Palo Alto Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental plans to resign from his position next month to take on a new role at Oracle, the Weekly has learned.
Reichental was hired by the city in October 2011 and has been at the forefront of the city's various tech initiatives, including the implementation of the PaloAlto311, a website that allows residents to lodge complaints; the installation of Wi-Fi at all public facilities; and the city's Open Data platform, a public database of the city's budget, employee salaries, infrastructure and building permits, as well as many other data sets.
He also has been City Hall's leading evangelist for upgrading technology. He led City Hall's conversion from desktop computers to laptops and tablets; renovated the Information Technology Department to create an open floor plan; and has advocated for improving the Council Chambers by installing new LED screens and upgrading the outdated broadcast system. Despite his urging, the council balked at the $2-million renovation earlier this year, opting to pursue the needed improvements gradually and on a piecemeal basis.
During his tenure, Reichental has balanced his duties as chief information officer with various speaking and teaching engagements, including stints as a professor at UC Berkeley, Duke University and University of San Francisco.
Reichental also has been a frequent speaker at technology conferences, a habit that prompted a resident to file a formal complaint against him recently with the Fair Political Practices Commission. The complaint alleges that Reichental has violated the state's gift laws by allowing entities from the telecommunications industry to pay for his trips. The complaint states that between 2013 and 2017, Reichental took at least 28 trips that were paid for by enterprises outside of the city. His statements of economic interests list trips to Dubai, Ecuador, Ireland and Germany, among others.
The complaint also points to a trip to China that, according to Reichental's statement of economic interests, was paid for by TMForum, a trade association of telecommunication companies. When asked about this trip, Reichental told the Weekly the trip was actually paid for by the Municipality of Yinchuan, China and that TM Forum was an event coordinator. He said he made a few clerical errors on his forms and that he intends to fix them by filing amendments.
"All the trips were reported and permissible under FPPC rules," Reichental said in an email to the Weekly. "It's my normal process to call the FPPC advice line before I commit to trips to ensure they are compliant."
He also noted that he never gets paid for the trips.
The complaint against Reichental was filed by Jeanne Fleming, who has vociferously opposed Verizon's effort to install wireless equipment on local utility poles (she unsuccessfully appealed Verizon's application for 11 installations, which the City Council approved in March). She pointed to Reichental's involvement on the city's Connected Cities working group, which reviews telecommunication projects, and to emails that she obtained through a Public Records Act request that show executives from AT&T and Crown Castle asking Reichental for advice with their applications (there is no evidence in the packet of emails, which the Weekly has reviewed, that suggest Reichental had expedited these projects).
As of Wednesday afternoon, the FPPC has not determined whether the complaint against Reichental warrants an investigation. On Monday night, Galena West, chief of the FPPC's Enforcement Division, informed Fleming that the agency will need additional time, beyond the initial 14-day period, to determine whether additional investigation is appropriate.
"Please be advised that, at this time, we have not made any determination about the validity of the allegations you have made or about the culpability, if any, of the person you identify in your complaint," West wrote to Fleming.
City Manager James Keene plans to formally announce Reichental's departure next week, just days after the city announced the resignation of Fire Chief Eric Nickel, who is leaving in January to serve as fire chief in Santa Barbara. Reichental will work as Oracle's global industry solutions leader for the public sector.
Reichental told the Weekly that he began discussing his next career move with City Manager James Keene about a year ago. Over the summer he informed Keene his plan to leave at the end of the year to pursue other career-growth opportunities.
"I did briefly entertain several opportunities, but finally a few months ago I found exactly the right organization and role," Reichental said. "Serving the community of Palo Alto has been an honor and a privilege. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity Jim provided me, and I will take the most amazing experiences and memories with me."