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Downtown Streets Team issues apology, retraction after board chair's 'inaccurate' comments

Original post made on Jan 12, 2021

The Downtown Streets Team has issued an apology and retracted the false comments made by its board chair, who claimed that the Weekly "got it wrong" when it reported on allegations of sexual harassment against the nonprofit's leaders.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 11, 2021, 11:40 PM

Comments (14)

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Jan 12, 2021 at 12:08 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

45 people like this
Posted by Nadia Naik
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2021 at 8:23 am

Nadia Naik is a registered user.

Congrats to Bill Johnson and the Weekly Staff for excellent reporting and forcing Mr. Byrd to come clean. Today, more than ever, the role of local media is incredibly important. As residents, we value your work - because, without it, we'd have no idea what is happening in our City.

Thanks for doing what you do!

4 people like this
Posted by Lee Forrest
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2021 at 8:33 am

Lee Forrest is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

35 people like this
Posted by Not Good Enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2021 at 9:12 am

Not Good Enough is a registered user.

A good first step by DST to issue this needed aplogy in response to Bill Johnson's letter. It hardly had a choice given the legal reality and I assume was sincere. Thank you Mr. Johnson for defending your fine Newspaper, the reporter and the 4th Estate.

Foremost, Palo Alto must protect the DST workers who are innocent bystanders and must continue their good work here. If DST can't, we must find another non-profit that can.

DST must do much more before it gets one more penny approved by our Council:
It must cut ties with Board Chair Owen Byrd. He didn't just make an innocent mistake, he agreesively and repeatedly denied any sex harassment cases before and during the council meeting in order to obtain over $300,000 in contracts. He urged before and during the meeting to simply trust him and that there was nothing relevant of interest in the investigator's report. This was at best reckless negligence. Ridiculous given his lack of credibility which began to emerge during the meeting.

That the Richardsons remain with DST is irresponsible, Eileen as CEO. No responsible non-profit would keep two people in an organization when legal cases found their involvment in sex harassement, creating a drinking culture and/or creating a hostile work environment. Bringing in an HR person hardly compensates.

We know little about what occured at DST over the years. It refuses to come clean, to provide the investigator's report that includes verified employee complaints, refusing even a name-redacted version to council in a closed session. This from an organization that holds contracts with 16 cities worth $2.6 million.

The city must hold DST strictly accountable or fail in its due diligence. It must know DST is a responsible transparent organization moving forward. Free of harassment, respectful to women, wages paid in full and on time, with a responsible board free of Byrd, and with a new CEO, and the Richardsons gone.

25 people like this
Posted by FormerDSTemployee
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2021 at 9:53 am

FormerDSTemployee is a registered user.

I applaud the Weekly's commitment to getting Mr Byrd to admit he lied about the civil procedures, this took some tenacity and grit considering he lied so easily. I still question the City Council that was made aware of these falsehoods (in addition to the numerous articles from a year ago) in the city council meeting the following week. The City Attorney requested the documentation on December 14th and despite providing it on December 14th and several follow up emails did not acknowledge receiving it until January 7th.

However, the Council has still decided to accept an apology from a known liar, reward him and DST financially, and spit in the face of the over a dozen women who participated in speaking up (and proved) that their employer had sexually harassed them.

Another falsehood perpetuated by Mr. Byrd was that he personally apologized to us. [Portion removed.] [T]he only thing we've heard from Mr Byrd is when he's called us liars in the media. That we're merely disgruntled former employees, that there's only one of us. Mr. Byrd should be disbarred for his dishonesty, Eileen and Chris Richardson should be fired, and the City Council should be ashamed of themselves for how they responded to women who merely advocated that they should be able to provide a service to the most vulnerable members of our community without being harassed at work.

38 people like this
Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 12, 2021 at 10:42 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

It would seem when a Board Chairman blatantly "lies" to the City Council and residents that an apology and a resignation are both due.

Mr. Byrd has lost any credibility he may have once had; the DTS Board is best to demand and accept Byrd's resignation. The Richardsons also must resign. Otherwise the organization remains tainted and City money should be withheld.

9 people like this
Posted by AllenPod
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 12, 2021 at 10:49 am

AllenPod is a registered user.

Good for Lydia and Liz in flagging a problem. Why was the final vote 6 to 0? I smell a rat.

14 people like this
Posted by FormerDSTemployee
a resident of another community
on Jan 12, 2021 at 10:52 am

FormerDSTemployee is a registered user.

"Good for Lydia and Liz in flagging a problem. Why was the final vote 6 to 0? I smell a rat."

Especially when Liz Kniss greeted her old friend Owen Byrd quite kindly

7 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 12, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Disappointed is a registered user.

It seems as if the DST needs a change in leadership. I think that those who benefit from the jobs that DST should not be penalized. However, more oversight is needed during this one year contract in order to determine if there are any other problems. Thanks to good reporting by the Weekly.

6 people like this
Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2021 at 12:12 am

PST is a registered user.

Well done PA Weekly and Downtown Streets Team Board. Standing up for accurate reporting is essential. Willingness from DST to re-examine their behavior and admit their communication error is admirable. I will remind people the concerns which were investigated and acted upon were four years ago with no similar concerns claimed since that time. Time to move on, thankful for a local press that reports accurately that will stand by it and for a unique and effective non profit that has helped hundreds of people coping in very challenging circumstances.

14 people like this
Posted by HM
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 13, 2021 at 7:08 am

HM is a registered user.

To quote Mr. Johnson on Mr. Byrd "Amidst the confusion that you helped create, the council then proceeded to approve a new contract with DST (albeit for only one year), accomplishing just what you had come to achieve."

What is the legal definition of fraud? Is Mr. Byrd still on the Board? Are the Richardsons still employees?

What are the City's next steps?

I see DST is looking for board members, but, it would probably be wise to steer away from this mess. And, for current board members, you might want to review your D&O insurance.

9 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2021 at 10:31 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@HM, all excellent questions.

Has the city gotten or even investigated Mr. Byrd's "consultant Report" that he claimed found not a single incident of wrongdoing while absurdly noting the homeless hadn't filed lawsuits! Hello, Mr. Byrd, not everyone can afford lawyers well-connected to city hall, especially the homeless.

With the city pleading poverty and claiming it doesn't have the money for so many needed things, maybe the new council could do the fiscally prudent thing and start from scratch.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Jan 13, 2021 at 7:26 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

8 people like this
Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2021 at 8:20 am

Michele Dauber is a registered user.

It is obvious that DST is an entity that does not hold anyone accountable in a serious way. The leaders have been accused, based on evidence, of sexually harassing employees. The Board Chair has admitted that he lied about it to city government in order, apparently to obtain public funding based on false statements.

DST has refused to provide a copy of the report on sexual harassment that Council has requested but City Manager Ed Shikada has continued to propose that the taxpayers of Palo Alto provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for DST.

The public has good reason to be concerned, based on reporting, that vulnerable individuals are being exploited and harmed by a City-funded organization.

Is there any member of our Council who is willing to stop Ed Shikada from continuing to funnel public dollars into this shameful mess?

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