically cannot deny to others the right to express an opinion.


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Posted by Let\'s Be Frank
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 6, 2007 at 5:18 am

Emily Harrison must know she can't win a law suit on privacy issues from the city which has employed her for nearly 20 years, now to the tune of $180,000-plus a year. First, she loses in public opinion. Every day she keeps her bad behavior in the headlines is another day the 300-page report she claims should remain private gains ever-wider circulation. In this case, public opinion includes not only Palo Alto citizens, professional administrative peers everywhere, but also the local press which sued for public disclosure of this matter and every member of Palo Alto Council who voted to release the report. Second, while Ms. Harrison keeps this issue in the headlines, her boss, City Manager Frank Benest, will likely be terminated for his failure to supervise her. Mr. Benest's failures are clearly detailed in an independent investigator's report which lists over 30 instances of outragious behavior by his right-hand "hatchet" woman who disrespected nearly every top administrator, plus a lot of others over many years. Mr. Benest proved to be Ms. Harrison's enabler. The result: City staff has been operating in "survival mode" for most of the last year. Finally, the lawsuit itself, even if won which is highly unlikely, can't begin to pay the terrible price Ms. Harrison is inflicting upon herself. Self-distructive behavior like this has to be a cry for help. Ms. Harrison's counsel should be the first to see the warning signs and do what is best for Emily. Stop all contentious behavior immediately, apologize to all those who were disrespected, and get back to the city work she can do so well.


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Posted by Curious Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 2:27 pm

A comment on the original question. I'm surprised that something in one's personnel file can be made public. I'm not sure if things can be applied differently because of the position she holds or because of who her employer is. However, if she's embarrassed by what's in her performance reviews, then she should have changed her behavior long ago!


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Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on May 6, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Curious, I think you have it exactly right. Harrison has rights, too. A settlement will result, and it will be in her favor. Punitive damages are a possibility. In the meantime, the gossipy press will have a field day selling eyeballs to advertisers. Releasing those records was a poor judgment call, and publishing them was no better.


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Posted by David
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2007 at 7:59 pm

If people desire in all sincerity to change and they ask forgiveness for past wrongs, forgiveness and mercy should be given to them. After all, if we expect mercy we must also give mercy, just as if we expect to receive forgiveness, we should also give forgiveness.


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2007 at 8:30 pm

David,

I'm all for forgiveness when people are truly sorry for the harm they've caused. Harrison's actions in filing an appeal and threatening to sue the city don't sound like repentance to me. Ask the people in city hall if she's changed her behavior suddenly after 10+ years of abusing her power. If they weren't afraid of retribution, they'd tell you that she hasn't changed except to act even crazier. There doesn't seem to be any recognition on her part that she's done anything wrong, despite what she's saying publicly.

For those who want to "move on," you should be aware that she's merely stepped up the brownnosing with the city council. Don't be fooled. Why are you willing to take her word for it that she's changed, after TEN YEARS of the city paying for a shrink for her with no results?


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Posted by DFT
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2007 at 8:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Blanche
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2007 at 7:53 am

All the employees she mistreated, both mentally and professional, were a valuable asset to CPA too. Mr. Benest was handed a "can of worms" when he was hired. Don't blame him, this has been going on for more than 10+ years. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by George
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2007 at 8:12 am

Sour grapes


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 8, 2007 at 10:23 am

My aunt Deedee had a saying - "Sorry don't shuck no oysters."
An apology goes forwards, not backward. The most sincere apology is a change.


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Posted by Outraged
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
It's astonishing enough that Benest and the city council failed to take the obviously correct action and FIRE Emily. But now,instead of being grateful to still have a job, she begins laying the groundwork to sue the city that saved her. As Jack Nicholson once said..." go sell crazy someplace else, we're all stocked up here."


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2007 at 5:15 pm

Were she a man, I suspect the assessment would have been more positive. At any rate, let her go and let Frank start earning his pay.


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Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2007 at 5:39 pm

"Were she a man, I suspect the assessment would have been more positive"

What you been drinkin', Walter? If she was a he, he would have been long gone by now. She has been protected...and many in City Hall know this to be true.


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Posted by JR
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 12, 2007 at 1:30 pm

We elect our city councilors to provide on-going soap opera entertainment.

They are failing in their duty if they delegate this role down to city management.


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