PA public works director departs, immediately

Glenn Roberts will spend rest of the year on adminstrative leave, effective immediately, and receive six months severance

Palo Alto will name an acting public works director within two weeks, City Manager James Keene said in a statement this morning (Oct. 19), in which he defended a six-month severance pay package for retiring Public Works Director Glenn Roberts.

Keene said the City Council action in closed session Monday night allowed Roberts to retire and Keene to "begin the search for Glenn's replacement."

In circumstances that strongly suggest a forced departure, Roberts will retire at the end of this year and will spend the rest of the year on administrative leave, effective immediately, the City Council announced about midnight Monday.

Roberts was not at the meeting.

In his statement, Keene acknowledged Roberts' tenure with the city: "Glenn Roberts has a long career of public service and has served this city for 18 years. I would like to acknowledge him for his years of service to the City of Palo Alto and wish him the best in this next phase in his life," Keene said.

Keene emphasized that the severance was not because of any claim filed by Roberts, echoing a city attorney's office statement earlier that no claim had been filed in spite of a "significant exposure to litigation" listed as a reason for the closed personnel session by the council.

"In response to some reports, I want to make it clear that this agreement is not the result of a claim filed by Glenn Roberts," Keene said.

"The six month's severance pay in this agreement is similar to the standard built into contracts for other Department Directors on the City's Executive Leadership Team," Keene said.

"The administrative leave approved allows Glenn to retire, effective December 30, but also permits me to begin to plan the transition in the Department immediately. I intend to name an acting Director of Public Works in the next two weeks."

Roberts was criticized last year for his department's handling of the tree removal operation on California Avenue. In September 2009, workers felled 63 holly oaks without waiting the mandated 14-day period. Roberts disclaimed knowing about the order in advance.

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

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

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

Roberts' 2009 salary was $179,902, city records show. The city expects to release a full statement about Roberts' retirement and terms of the city's agreements with Roberts before noon today (Tuesday, Oct. 19).

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Like this comment
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2010 at 4:45 am

I have been praying for this day for years!
Thank goodness our city council has taken action to get rid of him.
We should all celebrate.

Like this comment
Posted by It's About Time!
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 19, 2010 at 5:21 am

I personally think that HE should be paying us (the City of Palo Alto) rather than US paying him any kind of severance. Aside from the CA Avenue tree issue, there are much more serious issues which have happened over the years.

He has cost our city huge financial losses due to numerous fines from years of violations at the landfill during his reign. These violations have resulted in our city having a negative reputation with both the state and county inspectors.

His department has resisted audits for years. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Bravo, City Council. It's about time.

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2010 at 7:24 am

Hope he wins his lawsuit! Most do, who sue PA. What does that tell ya?

Like this comment
Posted by Sic Transit Gloria
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:36 am

Emily Harrison, Lynne Johnson, Frank Benest, Carl Yeats ... all gone, thrown under the bus. Gary Baum ... soon to go, about to be run over by that same bus. Who's next?

Like this comment
Posted by Sic Transit Gloria
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2010 at 8:48 am

Answer: HR Director Russ Carlsen will be the next to go ... thrown under the bus. City Manager Jim Keene is cleaning house.

Like this comment
Posted by Saddened by Council Stupidity
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 19, 2010 at 9:49 am

If you knew the man, you would understand what a great deficit this will be. Not only crushing to all of his employees, but the community has just lost one of the best knowledge bases yet. You cannot replace this kind of wisdom. They felt this kind of loss when they threw the Utilities Director under that buss. That department will never be the same either.

The Council never knows how to deal with any type of "issues". Tells you what kind of Bozos Palo Alto residents Elect.

Like this comment
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

Geez. If you can't even manage a dump...

Like this comment
Posted by Watching Council's Antics
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

City council is hopeless. They were all shocked about the trees coming down too, although they approved the "replacement" of Cal Ave's trees. How did they think that was going to happen?

The City Manager's office, council advisors, are equally hopeless. Hopeless and clueless. What do all these people talk about at their endless meetings? Garbage in, garbage out: a pun for you.

Like this comment
Posted by Say What?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

Glenn Roberts dug his own grave, as did Emily Harrison and Lynne Johnson before him. Or, to follow the bus analogy, they threw themselves under the bus. Frank Benest and Carl Yeats were cagier; they loaded up the bus with lots of goodies and drove off in it.

Like this comment
Posted by Sic Transit Gloria
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2010 at 10:57 am

You are right, Say What? Frank and Carl got the 2.7% retirement formula past the clueless City Council, then they promptly both got out of Dodge a step ahead of the sherriff. Harrison and Johnson were forced out, as are/were Baum and Roberts. Carlsen and Emslie are the Benest era holdovers. They are both politically savvy, but how long will they last?

Carlsen had no HR management experience when he was appointed by Benest, but was hired by Frank since they were both former SoCal city managers and pals. Carlsen had been forced out of his SoCal job and was working in Seattle when he got the call.

Like this comment
Posted by SST
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

Are people aware of City Manager, Keene's position that no CITY tree is to be replaced or planted if it is within 10' of any pipes? The City used to RELOCATE THE PIPES if they were a problem. Now they fell trees and leave the street in glaring hot sunshine.

This change in policy is resulting in the significant shift to fewer City trees. Our court is facing the loss of many of our beautiful Modesto Ash, because they are at end of life and residents have been informed that there will not be another tree planted because the City doesn't want the problem of roots and pipes anymore. What happened to the Palo Alto commitment to TREES?

Like this comment
Posted by Phil
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Oct 19, 2010 at 11:38 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by CHinCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

To "It's About Time":

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

You statements about fines at the landfill are wrong.

Those violations you cite were for minor issues such as paper blowing in the wind and puddles of standing water on rainy days. Since you claim to be so knowledgeable on the topic, tell how one avoids those kinds of petty regulatory issues?

Those "violations" did not results in fines.

You statement about "huge financial losses" due to the "violations" is simply not true - but then you already knew that, didn't you?

Like this comment
Posted by JT
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2010 at 11:54 am

Roberts was one of the most arrogant city officials I've ever met, right up there with Frank Benest and Benest's enablers, Pat Burt and Larry Klein.

Like this comment
Posted by Ann
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Let's clean house. Get rid of all the imcompetent, arrogant, fat cats working for the City of Palo Alto. And what about all the lucrative severance/retirement packages the City of Palo Alto gives its employees? There is a lot of mismanagement in this town and it's time to review city policies from top to bottom.

Like this comment
Posted by Civility, please.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I had both negative and positive experiences with Mr. Roberts. He is leaving. There is no point in lambasting him in a public forum.

Let's move on to something useful.

Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 19, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Mr. Roberts did have a good sense of humor:

When I asked him about California Avenue tree debacle, he did indicate that he could give me a "good price on some Oak firewood."

Let Jim Keene do his job, and rebuild.

Tim Gray

Like this comment
Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm

rem is a registered user.

NOW we can SAVE the trees. Gee I did not know !!!!

Just because the root is damaging the road - cut the root and repair the road.

Try putting in a steel plate to BLOCK the root (10 feet by 10 feet and 1 inch thick!!!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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