Almanac

News - June 29, 2011

Atherton: Complaint against police 'unfounded,' investigator says

by Renee Batti

Private investigator David Reuben has concluded that a citizen's complaint against Atherton's police chief and police lieutenant filed by former finance director John Johns is unfounded.

Mr. Reuben, whose background includes a long stint with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, was hired in April by Atherton's interim city manager, John Danielson, to review Mr. Johns' complaint that a prior investigation into his allegations of wrongdoing by the police department was tainted. That investigation had been done by Pete Peterson, the former police chief of Clayton, California, and also concluded that Mr. Johns' complaints were unfounded.

In his latest formal complaint, Mr. Johns had alleged that Chief Mike Guerra and Lt. Joe Wade denied him "the right to a (proper), thorough and timely investigation of the citizen's complaints I filed during the time frame of February 2010 through January 2011."

Those allegations stemmed from his August 2007 detainment by police at the Atherton Town Center, when he was on paid administrative leave while being investigated by the town. Mr. Johns had accused members of the police department of evidence tampering, falsification of a police report, unlawful search and seizure, and illegal detention.

Soon after the 2007 incident, Mr. Johns was fired; he then successfully sued the town for wrongful termination.

In a press release issued Friday afternoon (June 24), the town announced: "Following an exhaustive review of all documents submitted to the town ... over the last several years, a review of Peterson's investigation, and follow up interviews with relevant personnel (including Mr. Johns), it has been determined that no evidence was uncovered to suggest that investigator Peterson's inquiry was improper or incomplete in any way.

"On the contrary, Peterson did an extremely thorough and exhaustive review of Mr. Johns' complaint and was not influenced in any way by the police department or any individuals."

Reached by phone, Mr. Johns first joked that he was "absolutely thrilled that everyone in the Atherton police department is innocent." He concluded: "I thank the town for looking into my allegations, and other than that I really don't have anything to say. I accept the findings of Mr. Reuben."

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