Homeowners: Building department negligent Atherton, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Aug 3, 2010 at 6:03 pm
In the midst of a legal battle with her building contractor, Kimberly Sweidy is also taking on the town of Atherton's building department for passing inspections and ultimately signing off on a multimillion-dollar house that the couple is having to pour millions more into to make structurally sound and repair the many problems they've discovered since moving into it in the summer of 2007.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 11:35 AM
Posted by John P. Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 3, 2010 at 6:03 pm
When I worked as Atherton's Finance Director, I felt as though my boss at the time had an attitude of "What I don't know won't hurt me".
Sadly Mr. Robinson turned a blind eye towards official misconduct within the Building Department. Sadly, his "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" management style proved to be his undoing.
Now Mr. Hood's lack of respect for the rule of law, combined with Mr. Robinson's willful ignorance and Mike Wasmann's blind obedience have caught up with the Town. Now we are finding out that homes were built that are defective and that one homeowner is mad as hell about it.
During the six years I was Finance Director, close to 600 new homes went up in Atherton. Lord knows how many more structures with defective construction went up during these six years.
I dare say now is the time to find out, rather than wait until they begin to fall down like dominoes.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm
Citizens need to appreciate the fundamental issues involved in this situation. We adopt State and local building codes to ensure the safety of the public. The Town exercised its power to collect building permit fees in return for exercising its responsibility to ensure that any structure built within the Town complied with the State and local building codes. IF the Town failed in its responsibilities then we are all at risk and remedial action regarding both any substandard construction and the lack of oversight, if any, which permitted those substandard structures to be built need to be corrected.
IF we as citizens cannot trust our local government on an issue as simple as this then how can we trust them on other issues?
Someone needs to investigate to determine IF the building codes were or were not followed. Who will do that investigation and when?
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm
I know of two additional properties that (a)do not appear to conform to the Town's building codes and (b) appear to be of a nature and severity to jepoardize the health and safety of their occupants.
I know that in both instances the contract employe brought these apparent code violations to the attention of the current Building Official. In both instances this contract employee's concerns were rebuffed.
I have alerted Mr. Cushing to both of these cases.
For the safety of those who currently inhabit these homes, I hope that Mr. Cushing investigates these two complaints promptly, thoroughly and objectively.
In view of the prior involvement of Mr. Wasmann, I would strongly urge that Mr. Wasmann not be allowed to participate or to influence the outcome of this investigation.
Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community, on Aug 4, 2010 at 8:03 am R.GORDON is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
The entire Building Commission of San Mateo needs major investigating and the Supervisors (and former recent supervisors) have to have a thorough going over for the amount of permits which were bypassed by influential citizens who "looked the other way" while hundreds of thousands of dollars of construction, additions, and proof has been sent and more than a few appear to be fleeing the scene of the crime. I believe it may have gone so far as the IRS for investigation of payoffs.
Posted by can't buy common sense, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 9:52 am
Sounds like these people chose the wrong contractor and didn't hire soil engineers or do any kind of due diligence themselves. Now they want to blame bureaucratic technicalities for their woes? Sorry, hard to feel much sympathy here. Maybe they need to take responsibility, or does being rich mean that you should always have someone else to blame?
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm
Dear "Can't Buy Common Sense,"
No, you can't. And you can't buy the intelligence or manners to make yourself informed before you speak. And you can't buy the courage to use your real name in postings. There are many, many things you can't buy. In fact, you can't buy anything that actually matters, such as the respect of good and decent people.
But if you would like to see what you can buy for millions and millions of dollars, follow the link to our Fourth Amended Cross-Complaint.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm
if you bothered to read the cross complaint you would see that they did do their due diligence. They hired professionals (architect, engineer and geotech) who were supposed to perform their jobs in a professional manner. It appears they did not. It also appears the geotech isn't actually licensed to do that work, but had passed himself off as being so. I say "appears" as I have no information about this case other than what I read in the cross complaint. Being a builder, I am also aware there are two side to every story when it comes to these kinds of things. That said, if the things detailed in the cross complaint are factual, a lot of people have a lot to answer for. That includes the building department as they are responsible for properly reviewing plans and structural calculations as well as performing inspections in the field to confirm what is built conforms with the plans. I would also bet the structural engineer perfomed inspections as that has become a standard requirement in almost all cities. They want to push the liability off onto the engineer of record. Personally, I have the engineer of record inspect the work as a matter of course, whether required or not.
Posted by Tom, a resident of the Portola Valley: Ladera neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 2:46 pm
This story is very sad no matter who is at fault. My family is going through the building process right now and I can tell you the permit fees are exorbitant and time consuming. What is the point of paying all of these fees if the inspections mean nothing? There is no way something like this ever should have happened. Most of us that build a house are not experts in this field. You can do all the due diligence you want but at a certain point you have to trust the people you are working with. Taking a shot at this family because they are rich is pathetic. I hope that someday the Sweidys will be able to enjoy their home and put this behind them.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm
The following is a copy of a response to a public records request I submitted to the Town of Atherton.
In short the Town admitted that it did not keep copies of the field inspection reports, nor the inspection card posted on the job site. Instead the Building Department let the homeowner or the contractor keep the inspection card.
During my audit of the building department I reported that the Department's permtit tracking system was not secure and that the date contained therein (including entries describing the results of field inspections) could not be relied upon as accurate.
I would invite readers who are knowledgable about building and permiting practices to comment upon this admission by the Town.
Specifically I will ask those who are informed on this topic the following:
Isn't the inspection card that is kept on the building site a pretty important document?
Shouldn't the inspection card have been returned to the custody of the Building Department?
Is this yet another indication that the Atherton Building Department is negligent?
This letter is in response to your public records request, dated July 29, 2010 seeking a copy of the inspection card retained onsite at 93 Broadacres which would identify the dates of inspection, the identity of the inspector performing all inspections and the results of said inspections. This response is being sent within ten (10) days of the Town’s receipt of your request, and is therefore a timely response under the Government Code Section 6253(c).
The record holder of the inspection card retained onsite is that of the contractor or owner. The Town does not keep copies of the inspection card. If you can specify which permit type you are seeking, the Town will engage in further document review.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 4, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Mr. Johns....I have some experience with the matter you raised. The Inspection Card is left on site so that other entities conducting inspections. The card ultimately ends up with the homeowner as it is the only document that shows that all inspecting agencies have completed their work.
That said.............It is unbelievable that Atherton does not have a computer record of Pass/Fail when conducting its inspections. Usually a "Pass" is not annotated, however a fail must surely produce a series of documents explaining the failure and the remedial actions required.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 4, 2010 at 8:28 pm
As a suggestion....Don't ask for the inspection card....a broader request for all data (including electronic data) should provide the information you seek. Also be sure to request the same information from other agencies that are required to sign off on this project. i.e. Sewer, etc
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 8:48 pm
the inspection card is retained by the contractor who should ultimatley turn it over to the Owner as a record/proof that work performed was permitted, inspected and approved. Every city I have ever built in has, at a minimum, some type of paperwork that is retained by the inspector indicating a pass or fail of an inspection. The paperwork is retained by the city providing a paper trail for the conduct of inspections. Many cities have gone to electronic media for this documentary trail. So as Interested noted, a request for electronic as well as paper records may be required.
That the building department does not have the permit card does not indicate negligence on their part. The lack of some kind of paper trail for inspections is another thing.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm
Thanks for the input. This is very helpful.
I can confirm that there is no paper trail in Atherton. Under Hood's and Wasmann's tenure, the building inspectors would come back from the field, and hand off their field inspection reports to the data entry clerk.
The data entry clerk would input the field inspection report and then throw the field inspection report away. (Yes, throw the field inspection report away).
Making things worse was that permit tracking system was accessible to all employees in the building department on a local area newtork. The file server was not password protected.
Hence anyone in the building deparmtent could add or delete records to his or her heart's content. Additionally, there was no way of determining the authenticity or origin of entries made to the system or to verify the identity of the individual making an entry into the Building Department's permit tracking system.
The weaknesses in the Town's permit tracking system is documented via the following link
See Finding number 2 on page 63 of the document accessible via the link above.
I guess the moral of the story is that homeowners and contractors who had inspections done by the building department should hang on to their inspection cards. Because this is the only verifiable record that exists.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 4, 2010 at 10:17 pm
yes, the inspection card is typically required to be on the site, however, that is a recipe for having it disappear. I keep it and have it on site for inspections. Otherwise it seems to "grow legs" and wander off.
Posted by naria, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Aug 5, 2010 at 11:55 am
My dear can't buy common sense,
Of course, common sense is in very short supply You say"
Now they want to blame bureaucratic technicalities for their woes?"
Bureaucratic technicalities? Hardly. The inspections are performed as
guarantees that the work performed complies with all technical aspects
covered by law. If a car breaks are subject to inspection do you expect DMV just to sign up and not verify that they are indeed as
they should be? That would be lack of common sense, right? And what about a plane? Would you get in into one if inspections were mere formalities to be signed off without any real inspection? What are building inspections for? To serve as city income or to guarantee compliance?
Please keep your very own sui generis common sense away from all of us. It is toxic and dangerous. I am hoping that your work is not to sign off on anything.
Posted by Wayne, a resident of another community, on Aug 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm
Dear Can’t Buy Common Sense
In reading your comment I can’t believe your phrase “the wrong contractor” maybe in your common sense world you have the capability of identifying a right from wrong contractor, in the real world we all feel we have hired the right contractor.
It is GREED that turns Right to Wrong, unless you know the facts, it makes you part of the problem in today’s world. You are typical of those that blame those that succeed because of your failure in life. We all have to stay focused on what is really happening here, these Victims (yes I use Victims) hired a Contractor that they placed their dreams in his hands and it is these Contractors that are responsible for the end product, and as a result turned their life into a nightmare.
All this was reinforced by the people that we pay fees and taxes as a safegaurd to protect us against faulty workmanship and make sure we are getting a safe residence to live in.
Is it just me or was it a coincidence that Mr. Wasmann chooses this particular moment in his career to retire. If it were not for the Ms. Sweidy’s of the world this man would have continued to inspect future homes in Atherton with the same results. You should be thanking her instead of criticizing her.
Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community, on Aug 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm R.GORDON is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
The building department is not behaving extra carefully after looking the other way for the past 10 plus years and one might even guess that a LOT of officials who are not in office, or leaving, have fatter wallets during the heyday.
The first thing I would expect of Jerry Brown is an internal investigation of the wealthier communities.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 10:06 am
Just sent to the usual recipients:
Dear Town of Atherton representatives and employees,
On Thursday, August 5, 2010, at approximately 1:15 p.m. EDT, I spoke to the Dr. Henry Villareal, Dean of Student Services, Admissions & Records at College of San Mateo. This conversation was the followup to my request that Dr. Villareal personally research the attendance and/or degree information on Michael Charles Wasmann, Town of Atherton Building Official. As I have neither the birthdate nor the social security number of Mr. Wasmann (and I have no desire for this information), I was unable to utilize the customary procedures for obtaining this information. Dr. Villareal gave me the following information about Michael Charles Wasmann:
Attended the following:
Fall Semester 1982: 1 class: Building Code Interpretation: completed with passing grade
Fall Semester 1983: 1 class: Accounting Procedures: withdrew
Fall Semester 1996: Building 740: Mechanical Code: received passing grade
Spring Semester 1997: Building 720: Electrical Inspections: received passing grade
That was all Dr. Villareal could find. I asked Dr. Villareal to specifically go back and check for the years 1969-1971, including whether any degree was granted to Michael Charles Wasmann.
[Portion removed. Spokeswoman Barbara Christensen of the San Mateo County Community College District confirmed on Aug. 20 that, after Ms. Sweidy posted her comment, the district searched again for records of Mr. Wasmann's attendance at the College of San Mateo, and found that he had attended the college from fall 1968 to fall 1972. He received no degree or certificate, she said.]
This is a demand that this matter be fully and completed investigated. Further, this is a demand that Mr. Wasmann immediately be relieved of his duties pending the outcome of this investigation. Let me be clear, regardless of the outcome of your investigation, Michael Charles Wasmann is not now and never was qualified to hold any position in the Town of Atherton's Building Department. The question that remains is just how unqualified he actually is and just how serious the culpability of those who put him in a position to do great harm to me and my family, as well as the entire community.
Your immediate attention to this urgent matter is expected.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 10:30 am
Amazing, simply amazing. This is quite a story and I hope The Almanac will pick up on it.
If Mr. Wasmann was unqualified to perform his work, there are a lot of very expensive homes in Atherton at risk. The potential financial liability for the town could be breathtaking.
As I said previously, fasten your seat belts, Atherton... it's going to be a VERY bumpy ride. Everyone is going to pay for this incompetence from your elected officials. And you can't say you weren't warned...
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:41 am
This is what happens when developers control the city council.
Ms. Sweidy: I hope you don't actually think the town is going to do anything about this. You need only look to the Hood debacle to know that the folks running your town only want to bury the truth as deeply as they can. It seems they have used the Police department in the past to do their dirty work, so my advice to you is to be very, very careful.
Posted by questions, big questions, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Aug 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm
Other important questions: Who promoted Wasmann? And how was it that Wasmann, with the approval of the city manager no doubt, was able to promote an underling who had threatened a colleague in the past? And what are Cittadini's credentials? How many more rocks need to be turned over in this town?
Posted by Tipof theIceberg, a resident of another community, on Aug 10, 2010 at 11:21 am
Follow the money, Ms Sweidy. Where are the employment applications?
Shredded yet? Look to who did the hiring and the salaries of the individuals involved in this matter. Bank accounts too. And please tell me-that with the affluence of Atherton, why in the world is the building department based in a trailer or what should have been a "temporary structure"... How about the relationships between the contractors involved in your matter? How many "jobs" did the building department "final" using victims as their experience base.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 8:32 am
Mr. Johns requested the following from Ms. DellaSanta, I joined this request:
"Please consider this to be a request for public records pursuant to the California Public Records Act.
Please provide copies of any writings in the possession of the Town that would demonstrate the Town performed a reasonable level of due diligence on Mr. Wasmann as a candidate for the position of Building Official prior to his appointment of that position in early 2007, including but not limited to documentation that the Town:
Verified Mr. Wasmann's prior employment history
Verification of Mr. Wasmann's education (any including college credit claimed by Mr. Wasmann)
Performance of reference checks
Please note that I do not intend to obtain any information of personally identifiable information or information that would be inconsistent with Mr. Wasmann's expectation of privacy."
On August 10, 2010, I received the following response from Ms. DellaSanta:
This message is in response to your Public Records Act request dated August 6, 2010 seeking the same information sought by Mr. Johns in an email dated July 29, 2010.
After a reasonable and diligent search of the Town's records, the Town has determined that it does not have any documentation responsive to your or Mr. Johns' request. Even if the Town possessed any potentially responsive documentation, personnel or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act. (See Government Code section 6254(c).) Accordingly, the information sought would be exempt from disclosure as any such records would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Theresa N. DellaSanta
Deputy City Clerk
I immediately responded:
Once again, I am requesting that you stop practicing law without a license. Mr. Johns has already explained to you that the Town of Atherton, with the sanction of a Judge, disclosed the same records for him, despite his objections. It was held that he had no such privacy rights, being a "public figure."
Well, Mr. Wasmann, the Town of Atherton Building Official, is equally, if not more, a public figure. (In fact, he is getting more and more public every day.) Nevertheless, let us move past that issue.
Mr. Johns requested:
'Please provide copies of any writings in the possession of the Town that would demonstrate the Town performed a reasonable level of due diligence on Mr. Wasmann as a candidate for the position of Building Official prior to his appointment of that position in early 2007, including but not limited to documentation that the Town:
Verified Mr. Wasmann's prior employment history
Verification of Mr. Wasmann's education (any including college credit claimed by Mr. Wasmann)
Performance of reference checks
Please note that I do not intend to obtain any information of personally identifiable information or information that would be inconsistent with Mr. Wasmann's expectation of privacy.'
'After a reasonable and diligent search of the Town's records, the Town has determined that it does not have any documentation responsive to your or Mr. Johns' request.'
Thank you for this admission. It will be very useful in our lawsuit against the Town of Atherton. I believe that this constitutes gross negligence, or reckless disregard for health and safety, or perhaps some other cause of action that I cannot even get my head around because this admission can only be met with extreme incredulity.
I am now making the following, slightly different, request:
Please consider this to be a request for public records pursuant to the California Public Records Act.
Please provide copies of any writings in the possession of the Town that would demonstrate the Town performed a reasonable (or any) level of due diligence on Mr. Wasmann when he was first hired by the Town of Atherton, on or about 1996, or any time thereafter, including but not limited to documentation that the Town:
- Verified Mr. Wasmann's prior employment history;
- Verified Mr. Wasmann's education (any including attendance or college credit claimed by Mr. Wasmann); and
- Performed reference checks.
Please note that I do not intend to obtain any information of personally identifiable information or information that would be inconsistent with Mr. Wasmann's expectation of privacy."
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 6:34 pm
I still am curious why Ms Sweidy has not sought recourse against her Architect and Engineers, all of whom have a far higher responsibility to address errors and omissions in the project than the building inspector. If you have sought recourse and it was not successful, why is that? You have dragged a man's reputation through the mud in a public forum, but have not actually explained why your project team presumably screwed up so badly but are not on the hook, or the subject of so much wrath.
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm
Atherton Taxpayer, you need to speak with the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress about getting laws changed about civil liability if you feel they are unfair. Right now, these laws fully support Ms. Sweidy's claims against the inspections performed by the Town of Atherton. I offered Arthur Anderson's role in Enron as an example of these laws at work.
As an aside, I don't believe her Architect or Engineer are/were alleged to be at fault. The problem was not with how her home was designed, but rather how it was built. She has claimed against the builder, and the Town of Atherton for not inspecting properly.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:23 pm
If one reads the cross complaint you will find Ms. Sweidy is sueing her architect, engineer, soils engineer (who apparently really isn't) as well as her contractor. And it sounds as though she will soon be sueing the city. The architect, engineer and soils engineer have responsibility for design problems, which based upon the cross complaint there were numerous issues. The contractor is responsible for properly constructing the structure per the plans and code. When they are unclear or in conflict the contractor is responsible for requesting clarification. The building department is responsible for inspecting the work of the contractor to confirm compliance with the plans. If the building department did a poor job of this, they are negligent. The building department is also responsible for reviewing plans and engineering for proposed structures to confirm they are in conformance with the requirements of the building code. If they didn't do a proper job, they are negligent.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 11, 2010 at 7:26 pm
For the record, Mr. Buckheit is wrong about who we are suing. Now to the substance of your email.
Stop calling yourself "Atherton Taxpayer;" we are all taxpayers. This is insufferably presumptuous. In addition, I paid hefty permitting fees for my home building project. And now I am forced to pay additional permitting fees for the repair work that is necessary because the Town failed the first time around. Those in power refuse to waive these additional fees that are the result of their failure. This is the very definition of "insult to injury."
As I have said before, reputation is what people believe; I am publishing the truth about Michael Charles Wasmann, the man who performed and passed most of the inspections on my home when my house should not have passed inspection because it does not comply with Building Codes. Based on my investigation to date, there is no evidence that Mr. Wasmann is qualified to hold any position in the Town of Atherton Building Department. I tried to handle this in a discreet manner with those in charge. Those in charge prefer to do things "the hard way."
Regarding my claims against other parties, I have already answered this question, repeatedly. My claims against the Town are in addition to my lawsuit. There is more than enough wrongdoing to go around. As I said in my post above on Aug 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm, here is a link to our Fourth Amended Cross Complaint.
My claims against the private individuals and companies responsible are being handled where they should be, in the Superior Court. But citizens have no such clear cut recourse with the government. Further, citizens are forced to sit idly by while those who hurt them also hurt their neighbors. So I took my issues with the Town to the Fourth Estate, the press. Actually, the press came to me. And I told my story because nothing else worked.
And if you cannot see that I am trying to protect the health and safety of my fellow citizens --- to stop others from suffering what we have endured --- then you need to visit an optometrist.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:47 am
I cannot help but feel a sense of outrage at the comments of "Atherton Taxpayer".
This person posting anonymously protests that Ms. Sweidy has unfairly tarnished the reputation of Mr. Wasmann.
I object to "Atherton Taxpayer's characterization of Ms. Sweidy's questioning of Mr. Wasmann's conduct and of his qualifications.
Ms. Sweidy's concerns over Mr. Wasmann's character, conduct and qualifications is a matter of legitimate public concern. Without overstating matters, whether or not Mr. Wasmann was qualified to do his job, whether he effectively discharged his duties is a matter of life and death.
Atherton Taxpayer's rebuttal to Ms. Sweidy's comments smacks of denial, obfuscation and misdirection.
I have news for Atherton Taxpayer. That old dog won't hunt.
Mr. Wasmann was right in the middle of the misconduct I discovered when, at the direction of the City Council, and in violation of the Council-Manager form of government, the City Council directed me to audit the Building Department.
His involvement in three of the four properties I identified as a result of my Phase III Audit of the Building Department which were red tagged is well documented.
Mr. Wasmann's involvement is also documented in three properties I have brought to the attention of the Town of Atherton, subsequently wherein life safety is at stake.
In one of these properties, a basement with dimensions large enough to play a game of 1/2 court basketball and with room for seating of a dozen spectators does not have adequate egress in case of a fire. To allow this 12,000 square foot fire trap to have been built is unconscionable. This single example is arguably a case of criminal negligence on the part of the Atherton Building Department.
In this particular instance, Mr. Wasmann rationalized the lack of adequate egress by calling the basement a storage closet.
In retaliation for my audit, I have had my own name dragged through the mud.
If you do a search on the terms "Johns", "Porn" "Bullying" "Atherton" here is the first item will show up using Google's search engine:
If you do a similar search using Yahoo, you will get a similar result. However you will have to agree not to have your search results filtered to prevent the display of offensive content.
As far as dragging one's name through the mud. Charles Marsala was only too willing to do the same to me and at the outset of the personnel investigation that was initiated on me that, two years later and after $400,000 in legal bills, the Town of Atherton was forced to repudiate.
Mr. Marsala's attacks upon me began the day I was suspended and continued well after I was fired as is documented in the links below:
One of the properties I have complained to the Town about which constitutes a threat to life safety is 33 Emilie. The home of Charles Marsala.
I have alerted the Town to the fact that Mr. Wasmann allowed Mr. Marsala to alter the interior of his home to include the relocation of load bearing walls without performing any structural calculations. Worse yet, Mr. Wasmann redrew Mr. Marsala's hand drawn plans and conducted the inspection himself.
Do you see a pattern here Atherton Taxpayer? Is it any wonder Mr. Marsala was so relentless in savaging my reputation?
If Mr. Wasmann escapes jail after Ms. Sweidy is through with her investigation, it will be a miracle, for Mr. Wasmann that is.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:24 am
Just sent to the usual recipients:
Town of Atherton representatives and employees,
I received an email yesterday from Mr. Joseph Aiello saying that he would no longer inspect our property because of "changes" I had made. He further informed me that CSG Consultants Inc. will be conducting our inspections, starting yesterday.
His characterization of my actions is inaccurate. And since when are Town of Atherton employees allowed to decide which taxpaying residents they will service?
Nevertheless, the Building Department in the Town of Atherton has been publicly discredited. For years on end now, it has been the subject of repeated allegations, scandals and investigations, including my most recent discoveries about its Building Official, Michael Charles Wasmann. So, frankly, this is actually a blessing in disguise.
Since responding to Mr. Aiello last night, my husband and I have reflected and discussed. Further, Mr. Michael Loomis of CSG Consultants Inc. conducted his first inspection on our property, in the presence of our Household Manager, S. Christina Spanoghe. (We are out of town.) After his departure, Ms. Spanoghe researched Mr. Loomis's background. He is licensed as both a civil engineer and a structural engineer. And he is ICC certified as:
Building Plans Examiner CBC
California Building Plans Examiner
California Residential Building Inspector.
Ms. Spanoghe described him as "very thorough."
Based on the above (without personal observation or investigation), it appears that Mr. Loomis is the type of qualified individual who should be working for the Town of Atherton. So, despite the fact that Town of Atherton employees should not be allowed to pick and choose their projects and the fact that Town of Atherton authorized leaders/spokespeople should be communicating Town of Atherton policy or decisions to residents, the Town of Atherton actually did the right thing here. But because those in charge operate without moral compass or rudder, they did it in the wrong way, for the wrong reason. Nevertheless, this is the proper course of action. It is the proper course of action for the Town of Atherton Building Department and us, because we have a conflict of interest. It is the right course of action for Mr. Aiello, because he was put in an impossible situation. It is the right course of action.
In closing, I want to acknowledge and thank Mr. Joseph Aiello for the competence, personality, humor, class, intelligence, organizational skills, enthusiasm, expertise, determination, patience, passion, compassion and spirit he brought to our project during his time at Casa de Buena Esperanza. We are better for having worked with him, and we hope that he weathers the upcoming scrutiny, standing on solid ground, to continue bringing Atherton homes his very own special brand of construction magic. He is a delightful human being. And I sincerely hope that our paths cross again.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:44 am
This is actually a great demonstration of the value of outsourcing.
I suggest that the Town outsource ALL of its inspections and do it on a competitive bidding basis with clear certification requirements. This will reduce the Town staff and eliminate any future pension funding requirements for those positions.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:30 am
Put this sick old man of a town government under the conservatorship of Jon Buckheit. With my serving Mr. Buckheit as his forensic accountant will help him find enough cost savings to do away with the Parcel Tax and still have money to finance the Town's capital improvement program.
We'll issue an RFP for both building and police services. We'll also streamline the top-heavy administration.
All at will employees will be given their pink slips, with an invitation to apply for their old jobs, provided they can provide evidence that they meet the minimum qualifications for the job.
Just think about it for a moment. An ethical, transparent and efficient town government. It could very well happen under a new city council.
People like Elizabeth Lewis and Jerry Carlson would probably be unhappy at the Town turning over a new leaf. But hey you can't please everyone.
Posted by John P. Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm
I nominate Kimberly Sweidy for City Attorney. Just think of it for a moment. With Jon Buckheit as City Manager, Kimberly Sweidy as City Attorney we'd be able to jetison what will most cerainly become two of the most expensive lawsuits in the Town's history. In exchange we'll get a Town government we can be proud of.
I'll continue to offer my bean counting skills and public sector background to show these two folks where to cut the fat.
Then again we can continue to let Jerry Gruber run the show under the supervision of Jerry Carlson and Elizabeth Lewis while Atherton goes the way of Vallejo and Half Moon Bay (towards bankruptcy that is).
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:48 pm
One of them, Ms. Sweidy has already answered your question. For her to run for Council while she is suing the Town would be unethical. I have spoken with Mr. Buckheit. I will not speak for him other than to say he is a man who has high ethical standards as well and appears to share Kimberly's sentiment.
As far as your statement that the three of us are beginning to "tarnish your victim image"
I don't believe Mr. Buckheit or Ms. Sweidy view themselves as victims, nor do they attach themselves to a feeling of victimization.
These two fine people have been violated by the very government they placed in a position of trust.
Jon Buckheit dialed 911 for help, only to find himself in County Jail. Worse, Buckheit learned that the police had falsified a report to conceal his false imprisonment.
Kimberly Sweidy called the Building Department to obtain verification that her home was built to current building code standards. She now finds herself having to completely rebuild her foundation because of carelessness on the part of the Building Department.
Rather than sit back and spew sour grapes, they are fighting back. Knowing the two of them as I have come to, I can tell you that my lawsuit with the Town (which I won therefore no qualify as a victim). these two people are more accomplished than me and they have more resources at their disposal.
If the Town were smart, it would waive the white flag, offer Mr. Buckheit the position of City Manager, Ms. Sweidy her choice of the position of City or Attorney or Building Official (plus a reasonable compensation for their trouble) in exchange for a release of liability.
I'm sure that they could manage on their own, but I would be more than lend a hand. After all, like the old City Manager used to say, I know where the bodies are buried.
Call me crazy but I think it is people like Buckheit and Sweidy who ought to be running this asylum, not people like Gruber and Furth.
Posted by Atherton Taxpayer, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:09 pm
So let's add as a requirement to run for Council, or to have a position in the town administration that you have at one time sued the Town! Then all three of you will be amongst a very few "qualified" individuals to serve.
Ms Sweidy, I am truly sorry you are having the difficulty that you are having with your home. Using the press as your forum to extend your legal cases seems to me a bit unfair. As an attorney you understand the limitations of the legal process, and the harm that can be caused when it is moved into the court of public opinion. T
Mr. Johns, your offers of help for our community seem a bit too much like stalking to me. Every post you make is about you and your horrible treatment by the hands of the Town, and yet you choose to continue the relationship. There must be other towns with a need for a crack auditor like yourself.
Mr. Buckheit, we now learn (from Mr Johns) that it was you who called 911, that the police responded, and for whatever reason based on their interaction with you and whoever it was that you felt threatened enough by to call for help, decided you were the correct person to remove from the scene- not unreasonable in a domestic disturbance call. It sounds like the police responded to the call, made a decision to remove you from the scene. What happened next?
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm
Here's what happened next Atherton taxpayer:
1. I was arrested, not just removed from my own home.
2. I was prohibited from returning to my own home for a week.
3. The district attorney refused to file criminal charges against me as obviously the police report was unsupportable in court.
4. The Town of Atherton refused to provide me with a copy of the police report for almost nine months.
5. Despite enormous efforts on my part to resolve the issue amicably, I was stonewalled and had to file a lawsuit to get the police report.
6. The Town then gave me the police report and paid $8,000 in legal fees to me due to its improper withholding.
7. I discovered that in the police report, charges had been falsified, presumably the rationale for the Town refusing to turn it over.
8. I received the fourth finding of factual innocence in the history of San Mateo County. (The arrest is expunged and the legal standard is you have to prove you did not commit the crime, which if you stop and think about it, is almost impossible unless it's a situation in which you were incorrectly identified as being somewhere and you can prove you weren't).
9. An Atherton police officer admitted during the factual innocence proceeding that the report had been falsified.
10. The judge said he was deeply disturbed about the actions of the police three times during the rendering of his decision.
11. I filed a lawsuit for damages.
12. You have chosen to define all of this as "not unreasonable". We obviously disagree.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm
clearly you have no experience in law enforcement. I do. In domestic dispute situations where no violence or allegations of violence have occured the police cannot forcibly remove anyone from their home. They can persuade, cajole or convince one of the parties to leave, but they can't force anyone to leave.
If there is an allegation of violence with no evidence of violence (cuts, bruises, etc) the "victim" can make a citizens arrest in which case the police are required to take the perpetrator into custody.
In the case where there is evidence of violence with or without an allegation of violence the police are required to arrest the suspected perpetrator of the violence.
It is my understanding that Mr. Buckheit was attacked by his significant other. Thus he was the VICTIM in the situation. In all my years in law enforcement I never arrested the victim unless they were also a perpetrator (it's required if both have injuries). I also didn't make up facts and falsify reports so that I could arrest someone, ESPECIALLY the VICTIM of domestic violence. What was done to Mr. Buckheit by the APD is unconscionable. What is even worse is that after an APD officer admitted under oath that the police report was falsified, the DA has done nothing.
If you can't trust your police department who can you trust. Just hope you never have to call the police to your home.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 14, 2010 at 1:10 am
You have said:
"It was my understanding that Johns was offered his job again as part
of his settlement with the City of Atherton and subsequently declined".
You are incorrect. The settlement was that I was reinstated with back pay from the date of my termnination. In exchange for my resignation, the City Council, by resolution, gave me a certificate of commendation.
The town insisted that I agree never again to seek employment with the Town. This is a concession I refused to grant. The Town Council, faced with the prospect of being prosecuted both civilly and criminally for its violation of the Brown Act, relented and withdrew this requirement.
You have spoken of my repeated postings as "therapy". You and others have also intimated that I, Ms. Sweidy and Mr. Buckheit should just "move on". You have criticized Ms. Sweidy's efforts to call attention to the life threatening conditions to which she has been subject to as a part of the Building Department's neglect as improper.
I could not disagree with you more. I say Ms. Sweidy should shout from the mountaintop the news of the incompetence and neglect of the Building Department. Ms. Sweidy should tell everybody and anybody using all available channels of communication available.
What Ms. Sweidy has to say, may just save a life.
In a pseudo dignified and understated Thomas has engaged in the same kind of deception and denial that is so pervasive it has become part of the Town's culture.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 15, 2010 at 2:25 am
Let's put this to rest.
1) I am not qualified to serve as the City Attorney or the Building Official. My greatest strength is a painful awareness of what I am not competent or qualified to do. This awareness drives me to constantly seek assistance and guidance from those with skills that I lack. Such is the journey of life-long learning.
2) Sovereign immunity is still quite alive and well. It is entirely unclear whether and how we will be able to sue the Town of Atherton Building Department for its myriad of failures, including failure to conduct proper plan reviews (including soils reports, geotechnical plan and structural plan) and failure to conduct proper inspections. We are researching this issue zealously. And one thing is entirely clear, this is going to be a rocky and expensive road. And in the end, sovereign immunity may very well prevail on this issue.
That is why the Town of Atherton has stonewalled. They believe that sovereign immunity puts them "above the law." They believe that the law will not hold them accountable. And they may very well be right.
In the meantime, we have a Building Official who is utterly unqualified, who failed at my home, continuing to run the Department responsible for the homes currently being constructed in Atherton. My neighbors are receiving the same "fine" service that I received. And I cannot sit idly by while they are harmed. My issues are not just about me, they are about the enforcement of the Building Code, Title 24, meant to protect the health and safety of the public. I had no choice but to bring this matter to the public, through the only forum available to me, the press. This is exactly what the First Amendment, including freedom of the press, is for. Which brings me to my third point.
3) Thomas, I am utterly uninterested in how long you have been in this area and how many names you can rattle off. In fact, that only serves to make you all the more culpable for allowing such debauchery to prevail in your community that should, by all measures, be a role model for the rest of the country. Unlike you, I was not raised in affluence ..... quite the opposite. I do not have your "refined sensibilities" about what is "done" and "not done." But I do have a working man's sense of right and wrong and standing up and being counted. I do understand that "with great power comes great responsibility," and the mind and talents that providence bestowed on me are quite powerful. I will use them for the public good. I am putting it all on the line, subjecting myself and my husband to all manner of public criticism, because we believe in this righteous cause.
For the record, I left the practice of law in 1989. After two years of paying "experienced" attorneys to represent me in my construction litigation case (and getting absolutely nowhere except a lighter wallet), I was forced to come out of "retirement" and represent myself. The legal industry being plagued by the same problems as the construction industry (which is why I left it), I am now representing myself and acting as my own general contractor. I am utterly unqualified to do so. In fact, the only people more unqualified than me are the "licensed professionals." My actual job title is supposed to be full-time homemaker and mother. I never realized the "homemaker" part would be so literal, and I would have to "make" my own "home."
In short, Thomas with no last name, you are the problem --- with your squeamish sensibilities and fearful demeanor. Anyone who does not cower through life is "unprofessional" and "sandbox mentality." To (again) quote Barry Goldwater: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 16, 2010 at 7:30 am
Thomas' note reminds me of a boy, who on the morning of his birthday is cleaning out a stall. When asked why he is acting so cheerfully in performing such a menial task on the morning of his birthday, no less, the boy replies "there's gotta be a pony in here somewhere!"
Thomas suggests a class action lawsuit may be in order. Thomas questions why other people with experiences similar to Kimberly's have not come forward.
The answer to the question Thomas poses is quite simple really. The defects Kimberly suffered and other Atherton homeowners have suffered are hidden defects. Others have not come forward because they are unaware of the problems in the building of their homes. The problems have, quite literally speaking, been covered up.
This leads me to the pony, figuratively speaking. There could very well be a class action lawsuit in the works when others hear what I have to say. There are others who have been similarly affected. There are others who, like Kimberly, face dangers that are life threatening.
When people hear what I and my former colleague have to say about the wonton disregard for human life that Mr. Wasmann and his predecessor Mr. Hood exhibited, they will be shocked and they will be outraged.
When people hear what I have to say there might just very well be a class action lawsuit.
One other point worth noting: I am not bringing these matters to the City and to the public belatedly. I have in effect shouted from the mountaintop before. However when I was a pariah, nobody would listen. Now that I have been called a “hero” (undeservedly so mind you) perhaps people will not only hear what I have to say, but they will listen.
Finally, my compliments to Thomas, I disagree with what he has to say, and heatedly so on occasion. However he writes well and he is thoughtful.
It is people like Thomas and it is writing like his that cause me to be glued to this forum like some are glued to soap operas during their lunch hour.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 16, 2010 at 7:42 am
Apparently, you are incapable of reading the posts and the links (not to mention "Yahooing" our names). You are just another person who believes that Freedom of Speech means freedom to make up the facts. At this point, you as so off base that it is just comical.
"After reading your reply, it becomes evident that you lack the means to litigate and apparently the contacts to take the case pro bono."
This is hilarious.
"your story is no different than tens of thousands of other homeowners trying to do things on the cheap"
This is beyond hilarious!
Thanks for the Monday morning humor. Always a good thing.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:30 am
First, anyone who spends ten million dollars on their home hardly "lacks the means to litigage" as you suggest.
Second, lawyers don't do pro bono work for rich people. It's actually quite the opposite, Thomas - attorneys MAKE money from rich clients so they can help the less fortunate. Wronged Atherton homeowners are rich people in every sense of the word. They can afford to pay their own lawyers and don't need charity.
Finally, like a lot of homeowners, I'm not an expert in construction and engineering. It is for that reason that I depend on my architects, contractors and building inspectors for their expertise and judgement. Once Atherton residents discover that their building inspectors have been and still are frauds, these rich folks may have a very different attitude toward that leaning wall, poor drainage or cracked ceiling.
If I were an Atherton official, I would be VERY worried about Ms. Sweidy's revelations about unqualified people performing this work - work that citizens have paid a lot of money for! - and seeing those facts becoming known in their community. Litigation is a blood sport for the rich. Think about how many homes have been inspected and certified by these unqualified "inspectors!" The potential liability for the town could be enormous.
Perhaps most astonishing of all is finding out that the Atherton Town Council apparently sees fit to give a proclamation to this fraud!
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 16, 2010 at 12:25 pm
For the record:
1) Ten million doesn't begin to cover it.
2) My husband and I do not believe that litigation is a good way to resolve disputes. We are actually the defendants in our construction litigation case, not the plaintiffs. However, we will bring suit when forced.
3) Some members of the public believe that wealthy people are inherently evil, not entitled to justice, and deserve to be cheated and defrauded.
4) Some members of the public believe that we are "cheap" (or perhaps so poor that we need pro bono legal services) and therefore deserve to be cheated and defrauded.
5) Fortunately, three and four cancel each other out, I believe, at least in "Eureka" (Sy Fy/Sci Fi Channel (68)). Or maybe three and four are a restatement of the proposition that everyone should be cheated and defrauded, it's always the victim's fault, and we are a nation where laissez-faire capitalism (in which we believe) now means that lying, cheating and stealing (in which we do not believe) are also acceptable --- resulting in victory for the most morally bankrupt.
6) Some members of the public believe that "due diligence" requires every individual to become an expert in every other line of work, including professions that take years of college study and often require licensing. These same members of the public believe that diligent individuals, by being proactive in overseeing the work of others, can actually detect and correct complex mistakes, outside their own fields of study/experience, before they happen, thereby preventing what happened to us.
7) Fortunately, the law (and sane, rational people) do not hold their neighbors, rich or poor or in-between, to any such impossible standards. They recognize that society would fall apart, including all contractual relationships, if every individual was indeed "his brother's keeper" in this dysfunctional and omniscient manner.
8) No matter how old I get (50 this year), people still shock me. I really do not understand how there can be two sides to the argument that the people hired by the Town of Atherton must be qualified to perform their jobs, must have the proper education and experience, must have their C.V. and credentials verified by those hiring them, and must behave ethically. How is this debatable?
Posted by R.GORDON, a resident of another community, on Aug 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm R.GORDON is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
How I understand your frustration and feeling you are being unjustly treated and mostly not helped by many. The building departments for this county need to be investigated for corruption one way or another, and I believe it has been going on for several months and a reason you have not heard some prominent voices speak up recently.
I can only hope that you do not use any local law firms and go to San Francisco, which has its own problems in a different way with the law and lawyers.
There is a firm with offices there who won a $400 million dollar suit against the largest bank and around the same amount against two more. I refrain from using their names here, but you can look up the (400 million)award which will lead you to their names. They are in the City and in New York and Chicago. And most of all, not married to the ways of the Peninsula and how it functions.
Posted by One of many Atherton Homeowners, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 16, 2010 at 10:29 pm
Thomas mentioned he assumes there are many Atherton homeowners who have had similar problems and Johns mentioned most probably don't realize they have problems because they've been covered up.
We're a case in point for both of these posters.
Some of the problems in the home we built in 2005 were obvious and some, such as the electrical issues, were "covered up" and only became illuminated (pun intended) when breakers started to trip in one part of the house when we turned light on in another. Due to this problem, we haven't used these particular lights for 5 years - I was too exhausted and financially tapped out from fighting with our contractor to try to get to the bottom of this particular electrical issue and issues which later became evident as we tried to use a number of outdoor outlets with no luck.
Although the electrical problems I mention above have noticeable symptoms, after reading about all the incompetence in the building department (which doesn't surprise me - my gut told me things were right there back in 2004 when we were getting our permits but I couldn't put my finger on anything), I now wonder how many other electrical problems exist in our house that don't currently have noticeable symptoms.
Are the town's inspectors supposed to look at and approve all the wiring? Are they supposed to test all the outlets? I'm not asking facetiously - I'd really like to know.
And, if anyone knows of a really good, ethical electrician - one who can diagnose problems but isn't going to pull the "auto-shop you don't anything about cars, so I'm going to make a bunch of expensive problems up" scam, please let me know.
I'm not looking to get in on a class action lawsuit, although we had other problems the town should have caught and didn't, but I love the idea of giving pink slips to all town-employees, and only hiring those back that are qualified, have a decent work ethic, and personal ethics.
And, way to go Kimberly and all others who are fighting for what they believe in - responsible, ethical, transparent government and businesses. Please continue to bring these issues into the public forum.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 17, 2010 at 9:22 am
I am grateful to "One of many homeowners" for the post above.
For any who are interested in holding those accountable for negligence please take note of the fact that Mike Cully, acting as an independent contractor and employee of CSG consultants, did quite a number of final inspections at the very time my Phase III audit report was being conducted and shortly after the issuance of said report.
As such I respectfully submit that Cully should have taken a hard look at every single one of the projects he was signing off on.
I have reason to believe that he did not. I have reason to believe that he saw his job to entail concealing the sins of the Building Department's past.
CSG was required to have $2 million in errors and omissions insurance. CSG to the best of my knowledge did not have the status of soveriegn immunity conferred upon it by the Town.
What this means is that CSG could very well be held civilly liable.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm
On March 28, 2007, Michael Cully performed the Final Inspection and Sign Off on our property. I was there (only for that one, none of the prior), and while I didn't know it at the time, it was a total joke. (Think "tour at Hearst castle.") A review of our Building Permit Inspection Record for the Main House reveals that "MCW," Michael Charles Wasmann, conducted virtually all the prior inspections on our property, either alone or in conjunction with another individual, whose scribbled initials are illegible.
Why would a different individual, Michael Cully, come in at the 11th hour and perform the Final Inspection when, as far as I can tell, he had nothing to do with our complicated project for the three+ years it was being built. Does this even sound right?
All this time, I thought Michael Cully was an employee of the Town of Atherton at that time. Now Mr. Johns informs us that Mr. Cully was employed by CSG Consultants.
Posted by bread crumb trail, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm
T.C. was the female "independent contractor" inspector (always very tight with Lois), who was always assigned the "iffy" inspection approvals so the department had an "out" on accountability- should it become necessary. She could take the heat, disappear, and keep it off the rest of Department and then reappear later.
Tim Wolfe was another disposable independent contractor, hired for the plan checking stage, who's function was to take the blame for projects like (and perhaps specifically for) the Kings house, which was always going to be the test stretch of how far "special" customers felt they could bend the rules. He was blamed for the King's project even though he never signed off on it because that is what he was there for. He was very badly used and then thrown away.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 17, 2010 at 3:24 pm
In my experience it is not unusual at times for a project to be finaled by a different inspector than the primary inspector (the larger the city the more often this happens). A final inpsection essentially consists of verification that all electrical fixtures, switches, plugs, etc are in place, appliances are installed, plumbing is set and a variety of other finishing items are complete. It also includes verification that all items that were required to be signed off prior to final have been. Verification is made by inspecting the job card. The inspector has to assume that if another inspector signed it off that inspector did a proper inspection and was satisfied that the work was correct.
Posted by One of may homeowners, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2010 at 12:15 am
Mr. Johns, or anyone else who has a good level of understanding of how thorough inspections, particularly electrical inspections, are required to be:
Can you direct me to a document that explains what inspectors are required to do - not just a checklist of general areas, but how thorough inspections are required to be?
And/or can you briefly explain in this forum what homeowners should expect? For instance, is the inspector required to test out all the outlets and lights to insure they're functional? Is the inspector required to make sure that wires that could cause interference aren't laid too close together? Are they responsible for ensuring wires run parallel, or if they need to cross that they cross at 90 degree angles, etc.?
Thank you Mr. Johns, and others, for your continued persistence in trying to clean up our town!
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2010 at 7:47 am
One of many:
There is nothing in the code that I am aware of that deals with electrical wires crossing at right angles or being too close to telecommunications wiring. Telecommunications wiring generally goes in after electrical wiring and it is the responsibility of that contractor to put that wiring in, in such a way that interference is avoided.
The code does deal with having too many electrical wires too close together and with how they should be run through walls and ceilings.
There is no source on line that I am aware of that has the information you want. You would need to purchase a National Electrical Code book to get really detailed information.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm
Despite last night's City Council Agenda Item #3, Proclamation presented to Building Official Mike Wasmann, no Mike Wasmann, no proclamation and no explanation. Just another event in Atherton that "never happened."
Given that the Mayor signs proclamations, I suspect that Mayor McKeithen is the reason that we were spared from having to witness yet another debacle turn into an obscenity.
One more example of Mayor McKeithen practicing civility and virtue.
And speaking of an event that happened and then didn't, I refer you to last night's City Council Agenda Item #26, Classification Study. Coincidentally, the August 18 Agenda Packet Items 25 through 27 contains a very interesting document at pages 98-100 (of 174) entitled: Planning Administrator/Building Official:
This Job Description document is dated October 2000. It outlines the job duties and requirements for the Building Official. While I have not studied it in depth (operating on four hours sleep after the meeting went until midnight last night), it appears some thought went into its creation.
From October 2000 until February 2007, when Mike Wasmann was promoted to Building Official, the Town of Atherton lost all sense and all organizational memory. Perhaps those in charge were so busy "spiting" Mr. Johns that they could focus on nothing else. Perhaps they were rewarding Mr. Wasmann for his allegiance to Mr. Hood. But this much is clear. In October of 2000, the position of Building Official required clear and measurable education, experience and qualifications. By February of 2007, it never happened. And suddenly a man with three community college courses and no verified or measured industry experience is promoted to this crucial position. This is a man who doesn't even meet the requirements of a Building Inspector/Plan Checker (pages 62-64).
Posted by Renee Batti, news editor of The Almanac, on Aug 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm Renee Batti is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
On Aug. 9, Kimberly Sweidy posted comments based on information she had received from a College of San Mateo official. The official said he could find no record that Mike Wasmann had attended the college from 1969 to 1971, as stated on his resume.
Spokeswoman Barbara Christensen of the San Mateo County Community College District said today that, after Ms. Sweidy posted the information, the school searched again for Mr. Wasmann's records, and found that he had attended CSM from the fall of 1968 to the fall of 1972. He received no degrees or certificates from the college, she said.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm
When I could get no information from utilizing the standard inquiry process of the College of San Mateo, I called the Office of the President. I was referred to Dr. Henry Villareal, who I spoke to three times. I asked him to repeatedly check their records, including their archives. I gave him exact spellings and dates. He confirmed he had both the birthdate and the social security number of Mr. Wasmann. I made it very clear to Dr. Villareal that Mr. Wasmann was the Building Official for the Town of Atherton, a public official. I made it clear that Mr. Wasmann was responsible for the health and safety of the home-builders in Atherton. In this capacity, it was crucial to know the education of Mr. Wasmann. I fully disclosed all information about myself and why I needed this information about Mr. Wasmann, including my attempts to have this information verified by his employer, The Town of Atherton. The Town of Atherton refused, even though they are in a much better position to verify Mr. Wasmann's educational background than am I.
All of this happened after my story was published, as you can see from the dates in my post.
After I reveal my findings, apparently, Spokeswoman Barbara Christensen contacts either Ms. Batti or someone at the Almanac (but most certainly not me). Suddenly Mr. Wasmann's records have been located. He attended the College of San Mateo for 4.5 school years, but did not earn even a two year degree. Apparently, the professional reporter hearing this information did not inquire about which classes Mr. Wasmann enrolled in and which classes Mr. Wasmann passed.
I assure you, I will be contacting Ms. Christensen first thing Monday morning to follow up on Ms. Batti's post. I acted with extreme due diligence in my reporting, as is apparent from its content. That is my character. I will continue to do so, including posting any information that I can obtain from Ms. Christensen.
I appreciate Ms. Christensen and Ms. Batti supplying this corrected information. The truth should always be told. Period. However, I do not take responsibility for the fact that far too many people cannot perform their jobs. I do not take responsibility for the fact that far too many people cannot properly respond to reasonable inquiry. I do not take responsibility for the fact that people refuse to answer reasonable questions about their credentials.
When I practiced law, my degrees and license were on my office wall. Copies of these documents, as well as my complete college transcripts and letters of reference, are still in my resume binder. That is how professional people conduct themselves. And the position of Building Official for the Town of Atherton is most certainly a professional position.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm
Re: Enough Said......Well no actually there is more that could be said....
Ms Sweidy, I fully understand your problem and your anger...I understand why Mr. Johns is angry...But two things occur to me.....
Ms. Sweidy you now know that what you posted about Mr. Wassmans attendance at San Mateo College was incorrect...I do not care how many degrees you have posted on your wall...APLOGISE....That is not something you learn as a "professional" its something you learn at your mothers knee.......
The idiot who was not seen videotaping this little "skit" that believes he has knowledge of the public records act and that one a request is made I must be complied with immediately..Is just that, an "Idiot". He should read the rest of the public records act. It specifically deals with compliance
This little video only proves that Gruber is not stupid. He knows when he is being ambushed......
Do not forget who pays when the Town is sued.................Its the homeowners.
Lest Messers Sweidy and Johns think I disagree with their claims, let me state again that I do not........I support their efforts, but this seemed a little "tacky" to me.....
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm
What Interested may not know is that Mr. Johns already did make a written request and waited the ten-day period. Although s/he may not know this, it is probably ascertainable from the video as if Mr. Gruber had no forewarning of the in-person request, why was the script prepared?
The Public Records Act states (Gov't Code §6253(a)): "Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided."
There is a ten-day review process for members of the public who wish to petition the agency for *copies* of the records.
It seemed a bit confusing to me also, and even if you want to read some common sense into the law, it is as follows:
1. Request for copies get a ten-day period during which time the agency can scan for exemptions.
2. Requests for inspection are immediate (the written word of the statute)…unless, perhaps, there is a need to segregate exempt records from the records requested for inspection.
In this case, there are no possible exemptions for the records in question. Additionally, the ten-day written request was already made.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm
Mr. Buckheit is certainly no idiot...But his belief that the public records act requires immediate compliance is idiotic.....He would probably acknowledge that himself.
Your comment about Wassmans attendance at San Mateo was wrong. A decent person would apologize.....
Your childish little comment about the spelling of the word aplogise might be clever. But like the rest of your sad story incorrect. In English the word can be spelled with both a Z and an S.....You should try English....Its quite an interesting language.
Frankly I can understand why you have such a problem with people.....or perhaps its the other way around......It must be awful to be such a victim.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm
Immediate inspection is required. Requests for copies require a ten day waiting period. For heaven's sake, it's not that complicated.
I will not apologize to Mr. Wasmann, as I did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. I am not omniscient, nor do I claim to be. Mr. Wasmann is not qualified to hold any position in the Building Department. No evidence has been produced to the contrary. Given that Mr. Wasmann repeatedly violated provisions of the California Building Code, Title 24, the penalty for which is jail time and a fine for each occurrence, and he likely committed hundreds of occurrences, why is it that you are not demanding that he apologize to Atherton homeowners whose homes he inspected incorrectly?
APLOGISE (go back and read what you wrote) IS NOT a word. I am not talking about the interchangeable "s" and "z," I am talking about the fact that the word is "apologize" (American English) or "apologise" (British English).
What problems do I have with "people?" Enlighten me, Oh Wise One. Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit seem to have no problem with me. If men of their caliber find me palatable, I will die a happy woman. And I am not now nor will I ever be a "victim" (at least not in the way you're using the word).
You clearly have an unbridled contempt for professionals. (It must be difficult for you in this area.) You even seek to turn my professionalism and accomplishments against me, while I clearly state that the position of Building Official is a professional position, implying that it is as "lofty" as that of any other professional (and, in my opinion, more "lofty" than attorneys, for whom I have no particular fondness).
Or perhaps it's not "professionals" you have contempt for, it's just people who know the difference between "its" and "it's."
Good etiquette dictates that we spare our neighbors any more of this. If you're compelled to have the last word, give me a call. I'm "in the book."
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 6:19 pm
This video is appalling! Perhaps more than any written post, this video demonstrates the depth of the problems at Atherton Town Hall.
I recently attended an Atherton Town Council meeting and I have to confess that I was impressed with the collegiality and general atmosphere of the session. However, after watching this video, I can see the Town Council meeting was little more than a grand performance for public consumption. The Town Manager, who seems to be a nice gentleman, appears to be totally incompetent... and that is probably at the root of Atherton's problem.
It is truly shocking that a well paid, experienced Town Manager like Mr. Gruber could not answer the most simple question posed by Mr. Johns and would only read and re-read a short script that was obviously provided to him by the Town Attorney. For any town staff member, let alone the Town Manager, to treat a tax payer who is making a legitimate request and asking legitimate questions, this is totally unacceptable.
Members of Atherton's Town Council and Atherton citizen should be appalled.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 6:24 pm
By the way, my very first response to Ms. Batti's written clarification about Mr. Wasmann's academic record was similar to Ms. Sweidy's. Is there a government official who knows how to do their damn job?
This mistake was not Ms. Sweidy's. It was a mistake by the college official and it is also appalling that they could not get it right.
I can't wait to hear Ms. Sweidy's report after she speaks with the college official who provided her with erroneous information. Maybe he'll have a script from Ms. Furth, too.
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm
This mistake was not Ms. Sweidy's. It was a mistake by the college official and it is also appalling that they could not get it right.
So lets see if I have this correct.
Your receive some information that later turns out to be wrong. But you repeat that information in public....AND ITS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO APOLOGISE FOR SHARING THAT WRONG INFORMATION.
You know there is a lot wrong with Atherton, and some fine people working hard to change it. But if a person cannot acknowledge when they have made a mistake and apologise for it....Are they any better than what they are seeking to replace.....
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm
".....Hell my signature is on some of them......"
if Ms. Sweidy's plans are a deficient as she claims WHY did you sign off on them?
The only appology Ms. Sweidy owes Mr. Wassman is for relying on an incompetent person at CSM. The appology would be "I'm sorry I put information out there from an idiot, but even based on the follow up information I received, it is clear you are still in NO WAY qualified to be a Building Official. Either per the law or the published City of Atherton requirements for a Building Official."
Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Aug 21, 2010 at 7:56 pm
I do not mean to be disrespectful.....but you really need to do some research.
The issuance of a permit is not "signing off" on anything. It is an authorization to conduct a certain activity.......
"The only appology Ms. Sweidy owes Mr. Wassman is for relying on an incompetent person at CSM. The appology would be "I'm sorry I put information out there from an idiot, but even based on the follow up information I received, it is clear you are still in NO WAY qualified to be a Building Official. Either per the law or the published City of Atherton requirements for a Building Official."
Well I think that speaks for itself.....................
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm
Can I be any more clear ..... you are the problem!
1) I don't care whether you like my methods. The Town left me no alternative. I will use every legitimate means to accomplish good for this community. Being "nice," doesn't accomplish anything here. That is a proven fact. Overthrowing a tyrannical regime cannot be done by debutantes.
2) Why do you think that it is appropriate to tell me that you don't care for my personality? Did I hire you to be my life coach? This is an all-too-common problem in our society, people erroneously believing that others actually care about their opinion followed by unsolicited advice. Let me be blunt, here, because this town, in fact, the entire country, is suffering from this ailment. You have absolutely no business making this type of comment to anyone. Period. No one. It is, pure and simple, an attempt at bullying another person. When you are not on firm moral or rational ground, you resort to "I don't like you," like an immature child. Now, let's add to your transgression that you are directing your remark to an intelligent, accomplished, principled woman of means. (Yahoo! my name if you haven't figured it out.) I am not conducting a junior high popularity contest. I do not suffer from neurotically low self-esteem. My body is not injected with chemicals because I am incapable of aging gracefully. Rather, I passed all my youthful beauty, such as it was, on to my two lovely daughters and endeavored to enter into the Age of Wisdom. I am good with that. I know who I am. And I am most certainly not looking for your approval. It is entirely obnoxious, arrogant and low class to opine on my personality. And I most certainly do not respect the opinion of people who are so misguided as to believe that it is appropriate, in a public forum, no less, to tell anyone that they "don't care for their personality." Why are you compelled to make these statements? What are you trying to accomplish? Stop It. Someone needed to tell you this a long time ago. In fact, you should have learned this at your mother's knee.
3) When did you try to tell me anything before? People on this forum are going to get the wrong idea that you and I have some sort of off-line communications. That is most certainly not true.
4) How nice to learn that you have seen every one of my permits. That means that Mr. Johns and I are correct. The system can be accessed. That is good news indeed.
5) Your signature is on some of them!? Well that is not good news for you. And it is disturbing to me that yet another Town of Atherton employee is demonstrating a concerning failure to engage in reality-based thinking. In other words, you are coming across very badly here. I have to be perfectly honest with you about that. Because I sense that you are on some life precipice right now, and I do want to steer you in the right direction. This is one of those days that you will remember all your life, the day when we separate the men from the boys. And you somehow know this. Choose wisely.
6) I have already made a written records request for all the documents on every permit on my property. If those running the Town choose to violate the law by withholding them, then nothing I say, nothing you say, is going to stop them.
7) You are trying to help me? You are actually a little scary. You start by insulting all of us, replete with bad grammar and misused and misspelled words including Messers (the word is Messrs, and is the plural of Mr. --- in case it's not visibly clear from the video --- I am a woman). You demand that I apologize to a man who damaged Atherton home building residents to the tune of millions of dollars. The statements you want me to apologize for were responsibly obtained from a Dean at the College of San Mateo. And the recent revelations, if true, do not at all change the fact that Mr. Wasmann is still unqualified to hold any position in the Building Department. You call Mr. Buckheit an idiot, and then you retract that statement without apology to Mr. Buckheit. Now you are implying that you have information that can assist us, but you are unwilling to go public, speak frankly, reveal your identity, etc. In short, you are unwilling to "do the right thing" (which Mr. Johns most certainly did).
8) "ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME NOW.......I am not your enemy.....I am trying to help you........" Suddenly you go all Woodward and Bernstein on us, acting out some Deep Throat fantasy you hold about yourself. You are, quite simply, another poorly educated Town of Atherton employee who is engaged in a conspiracy to defraud homeowners. You lecture people and call people names. Utilizing the theory, "The best defense is an offense," you accuse innocent people, victims, in fact, of wrongdoing, when you and Mr. Wasmann are the wrongdoers. You have the unmitigated gall and audacity to use the word "decent," when it is clear that you have not earned the privilege of invoking that word.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm
I do not believe I am alone in stating that your contribution to this dialogue is of tremendous value.
I say this not to be patronizing. I disagree with much of what you have said. However saying something, getting your postion out there and exlaining your reasoning enhances the understanding of all, allies and adversaries alike.
I also appreciate the fact that you stake out a position as opposed to the errant, anonymously posted cheap shot that comes along.
With that preface I will tell you that Gruber was in no way whatsover ambushed. He knew I would be in and that I would insist upon seeing records that the Town had refused to produce but was obligated to allow me to inspect.
You seem to object to the notion that one can show up without notice to demand access to public records. But this is how the public records act is written.
You should also know that Mr. Buckheit was present with a video camera in hand because he feared for my safety. He was not there to embarrass Mr. Gruber. He was there to document any abusive behavior toward me by the Police Department.
With what the Police Department put me through before, Mr. Buckheit's concerns for my safety were legitimate, I believe. He documented my interaction with Gruber so that the Town could not falsely claim that I had "gone postal" as the Police Department alleged I was about to do in an attempt to justify having five of its officers detain me on the morning of August 29th, 2007.
I also gather from your post that you feel as though the reputation of a good man has been tarnished. I gather that you object to Ms. Sweidy's continued pressing on the issue of Mr. Wasmann's qualifications.
I can see why you would take umbrage at this. Mr. Wasmann was an 11 year veteran of the Department before being promoted to Buidling Official. Clearly, there was a consensus in Town, (myself included) that he had earned the title of Building Official. He had paid his dues. His time had come.
Mike Wasmann was also very well liked by colleagues and customers alike.
I personally do not take issue with Mr. Wasmann's credentials. However, during the past few years I have come to question his character. It seems to me as though he looked the other way far too frequently. This is my beef with him so to speak.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 5:46 am
The video shows the public the real Mr. Gruber.
Why is he not allowing anyone access to Public Information.?
What has changed?
What is he afraid of?
Who is telling him to act in this manner?
The prepared written speech which did not answer the question....Wow
Something has changed in the Town of Atherton. Several years ago I was asked to do some research on a property located in Atherton. I went to the building department twice and was given full access to the information including the electronic files.
If asked I am willing to make that statement under oath.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 8:22 am
What has changed?
For years, they were hiding in plain sight. They were not doing their jobs, not qualified or able to do their jobs, and no one knew this. After all, most of the time, the people interacting with them, the people in the construction industry, are no more qualified or capable than they are. It is a classic case of the blind leading the helpless. Educated homeowners virtually never interact with the Building Department during construction. I didn't. I thought the people I hired were more capable to do that than I was. (I was wrong, by the way.)
Now that they have been "found out," they "dummy up." To be perfectly honest, I think that they really do not understand that they are incompetent. They do not possess the necessary self-awareness. Ironically, the below article was sent to me by my incompetent general contractor.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 8:44 am
I used the term "signed off" in the vernacular. I am perfectly aware that a building permit is authorization to build. I am also aware that plans are submitted to the building department for review and approval prior to authorization to build. I am also aware that any plan checker with an intellect above a squid reviews the structural plans, details and calculations to confirm first that they conform with the requirements of the building code and two that they are accurate. I am also aware that plans going through the city of Atherton were often "pencil whipped," in other words "signed off on" without a proper and thorough review.
So, Interested, if your signature is on those plans, in what capacity? Are or were you a plan checker or just a clerk stamping plans at intake and signing them back out to the contractor at issuance.
You see interested I don't need to do any research. I have built in Atherton and have had interaction with the building department there as well as many other building departments. Among builders Atherton's building department has become a joke.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 8:47 am
I appreciate Mr. Johns clarifications because it was important for me to know that (1) Mr. Gruber knew you were coming and what you would be requesting (and reveals why Ms. Furth's script was so precise) and (2) Mr. Buckheit was videotaping to prevent claims by police about untrue behavior (and given the Atherton police history with both Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit this was VERY prudent).
But Mr. Johns is also correct that you don't have to give notice when you come into city hall for a public records request. I recently walked into the San Mateo County Tax Assessor department and asked to see some of my tax records. The information was provided to me within seconds. Like other citizens in that same office, we gave these government employees no prior notice and yet the staff did not hesitate to provide the information.
Mr. Gruber's behavior and refusal to answer the most basic questions was appalling and should be shocking to the citizens of Atherton who pay his salary. Atherton can do far better.
Posted by Chrissy Spanoghe, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 9:13 am
"Interested" and all others,
I'd like to point out that the forum is making an assumption that Mr. Villareal gave incorrect information to Ms. Sweidy regarding Mr. Wasmann's attendance at College of San Mateo.
Has anyone thought of the possibility that Ms. Christensen has given incorrect information to the Alamanac News regarding Mr. Wasmann's attendance at College of San Mateo?
In truth, we cannot rely 100% on either one's information - have any of us seen Mr. Wasmann's College of San Mateo enrollment documents? Have we any real proof of his education history?
We can only really know what we have done our own due diligence on. I would like to remind the forum that unless you do your research, you don't really know what is true. Opinions and hearsay do not constitute fact.
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 9:40 am
@Joseph Davis: To be honest, I'm surprised no one has yet accused us of illegally taping Mr. Gruber. Of course, the law in California makes taping (audio or video) illegal if the party one is taping is unaware of it (clearly not applicable in this case) and has a reasonable expectation of privacy (I would argue clearly not applicable in this case either, though moot since Mr. Gruber knew at all times he was being taped).
@Chrissy Spanoghe: My thoughts exactly when reading the correction by Ms. Batti, but my feeling is that readers can judge for themselves why this building official is no longer employed by the Town of Atherton and if the proximity of that decision (whoever made it) has anything to do with the allegations being made by Ms. Sweidy. Any way you cut it, he has no college degree.
Interested has also stated above that: "Do not forget who pays when the Town is sued.................Its the homeowners." and I have heard variations on that theme designed to intimidate me as well from pursuit of redress of my grievances. Telling people who are wronged to suck it up and take it is a fine idea for many people.…until they find themselves in that unfortunate position and then invariably come to a different conclusion. Anyway, a prominent real estate developer is now suing the Town of Atherton over less than $300,000 of "road impact fees" (after having made millions developing real estate in Atherton, which I do not begrudge at all). He also lives here. I support his right to use the legal system to seek justice, but I'd like to know which of his supporters (or supportees) who have besmirched my reputation for seeking redress of grievances will now hold him to the same standard.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 9:57 am
City manager Mr. Gruber as seen on the video denying a citizen/resident access to public records is going to cost the residents of Atherton. He also has refused to respond/take action to my 4 personal/public requests to identify the Atherton Police Officer who committed a felony against Mr. Jon Buckheit. (not on video)
The residents need to get involved, do their own due diligence. Replace the City Manager.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:19 am
Citizens of Atherton should consider this videotaped incident very carefully.
Suppose you needed a copy of your permit - maybe for an insurance claim or tax filing - and you innocently sauntered off to your Town Hall to get a copy.
After paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes and permit fees to your town, how would you feel if you were greeted by Mr. Gruber and he smilingly refused to answer any of your questions and would only read that statement to you?
The Atherton Town Council should have some very tough questions for its staff - in a PUBLIC session.
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:48 am
The only wrong thing about this video is the very rude and aggressive behavior by John Johns (who has no right to be making public records requests as he doesn't even live in Atherton), Kimberly Sweidy, and John Buckheit, the latter two individuals being troubled and disgruntled. Mr. Gruber did his job: protect the town. He should be commended.
Posted by Chrissy Spanoghe, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:56 am
"Different View" -
Please note this excerpt form the California Public Records Act:
"6252. As used in this chapter:
* (a) "State agency" means every state office, officer, department, division, bureau, board, and commission or other state body or agency, except those agencies provided for in Article IV (except Section 20 thereof) or Article VI of the California Constitution.
* (b) "Local agency" includes a county; city, whether general law or chartered; city and county; school district; municipal corporation; district; political subdivision; or any board, commission or agency thereof; other local public agency; or nonprofit entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency pursuant to subdivisions (c) and (d) of Section 54952.
* (c) "Person" includes any natural person, corporation, partnership, limited liability company, firm, or association.
* (d) "Public agency" means any state or local agency.
* (e) "Public records" includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. "Public records" in the custody of, or maintained by, the Governor's office means any writing prepared on or after January 6, 1975.
* (f) "Writing" means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and every other means of recording upon any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, and other documents.
* (g) "Member of the public" means any person, except a member, agent, officer, or employee of a federal, state, or local agency acting within the scope of his or her membership, agency, office, or employment. "
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm
You work for Sweidy, why don't you admit it?
And, you don't take issue with me that all three of these clowns were rude and aggressive with Jerry Gruber because you can't. The video speaks for itself.
If Sweidy or Buckheit have a legal gripe with Atherton, they need to take it up in court (or better yet, try to work it out like normal human beings). Barging into Mr. Gruber's office and videotaping a confrontation they create is not the way to win any support.
Posted by Chrissy Spanoghe, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm
Yes, I do work with Ms. Sweidy. I do not refuse to admit that. It is a fact. I also have no fear in using my actual name on this forum, unlike you.
I don't take issue with your opinion of the three persons mentioned, because it is just that - your opinion. You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to disagree with you wholeheartedly. But I really have no interest in your opinion. I'd rather assist the forum in keeping its facts straight.
I must note that no person barged into Mr. Gruber's office. This event took place in the Town headquarters, not Mr. Gruber's office. Also the Town was well aware that these persons were coming in at 8:30am on Friday to request these already requested documents.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm
I take it as the highest compliment that you think I am a "clown" and "rude and aggressive."
You believe that Government Employees should be violating the very laws that were passed to prevent exactly what is on this video. You believe that Mr. Gruber is "protecting the town" by violating the law. You believe that Mr. Gruber should be "commended" for violating the law.
The only value you can offer me is your unmitigated disapproval, because anything else from you would be an indictment of my character.
Thank you for this compliment. And yes, Chrissy does work for me. Unlike the Town of Atherton, I am committed to recruiting educated, rational individuals with the highest ethical standards. It has been my honor and my privilege to know and work with Chrissy over these last five years. Young woman such as Chrissy are the hope for our future.
Posted by Chrissy Spanoghe, a resident of another community, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm
Here are some more excerpts from the California Public Records Act that you may find useful in your discussion.
* (a) The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.
* (b) A response to a written request for inspection or copies of public records that includes a determination that the request is denied, in whole or in part, shall be in writing.
6257.5. This chapter does not allow limitations on access to a public record based upon the purpose for which the record is being requested, if the record is otherwise subject to disclosure.
6258. Any person may institute proceedings for injunctive or declarative relief or writ of mandate in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce his or her right to inspect or to receive a copy of any public record or class of public records under this chapter. The times for responsive pleadings and for hearings in these proceedings shall be set by the judge of the court with the object of securing a decision as to these matters at the earliest possible time. "
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm
And where does it say in the act, Ms. Spanoghe, that the Town of Atherton needs to let John Johns access its computer system, or allow John Johns to train its employees on outdated software? What is the public interest served by disclosing to John Johns the permit records of every resident or former resident of the Town of Atherton? And, isn't it true that John Johns works for John Buckheit, just as you work for Kimberly Sweidy? If you want to assit the forum in keeping its facts straight, try not to selectively report just those facts that seem to assist your opinion!
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Different View -
It honestly doesn't matter who makes the request, but in this case, the request came from (or on behalf of) an Atherton resident and homeowner, Ms. Sweidy. MS. SWEIDY WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE AND SHE MADE THE REQUEST HERSELF. Surely you aren't objecting to a citizen of Atherton asking to see their own records, do you?
I watched the video. I don't think they were rude at all. Like most people who videotape themselves, this group appeared to be well aware that they were being recorded and, as such, were restrained (as was Mr. Gruber, who looked at the camera and smiled several times). The bottom line is that this was a legitimate request that occurs many times at the Town Hall counter every single day.
It is, however, quite interesting that you have repeated Mr. Gruber's scripted response - verbatum - that the Town of Atherton does not allowing outsiders to have access to its computer system and does not allow others to train its employees on outdated software? Not only did Ms. Sweidy, Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit never ask those questions, they went out of their way to assure Mr. Gruber that they did not want to do that. Mr. Gruber could only smile, because he wasn't supplied answers to any other questions.
These are PUBLIC records and EVERYONE has the right to see them. I guess that's why the form they are asked to complete is called a "PUBLIC records request." They shouldn't have to go to court to get these records, as you suggested.
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm
Who says these are public records, POGO? I don't see the public relevance of a former town employee on a vendetta looking up everyone's building records.
As for Ms. Sweidy (and Mr. Buckheit), as I said, they are just suing their neighbors and asking their neighbors to pay for these shenanigans. I know they have lots of money. Many of us would be content with just a fraction of what they have. Sadly, they are not, and need to wreak havoc on this town in order to feel like they've gotten revenge for whatever perceived slights have occurred against them. And they've brought (or perhaps a better word would be "bought") Johns and Spanoghe along for the ride.
This isn't a public records request, it's a public vendetta request. These two are disgruntled. You need to face this fact, and it's reasonable for Mr. Gruber to deal with disgruntled individuals in a different way than he does with people who do not have a (malicious) agenda behind every move they make. He did his job, and he did it well. He's protecting the town. And if he's not as sophisticated, brilliant and manipulative as Buckheit, and doesn't come across smooth as silk on the video, all the better. I don't want someone like that as town manager. I just want a normal, decent person.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm
The greatest "metaphysical injustice" in a democratic republic is that improvements to society made by the brave, the intelligent, the principled and the hard-working are enjoyed by those members of society who neither wanted nor deserved those improvements, and, indeed, may very well have fought tooth and nail against them.
In other words, Different View, you daily enjoy fruits of labor created by your betters. That is what is irking you. You resent your betters.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm
Different view stated, "Who says these are public records, POGO? I don't see the public relevance of a former town employee on a vendetta looking up everyone's building records."
Actually, THE LAW says that permits are public records. Permits are not confidential and are available to ANY member of the public FOR ANY REASON. In fact, you probably know that permits are usually required to be posted IN PUBLIC during the contruction phase of a project. After that, they are available to anyone who comes to Town Hall (no appointment needed) and asks to see them. The reason for this access should be obvious to you - anyone should be able to check to see if a neighbor's construction is/was properly permitted... including the homeowner.
And neither Mr. Gruber nor any other employee is authorized to deny access to PUBLIC documents. It's one of those inconvenient details of a having a democracy.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
are you dense or simply being obtuse? All city records are public records and can be accessed by ANY member of the public. I personally have accessed construction documents for buildings I was renovating so I knew ahead of time what some of the covered construction details were. I've done this in numerous towns INCLUDING ATHERTON. I am not a resident of Atherton, yet I was given access. So your argumant falls flat.
You really need to read the law that has been cited. It is quite clear what public records are and who can access them and the very limited reasons for denying such a request.
And before you ask, I don't work for any of these people.
The city is stonewalling. Why? So they can destroy more building department records? It wouldn't be the first time. A writ of mandate is coming and it will cost the city dearly to defend against it and ultimately they will lose. An utter waste of your money. I've said it before - stonewalling is the refuge of fools and thieves.
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm
I don't think Different View's comments deserve an answer because they are really just the results of fanaticism. They are emotional responses that don't vary based on what the true facts are. For example, Different View thinks it's wrong to sue the government, ever, without regard to the circumstances. (I wonder what Different View thinks about the current PPG lawsuit). Different View accuses me of not trying to work things out, but the actual facts are that I spent nine months trying to communicate with officials from the Town of Atherton and was told they wouldn't speak with me. I also have a judge's decision that fully supports the legitimacy of my claims. I happen to know Ms. Sweidy also tried to communicate with town officials to no avail.
The point of public records, Different View, is that if there is a subjective definition that you, or Mr. Gruber, or Ms. Furth get to put on them, what happens when someone you like or support wants to get one and is told to pound sand? The law is the law, and gets to apply to everyone.
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Sweidy: I picked the wrong contractors to work on my home, thinking I could be my own general contractor and save money. I screwed up, picked the wrong contractors, they did a lousy job, and the Town of Atherton should pay for my mistake.
Buckheit: I picked the wrong girlfriend. She falsely accused me of doing something I didn't do, and the cops took action based on her false statements. The Town of Atherton should pay for my mistake and her lie.
These are very different things than the Town of Atherton admitting the road impact fee is ILLEGAL and then refusing to refund it because some of the council members have no integrity.
Again, Ms. Spanoghe, I don't work for anyone suing this town. I don't have a conflict of interest like you do. I don't need to tell you my employer. I will tell you it is not the Town of Atherton, anyone working for the Town of Atherton, and certainly not anyone suing the Town of Atherton.
Posted by Different View, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm
You're living in Fantasy Land, Johns. You left your job in Atherton three years ago. You were fired. The reinstatement/resignation/commendation was just smoke as part of a legal settlement because like your buddies Buckheit and Sweidy, you were suing this town and you were PAID TO GO AWAY. You haven't worked a day at this town in three years. Now I will give you one thing: whoever drafted that contract either didn't do it right, or the premise behind the settlement was wrong, because you're still here making trouble.
Ms. Sweidy has bragged about her accomplishments on this forum. She's an attorney. She has a lawsuit against the town. If she needs documents, she can get them through the appropriate subpoena process. Why in god's name do you need to burst into town hall with Sweidy and Buckheit to get records, other than to cause a ruckus? Seriously...why? At what point will you be able to move on with your life?
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2010 at 7:55 am
Different View - Change in organizations is often slow and painful. We should be thankful that Buckheit, Sweidy and Johns are willing to devote their time and effort to helping/pushing our Town to comply with the law - a not unreasonable change.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 23, 2010 at 9:12 am
If the Town's intention was to pay me to go away, it should hire a new attorney.
The town asked me to waive my right to reapply for employment in the future. I refused.
The Town backed down. It did so because the City Council broke the law when it met in secret and agreed to have me fired.
When the Finance Director or Assistant City Manager job becomes vacant I will compete for one of these two positions.
I am not interested in becoming City Manager. I think that job shoulkd be given to any number of extremely well qualified Atherton residents with time on his or hands and a desire to serve.
Gruber's days are numbered. He has let this Town government spiral out of control. Gruber knows his days are numbered. You can see it in his eyes on that video where he stonewalls (presumably under advice from Furth).
The lesson the Town should know by now because this sad story has played out publicly and frequently elsewhere.
The cover up is worse than the crime.
I hope and expect to be of service to a new city manager to help drain that swamp of a Town Government. I hope and expect that day will come soon.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2010 at 9:41 am
I just realized that my original Aug 9, 2010 at 10:06 am post has been edited. I object to these edits. I did not use any inappropriate language. I accurately reported dates and times. I accurately reported what I said. I accurately reported what was told to me by Dr. Villareal.
It is clear to me that there are far too many people in this country who cannot do their jobs (and far too many people defending them --- most likely the same group of people).
All of the following are still true and dispositive:
- I have no evidence that Ms. Christensen's information is more accurate than Dr. Villareal's (I have a call in to her office);
- Mr. Wasmann is still not qualified to hold any position in the Building Department;
- Mr. Wasmann is not ICC certified as a Building Official;
- Mr. Wasmann let his ICC certification for Building Inspector "inadvertently" lapse for three years, renewing it only upon inquiry by me; and
- Ms. Christensen's information contradicts the information on Mr. Wasmann's resume. Resume says 1969-1971. Christensen (according to Batti) says 1968-1972. Assuming, for argument's sake, that Christensen is correct, why would Wasmann lie? Because it is not impressive to have gone to a community college for 4.5 school years, much less without earning a two year degree. This looks particularly unimpressive given that the resume lists no job from 1968-1969. The first listed job is "Real Estate Appraiser and Loan Office" from 1970-1976. While the resume "flows" better than the information given by Christensen, flow does not trump truth (again assuming Christensen is correct).
My detractors repeatedly demand that I "take responsibility." But this is always in the context of taking responsibility for another person's actions. I should "take responsibility" for the fact that a slew of licensed professionals and tradespeople could not do their jobs. I should "take responsibility" for the fact that, allegedly, the Dean of Student Services did not provide me with correct information.
For the record, I am all about personal responsibility. I'm with you on that one. But personal responsibility is just that, responsibility for the actions of myself. I am not omniscient or omnipotent. Fortunately, the law (and sane, rational people) do not require this of me (or anyone).
So, it is time to direct your "angry cries" of "take responsibility" to the people who are actually screwing up. They are the ones who believe that it is appropriate to remove a post that indicates they gave out incorrect information. They are the ones who don't learn from their mistakes. They are the ones who desperately need to hear them. And while you're at it, direct a few of those angry cries of take responsibility back at yourself, because you most surely need them.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 23, 2010 at 11:00 am
Different view -
Public records are exactly that. They are available to the PUBLIC - and available without notice. That includes men and women, old and young, residents and non-residents. Even people without a shred of interest in the matter are considered part of the public.
Determining who gets to see public documents and who doesn't isn't the job of the Town Manager. I think even Mr. Gruber would disclaim that responsibility.
Your posts display a breathtaking amount of ignorance about civic affairs.
Posted by making a comment, a resident of another community, on Mar 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm
It sounds like the blame is with the soils engineer, regarding all of the additional foundation work that is having to be done after the fact. You would hope that the plan checkers would have enough experience to realize that what was prescribed in the soils report didn't match other foundation requirements in similar areas with similar soil conditions. What an unfortunate situation, I feel badly for you.