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Palo Alto looks past harassment allegations, inks new deal with Downtown Streets Team

Original post made on Dec 8, 2020

Setting aside their concerns about numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against top executives at the Downtown Streets Team, the Palo Alto City Council agreed on Monday to sign a new deal with the nonprofit.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 8, 2020, 12:20 AM

Comments (11)

Posted by Untrustworthy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 8, 2020 at 6:16 am

Untrustworthy is a registered user.

This article says Owen Byrd falsely maintained to council that a Weekly reporter got it wrong about employee legal cases involving DST. She did not. Her article linked to cases with findings of sex harassement and hostile work environment in 2017 and 2018 and he knew this since he knew the case. Byrd is Chairman of the Board of DST. This is not how a responsible Chariman of conducts himself.

Byrd said last night that when DST hired a lawyer to look into the employees allegations, "Those investigations revealed that we could improve the governance mechanisms that we have improved. But, beyond that, it did not substantiate almost all of the claims."

Council should have asked about the claims that Byrd admits were substantiated in the investigation report. Are these claims the reason DST refuses to provide the report to the council?

During this next year, council should see that Byrd is off the Board if DST is to be a credible organization to continue its good work, and rcouncil must be allowed to review the investigation report with its substantiated claims. Have any of those resulted in lawsuits?

Posted by Michele Landis Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 8:03 am

Michele Landis Dauber is a registered user.

Given the untrue statements made by Byrd. the City Council should have told Owen Byrd that it would not approve the contract unless and until it received the redacted report. How could they take his word for it when he was literally making statements right there and then that were contradicted by facts in their possession, such as the state judge's finding that sexual harassment occurred and that the DST was not credible.

Renewing this contract now defies all notion of good governance by Council. This City Council is not especially competent. That's obvious.

One very significant problem is that this Council, perhaps due to its own ineptness, has deferred too much power and control to City Manager Ed Shikada. And Shikada apparently could not care less about the serious, substantiated allegations issues of sexual harassment and misconduct at DST. Ed Shikada put DST on the consent calendar for a three year renewal. There wouldn't have even been any discussion of all of this unless several members of the community (including myself and incoming councilmember Pat Burt) had not raised objections last week. It would have just sailed through on consent.

Shikada's indifference to sexual misconduct at DST and his poor decision making are the reason DST has gone from a problem to a scandal. If this is what Shikada thinks is due diligence what else is he ignoring and mishandling?

We need new leadership.

Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2020 at 10:47 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

From the PA Weekly...
> "In approving the deal, council members chose to trust the nonprofit without verifying the assertion of Owen Byrd, chair of the organization's board of directors."

^ Absolutely incredible...a rubber stamp committee posing as PACC members.

> "We need new leadership."

^ And it doesn't take Kojak or Dick Tracy to establish that premise.

Posted by AlexDeLarge
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 8, 2020 at 11:24 am

AlexDeLarge is a registered user.

Hahahahahahaha. This is a joke, right?

Posted by Claude Ezran
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 8, 2020 at 11:53 am

Claude Ezran is a registered user.

The City Council should not have approved the contract with Downtown Streets Team. All they did is kick the problem down the road for one year. And then what? It is clear that Owen Byrd is not telling the truth and there is no valid reason for not showing the Council a redacted version of the report unless you have something very embarrassing to hide. DST is a great organization, but Owen Byrd and the leadership have to go; unfortunately, they greatly undermine its worthwhile mission.

Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Dec 8, 2020 at 11:55 am

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

Regarding Mr. Byrd's statements that this reporter "got it wrong," I'll stand by my story and the facts therein. Mr. Byrd was asked before the story published about the allegations and had an opportunity to "set it right."
The Oppenheimer report purportedly exonerates Downtown Streets Team leadership. Is there a reason why the public, the city and the media cannot see this report -- not even a redacted copy -- to clarify this claim?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 8, 2020 at 12:05 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Byrd also emphasized that none of the former employees had filed lawsuits against the Downtown Streets Team. "

News flash, Mr. Byrd: Not everyone can afford lawyers.

And shame on you for refusing to turn over evidence.

Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 8, 2020 at 4:27 pm

Disappointed is a registered user.

This was a difficult decision for the council since the workers who provide services to the city of Palo Alto appear to do a good job; they need the work. Since the council decided to go ahead with its approval, better, a one year contract than 3. But, the council must still pursue full disclosure of the findings of the investigation. Why would our city want to support an organization which may not exhibit respect for its employees and integrity.

Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2020 at 12:16 pm

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Well,. I hope Bill Johnson, Editor of the Weekly, takes on Owen Byrd for his apparent lie regarding a Weekly reporter's article on the upper management of Downtown Streets Team. Calling the PA Weekly dishonest is serious!

Sounds like Mr Byrd should step down; resign. The last thing a non-profit needs is a Chair who has problems being honest. But none with being arrogant.

I would ask the new City Council to rescind the just awarded 1 year grant until all requested documents are received and all questions answered. Tough love and a good housecleaning are needed are needed. Thank you

Posted by No Cover-Up
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Dec 11, 2020 at 7:08 am

No Cover-Up is a registered user.

Here is what should happen going forward:
1. The city must confirm that Owen Byrd is no longer with DST given he lied to the council and the public for financial gain on behalf of the organization.

2. The DTS report must be provided by the Board for city review, redacted or not, as DTS wants. What of the substantiated complaints Byrd admits it contains yet withholds?

3. Council must ask if the city can responsibly keep DTS as a contractor based on the report and now knowing of its dysfunction and record of discrimination against female employees counter to city policy and law.

4. If DTS is kept, what changes in board and staff are needed?

5. In light of the sexual harassment and hostile workplace findings in the two cases, the Richardsons must leave DTS.

6. No matter what happens with DTS, the services with the homeless workers must continue - through another provider if needed. Workers provide needed services to the city and are blameless in this.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 11, 2020 at 11:47 am

Online Name is a registered user.

6) The city must have procedures that ensure full disclosure by entities seeking city funds and contracts and not be allowed get away with withholding reports like Byrd has done. (I cynically wonder if they really did pay $100,000 for an independent study since we've never seen it.)

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