Atherton video remains online despite privacy complaint Atherton, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Aug 25, 2010 at 7:59 pm
A video of an Aug. 20 meeting in Atherton Town Hall between the city manager and three unhappy members of the public seeking public records remains on YouTube despite a privacy complaint by a town staff member and YouTube's threat to remove it.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 7:07 PM
Posted by Dust Up, a resident of another community, on Aug 25, 2010 at 7:59 pm
By law, I suppose Mr. Buckheit is well within his rights to record and publish the video.
But, there's nothing in the law that says YouTube has to host the video, especially if it violates their Terms of Service. The Almanac regularly deletes such material. Businesses get to decide the rules for posting content on their servers. Big deal!
So, why not move the video to another service with different, more agreeable TOS? And, if none of the services want to host the footage, set up a server and host it yourself!
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2010 at 8:18 pm
Let's take a look at what YouTube actually says about privacy. The video I took most definitely did not violate their terms of service. Ms. Brabenec was shown in passing in a public place (where she happens to work as a public employee) and was not identified in the video. Perhaps that's why it's still up. By the way, although I thank Ms. Batti for writing this article, she left out an important point. The Town of Atherton has a camera right in the room the video was taken. According to Ms. Batti, the camera is actually pointed to the area Ms. Brabenec sits as she manages the Atherton Post Office and cash register. Why is that not a violation of Ms. Brabenec's privacy?
Was this actually a privacy complaint by Ms. Brabanec, or was she somehow influenced to attempt to get the video removed by people who did have an interest in seeing it get taken down? You be the judge.
Every day, thousands of people come to YouTube to share videos and engage with one other. We want you to feel safe when you're on YouTube, which is why we encourage you to let us know if videos or comments on the site violate your privacy or sense of safety.
Keep in mind that there's a good likelihood that you might get caught on camera if you're in a public place - whether it be a security camera or a tourist who inadvertently captures your image in their video. If you're reporting a video that shows you in passing while you're in a public place, chances are that we won't take action on your complaint unless you're clearly identified or identifiable in the video. Also keep in mind that we're more likely to act on a privacy complaint about images or text that you have not posted previously on YouTube.
Last thing - if someone copies a video that you created or content to which you own the rights, file a copyright claim to have it removed from the site.
If at any time you feel as though you are in physical danger, please contact your local police for further assistance. YouTube will not do this for you.
Posted by Vidiot, a resident of another community, on Aug 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm
Who really believes that the clerical employee is behind this complaint to You Tube? Isn't it obvious that she is acting at the behest of the camera-shy Jerry Gruber? To resurrect a chant from the Vietnam era: The whole world is watching!
Posted by Ed, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:33 pm
I feel bad for poor Melanie getting drug into this.
Clearly Wilkerson and or Gruber have forced her involvement here, in yet another cowardly attempt to disengage themselves from their own very well compensated responsibilities.
It has been long known that Wilkerson has ordered that town staff have NO access to the Almanac on-line, but for what it's worth Melanie you have my sympathy in this matter, even if you are not allowed to read this post.
Posted by W.T., a resident of another community, on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:34 pm
I don't agree with most of these comments:
"The Town of Atherton has a camera right in the room the video was taken. According to Ms. Batti, the camera is actually pointed to the area Ms. Brabenec sits as she manages the Atherton Post Office and cash register. Why is that not a violation of Ms. Brabenec's privacy?"
Being in front of a security camera is not the same as having someone walk in off the street and start filming you, without any prior notice, then taking the footage and posting it on YouTube. Employees are aware of security cameras and know that footage doesn't get broadcasted for the world to see. Did you let people know ahead of time that you would be filming in the area? That you planned to post the video on YouTube? Give them a chance to opt out of being filmed?
"I feel bad for poor Melanie getting drug into this. Clearly Wilkerson and or Gruber have forced her involvement here,"
That's not clear to me at all. Her involvement here was forced by the trio showing up out of the blue and filming her without prior notice or consent.
"Melanie walked out and stood there knowing full well there was a video camera filming this dialogue. No Sympathy here..."
Do you really think she knew there was a camera filming when she walked into the room? Take another look at the start of the video and try again. The video starts just as she is walking into the room.
It looks to me like she's just doing her job. Maybe public officials are used to this sort of thing, but I can't imagine that clerical workers are. And seriously, what do you suggest she should have done? Shut down the post office?
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm
W.T., I have nothing against Melanie Brabenec and whenever I have gone to the post office, she has been very nice and helpful. The fact is, she's shown for about one second in this video and is not identified by name at all. If she felt apprehensive about being in it, for whatever reason, she simply could have e-mailed me and I would have edited out the initial part she's in. Instead, a request was made of YouTube to take the whole video down. Then, when I asked her and Jerry Gruber for clarification of what exactly she wanted done, I got no response. This might address the penultimate sentence of your post and might also be the reason some people have wondered if she was really the person who was the prime mover behind the complaint.
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:42 pm
Until Ms. Brabenec drew attention to herself, no one actually even noticed her. But now that she has allegedly complained, I went back and watched closely for her. What in the heck is she doing? It appears that she is tearing paper into little pieces. Furthermore, once you focus on the tearing, you can hear it even when she is not in the picture.
So, once again, I, as a taxpayer, have some concerns about an employee who knows that videotaping is going on, and doesn't have the presence of mind to refrain from tearing paper into pieces. Unless this is actually somehow part of her job, which would require at least some explanation. But no one cared until Ms. Brabenec drew attention to herself.
Posted by Dirty Taste, a resident of another community, on Aug 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm
There's something about this I find extremely distasteful. Am I alone....This trio do not impress me at all......Each has every reason to be angry.......But there's something very tacky about the way this went down....Just my opinion. I am sure Ms. Sweidy will will tell me the rror of my ways........
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 5:51 pm
Dirty Taste states:"tell me the error of my ways......."
Your error is in not understanding that getting entrenched bureaucracies to change often REQUIRES confrontation. While you may be personally uncomfortable with confrontation you should applaud those who have the courage to challenge the unsatisfactory and illegal status quo, for they also are serving you as a fellow citizen.
Posted by POGO, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:42 pm
Dirty Taste -
I get it and I understand your point. Confrontation is distasteful and that's why most people avoid it.
But you have to imagine the frustration of going to your own town hall to get copies of YOUR building permits and be greeted by the "big boss" who would only read a prepared three sentence script, was completely unresponsive and walked away. Are you kidding me? That doesn't bother you? I've gone to my town hall and received similar documents and it only took me fifteen minutes. I've gone to San Mateo County's tax assessor's office and received information in literally seconds. It's all public.
Forget that Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit were even involved - they were there to assist Ms. Sweidy because, like most people, Ms. Sweidy is probably not familar with the workings of her city hall. The important thing is that Ms. Sweidy was there to get copies of HER building permits. How can they deny her that?
As I've said before, the city administration MUST provide public documents to any member of the public who requests them. You don't have to be a resident, voter or even in the country legally - they MUST comply. Mr. Gruber did not provide Ms. Sweidy a copy of her own public document.
Mr. Gruber - or any other official in any government office - simply does not have the power to determine who will receive public documents and who won't.
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 9:10 pm
I received a very ironic and thought provoking e-mail today suggesting that I post this video to the Russian version of YouTube:
"I'd like to see you upload this most informative video to rutube,then publicize the new link. It turns out that Russia is the last bastion of free expression; there's no way an embarrassed city official can misuse copyright law to force you to conceal evidence of her idiocy from citizens who have every right to know about it."
Posted by Kimberly Sweidy, a resident of the Atherton: West of Alameda neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm
A True Tale:
My parents spent their adult lives in service to their community, as public school teachers in Fresno. I have so many admirable stories about how seriously they took their jobs ..... too many to even get started.
They were also very involved in the teachers' union. When I was in high school in the late 70s, the teachers' union went on strike for a number of demands. My parents walked the picket line, standing united with their fellow teachers. Some teachers did not strike. They went to work and continued to be paid. My parents made it clear to me that the strikers did not get paid while striking. They were doing it because in life, there are things more important than money. And doing the right thing is always more important than money. (Frankly, we probably could not afford for them to strike, though they never said so.)
As I watched some of the teachers stay out of the "line of fire," I posed the following question to my father, "If you win your demands, are all the teachers going to get what you're striking about, or only those who took the risk and went on strike." My father said, "All the teachers will receive the benefit." "That hardly seems fair," I replied, "they get the benefits without paying the price."
My father: "In life, the smartest, the most talented, the bravest, the most principled benefit everyone, deserving or not, when they set out to improve things."
I am fortunate that I have the money, time, brains, courage and talent to make a difference in this town. As my parents before me, I do this in service to my community.
I have been subjected to a number of critical (and even vile) postings, often using monikers. These have ranged from making fun of my hair (while implying that our fellow citizens, in the form of juries, are so unprincipled that they cannot rule based on fact but would instead rule based on hatred), saying I should be arrested, accusing me of being distasteful. When (not if) we clean up this embarrassment of a local government, as was the case with the non-striking teachers, all of you critical cowards will benefit. And I take great pleasure in knowing that what you really hate about me is that I can accomplish things that you can't even dare to dream about. That is clearly irritating the crap out of you, or you would never post such things to a total stranger.
Tonight I listened to one of the most powerful speakers I have ever heard in my life. Tears were streaming down my face by the end of the speech. The room jumped up in thunderous applause when she finished. (Emem Andrews, a brilliant Nigerian woman, was the elected GSP10 Class Speaker for the Closing Ceremonies at Singularity University located at Nasa Ames.)
Ms. Andrews ended with, "Go Forth and Be Significant."
Posted by v-train, a resident of the Portola Valley: Ladera neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm
Oh please Kimberly, or mesiah, give us a break. Whats next, you and MLK? You're in it for the $$ and now the new found fame. Have fun suing yourself (the town), but don't pretend you're doing it for anyone than yourself. What a significant load.
Posted by John P Johns, a resident of another community, on Aug 27, 2010 at 10:42 pm
Let me tell you a story. I had lunch with Mr. Henry Gardner, the Executive Director of the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Former City Manager for the City of Oakland. A highly respected African American gentleman in his mid 60's.
Henry grew up in the deep south, during the era of segregation and the turmoil that followed integration. When travelling through the south, he spoke of how he used to have to stop and ask people where there was a place to stay that allowed people of color to stay.
If he couldn't find a place he had to sleep in his car.
I told him about my experience, the raiding of my office by the police, my being accused of fraud, my nine month criminal investigation, the humiliation of making the front page as an accused thief, pervert and bully.
Henry, with his experience growing up as a black man in a white dominated south expressed a sentiment that I found moving. He remarked that my story sounded as though it came right out of the deep south.
This story is illustrative of my belief that if more people thought and acted like MLK, if people acted out of a sense of responsibility to their community and out of compassion and concern, rather than hatred and denial, Atherton would be much different and better place.
V train you go right ahead and bait people with anonymous postings venting anger and resentment(the kind of anger one expresses when one is found out)hoping that people like Jon Buckheit and Kimberly Sweidy will respond in kind thereby bringing discredit upon themselves.
Rather than obscure the truth you reveal who you are and the sight is not pretty.
Posted by v-train, a resident of the Portola Valley: Ladera neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:14 pm
I will not play your game as the knight in shinning armour. Kimberley aired her grandized opinion of herself in a public forum, and I commented on it. This is still america, is it not? Its what happens in a PUBLIC forum. You of all people should have learned its not nice to gang up on people.
We can work this out. If she feels like responding. If she does, maybe Im done, or maybe ill respond. Whatever.
And there is noway in heck I would put MY name out here for all to see, you'de have to be an idiot, and my parents would Kill me.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 29, 2010 at 7:50 am
Who ordered and authorized the script for City Manager Jerry Gruber?
The woman Kimberly Sweidy is a home owner in Atherton who pays approx. $70,000 per year in taxes. She has recently found out that she might have to rebuild her house. As you can imagine she is looking for answers from the Town of Atherton.
The man in red shirt and baseball hat is Mr. John Johns former Finance Director of Town of Atherton. He is looking at several properties including two current council members, which has been reported in the news recently.
The man videoing is Mr. Jon Buckheit an Atherton resident who was falsely arrested and denied a copy of his own police report from the Atherton Police Department.
City Manager Jerry Gruber behind the counter with script in hand.
This trio went to the Building Department across the street to have access to the permits which are always available to the public during business hours.
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2010 at 11:07 pm
Thomas, let me answer your questions.
1. The video was made so there would be no dispute about what actually happened. While police officers being called in could be one such example of a dispute about whether anything improper happening, other disputes more likely could have arisen (e.g., the Town of Atherton could have claimed it responded in a meaningful way to Mr. Johns and Ms. Sweidy, although in my view, it did not and this is clearly evidenced by the video). You argue that nothing as egregious as police officers being called in happened, yet you also foreclose the possibility that the video taping itself could have influenced that decision.
2. The video was posted to show the Town of Atherton stonewalling members of the public on public records requests. I imagine it could only embarrass Mr. Gruber if you agree with this assessment. I have done nothing to embarrass myself, as you indicate. The video has nothing to do with the Atherton Police Department, as you hypothesized.
This is the second time I know of that Atherton has broken the law viz a viz public records. First, they refused to give me a police report (the falsfied one you allude to) and after seven months of trying to engage in reasoned dialog to secure its release, they finally turned it over (as well as attorney's fees) after I was forced to file suit. Next, they refused to turn over the building permit records to Mr. Johns and Ms. Sweidy.
I understand some people, perhaps yourself, may not find this records stonewalling objectionable unless and until it happens to or affects you. On the other hand, others may feel that obeying the law is important whether or not they are personally affected, just on fairness grounds and, as Pericles said, "if you don't take an interest in government, it may take an interest in you".
Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 12:21 am
Thomas, I'm not sure how the quickness of my response indicates anything other than I spend too much time at a computer. I don't follow the correlation with your theory of vindication on the video, but I don't follow so much of what you say.
You are also not reading my previous post carefully. The purpose of the video being made was to prevent a rendition of the incident being made that was inaccurate. The purpose of the posting of the video was to document the stonewalling. The decision to make the video was made before Mr. Gruber's response; the decision to post it was made after. While I had some reason to believe that Mr. Gruber would not respond properly, I really had no idea in advance the response would be as outrageous as it was.
As to your notion that I am letting Mr. Johns and Ms. Sweidy fight my battle...this public records confrontation had nothing to do with my battle. It had to do with the Town of Atherton complying with public records requests about building permits. With my battle over the falsified police report, I need all the help I can get, but unfortunately only I can truly fight that battle as the Town of Atherton and the County of San Mateo (the proper entities to help me fight that battle) have refused to act on the admission in court by an Atherton Police Officer that the report was falsified. I am the plaintiff in federal court, not Mr. Johns or Ms. Sweidy. I am grateful that they have supported the principles behind my battle, as so many other thoughtful people have, who find such admissions as unacceptable as I do.
The notion that the Town of Atherton will properly document and act on abuses recorded by their own video surveillance – in the context of the non-action on the falsified police report – is frankly absurd.
I do not need anyone to "regain" my self respect, since I never lost it. You are being insulting to me by making such a statement while I have maintained my decorum with you, though you try to criticize Mr. Johns and Ms. Sweidy for being over the top?
Mr. Johns and Ms. Sweidy's posts have embarrassed no one but some incompetent and malevolent Atherton employees, at least the way I see it. And, if you and "everyone you speak with" distill the essence of police reports getting falsified, building inspections being done wrongfully by unqualified individuals, and public records requests being stonewalled, into the people doing the complaining rather than the wrongful acts, I'm not at all interested in what you think. I don't believe in style over substance, and don't take the opinions of people who do seriously.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 30, 2010 at 6:30 am
"V-Train, while speaking pointedly, speaks for all the residents that
I've spoken with that have followed this story and viewed the video."
How many people would that be?
How many residents have you spoken to that support Jerry Gruber committing a crime?
What the video shows is a crime by more than one person.
The script was for John Johns not Kimberly Sweidy.
The Town of Atherton has a History of Abusing residents and former Finance Directors. Gruber and others know/knew which properties Johns is interested in, they didn't think this little crime would be videoed and the surely didn't think it would be on YouTube.
Once Kimberly Sweidy arrived with Johns you would think the Mastermind would have realized the SCRIPT would not work.
Jerry Gruber and others have committed a crime, nothing new.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:10 am
it is because Atherton citizens like you and others of your ilk would rather stick your head in the sand and ignore the crimes being committed by your city government, that they continue to commit such crimes. You get the governance you deserve.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 30, 2010 at 8:23 am
Thomas states:" I come to expect that municipal,state and government
offices all have video surveillance if for no other reason to record
"abusive behavior" "
Jon Buckheit's video did record "Abusive Behavior" and it is up on YouTube for the world to see. Google Jerry Gruber, Atherton you will find it.
For some reason the Town of Atherton has not posted the video it has.
Critical thinking and understanding of basic Public Records requests should be part of a City Managers background. Gruber should know and be prepared for citizens wishing to view the permits in the building department during business hours. He should have back up employees to make this a smooth process at all times.
Who ordered Kelly Robertson to not do her job (that she is fully qualified to do) that day?
Posted by Threeblindmice, a resident of the Atherton: West Atherton neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm
Buckheit, Sweidy, Johns, don't you have anything constructive to do? And your friend Stogner who has nothing to do with Atherton. Why should anybody pay attention to him. All of you should get a life and leave the town employees alone so they can get to work.
Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 4:43 pm
It looks like there are two camps -
1) Those in support of the effort to request public records, and taking steps to request compliance, and
2) Those who want to ignore the issue, and expect the petitioners to do the same. This may depend on whether the goal is to receive the documents, or instead, to prove the city wrong.
Understood that any city should respond to requests with fairness and equality, guided by process and policy. Not sure how the city should respond where the objective to harass. It's hard to know all the history on this, but from the discussion, harassment does not look like the motivation.
A shame that some feel the need to be critical, through anonymity and personal attacks (fine to disagree, but why do this with ill-intent?).
I'm interested to know if there have been other documented attempts to request information, before, or after the videotape incident. Is there a process that the city has in place (a form, special steps, and a policy about turn-around time and fulfillment, etc.)?
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm
it doesn't matter what the REASON for the request of public records is. The fact is one(or many) was(were) made and they were stonewalled. This is clearly ILLEGAL. A citizen can go make a public records request EVERY DAY and the public entity is REQUIRED to produce those documents, EVERY DAY. It doesn't matter what the request is based upon, If it is a public record, the public has a right to see it. To deny a member of the public access to a public document is a CRIME. I have frequently accessed building department documents in my work as a contractor. I have never been denied access. This is clearly a crime on the part of the town of Atherton.
Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 7:31 pm
I can only agree with the point you make. That said, if it's not illegal to harass a city employee, it should be. I doubt that daily requests for public records (with the intent to harass and disrupt public work) is justified, or doesn't break some law. This is differnt than a contractor, citizen, or anyine with a valid need, making repeated and ongoing requests.
I'll say again, there's no indication in this forum that there is any intent to harass. Still curious to know if there is a formal request process, form, or guidelines from the city, and if this has been followed (before, or after, the videotape).
Posted by Central Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2010 at 8:57 pm
I won't make a judgement on whether a crime was committed. Like you, I was surprised that Mr.Gruber was not responsive to this request...but neither of us really know what happened before, or after the videotape.
If there is a lawsuit, the facts should lead the way.
Still interested to know if there is a formal request process and whether it is documented (or followed!).
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2010 at 7:25 am
even if the motive was to harass, the public has a right to access public documents. Every day and multiple times a day if they want. As long as that person is not abusive towards staff and follows whatever procedure is in place for requesting said access, the public entity MUST provide access to those documents. I do not know if Atherton has a specific procedure for accessing public documents. The times I have accessed building records I have simply walked in told them what I needed to look at and it was provided.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 31, 2010 at 9:28 am
(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. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.
(b) Except with respect to public records exempt from disclosure by express provisions of law, each state or local agency, upon a request for a copy of records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, shall make the records promptly available to any person upon payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable. Upon request, an exact copy shall be provided unless impracticable to do so.
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Aug 31, 2010 at 11:53 am
In the video Atherton Town Manager Jerry Gruber seems to be pressing the subject of Public Records Requests. This is not what Kimberly Sweidy or John Johns went there for. They wanted access to the Building Department Records. Which access was denied and an employee who was capable of accessing that information was there at that time and was ordered not to comply by directing Sweidy/Johns/Buckheit to Gruber.
Posted by BIG TIME, a resident of another community, on Sep 2, 2010 at 10:21 pm
This video is going BIG TIME. Yesterday it was featured on the popular Armstrong & Getty radio program and they did not have kind things to say about the way Mr. Gruber handled himself.
Almanac, have you ever asked Mr. Gruber, point blank, whether the woman, Kelly Robertson, could have accessed these records? He refused to answer in the video, and it seems to me that if she couldn't, why didn't he just say so??
Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community, on Sep 3, 2010 at 6:57 am
Big Time States:
"Almanac, have you ever asked Mr. Gruber, point blank, whether the woman, Kelly Robertson, could have accessed these records? He refused to answer in the video, and it seems to me that if she couldn't, why didn't he just say so??"
That is a GREAT question, the answer is YES she could have accessed these records.
Kelly Robertson was there, and she was able to do her job that day.
Almanac might want to interview her to find out who ordered her not to that day.