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A Call for Marsala to Resign from the Atherton City Council

Original post made by John P Johns, CPA, another community, on Apr 4, 2010

On Wednesday evening, April 4th at the special City Council meeting I will ask for three minutes to comment upon the allegations of misconduct by Councilman Marsala.

During these three minutes I will explain why I believe Councilman Marsala should resign immediately from the Atherton City Council.

For the benefit of those who are unable to attend the City Council meeting of April 7th, I will explain my reasons in this Town Square Forum.

I believe Marsala should resign for reasons that go beyond his dubious status as a resident in Town, for his role in attempting to discredit Ms. Carol Smith a former Atherton Planning Commission member now living in another community, or for his loan request from Mr. Jon Buckheit.

I believe Councilman Marsala should resign because he has abused his position as a member of the City Council. By doing so Councilman Marsala has violated the public trust.

Councilman Marsala was ruthless, reckless and relentless in his efforts to discredit me during my tenure as Atherton's Finance Director and shortly thereafter.

At the outset of my suspension and investigation in August 2007, Councilman Marsala accused me in confidential interviews with investigator hired by the Town of attempting to undermine former City Manager Jim Robinson and of failing to act properly on possible overcharges in building permit fees.

Councilman Marsala repeated these accusations to the Palo Alto Daily News and to this newspaper. By leveling such charges against me publicly, Councilman Marsala violated my liberty interest in public employment, a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Councilman Marsala, under the guise of a series of "freedom of information act requests", actively participated in my personnel investigation. Marsala had hoped to obtain support for the allegations he leveled against me privately and publicly and to find additional grounds for discipline against my person.

By actively taking part in my personnel investigation, Councilman Marsala violated the separation of powers inherent in the Council Manager form of government that is Atherton's governance structure.

Shortly after my termination, Councilman Marsala issued a press release to publish the results of his own so called "audit" of the Finance Department. In this press release, Councilman Marsala released documents that had been ordered sealed by the San Mateo County superior court. By doing so, Councilman Marsala acted in contempt of court.

Subsequent to my termination Councilman Marsala has shown residents in Atherton a copy of an e-mail purported to be from a woman responding to an ad placed in an unidentified internet dating site. Councilman Marsala used this e-mail to buttress his claim that I was responsible for subscription charges to various internet dating sites that had appeared on my credit card.

In his zeal to find me "guilty as charged" Councilman Marsala completely overlooked the fact that this e-mail was sent not only to me but to another Atherton employee along with a standing member of the City Council at the time. As such the e-mail was clearly nothing more than spam. By acting with reckless disregard for the truth, Councilman Marsala has, arguably engaged in defamation.

During the three minutes afforded to me I will hand over documentation in support of the allegations against Marsala that I have leveled in this post. I will present seven sets of copies, one for the public, one for each memmber of the City Council and one for the press.

Now that my work is done, I do hope that my former colleagues, the Council and residents whom I served will continue to press for open, honest and cost-effective government.

I believe the first step will be to remove those from public office who have proven either unwilling or unable to live up to the oath that has been administered to them upon assuming office.

I believe an essential first step in Atherton's recovery is to call for Marsala to step down from his position as a member of the City Council.

I sincerely hope that the City Council has the moral courage to adopt a resolution calling for Councilman Marsala's resolution.

Comments (31)

Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Is it just I, or does this appear to be a substantive and documented presentation?

I get the feeling someone has had attorney consultation on this one.

At this point, would anyone expect less of one who has the skilled intellect of Mr. Johns? and given from a position of strength, no less, giving plenty of time to prepare a rebuttal. Fair play.

Could be interesting.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm

The two issues for RESIDENTS to ponder about John Johns and Charles Marsala:

1. Why are RESIDENTS paying for a PERSONAL release for Charles Marsala in exchange for the $225,000 to John Johns? I can understand a release in his capacity as a council member, but if he did things on a personal basis that caused him personal liability, that is his PERSONAL expense, not OURS.

2. Now that $225,000 + $400,000 in legal fees have been spent for a total of $625,000 of OUR MONEY with the John Johns case, how can Marsala justify torpedoing the $10,000 settlement offer by John Johns two years ago when he was at a low point? Why did we pay all of this money ($615,000) for Marsala's personal witch hunt? THIS IS SHAMEFUL.

Posted by erik spivak
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Marsala took all of the credit when Mr. Johns was run out of town.

Now the former finance director is returning to receive $225,000 payment for back wages and a resolution of commendation from the City Council in exchange for his resignation. All of this has taken place after the City spent in attorney's fees $400,000 to defend itself in a civil rights lawsuit.

It is only fitting that Marsala be the one to take the fall for this most recent financial disaster.

Posted by Pam
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Is Wurth being paid by Marsala to represent him? We already have $600K invested in protecting Marsala in his persecution of John Johns and his audit. Now we're paying for Marsala to be protected against Jon Buckheit?

Come on Wurth, start doing your job and stop protecting Marsala, start protecting our town and it's residents.

Posted by who's counting?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm

The $400,000 in legal fees paid does not include the $35,000 paid to Topliff to do the investigation of Johns, the $15,000 for computer forensics, the $25,000 they paid Johns to sit idle while the investigation went on and the $15,000 paid to Louis Leone to advise the Town on how to handle the investigation.

When counting the $225,000 that Johns will get, the bill to the taxpayer has been about $715,000.

If Marsala's grandstanding weren't bad enough, word around Town hall is that Marsala dangled the prospect of voting for Protzman to get the job of City Manager job permanently if she succeeded in Johns' ouster. That was before the grand jury began its investigation and Marsala decided having Protzman as the City Manager wasn't such a good idea after all.

The best way of apologizing to Mr. Johns is to insist Marsala be held accountable for his behavior.

Posted by win/win
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 5, 2010 at 4:32 pm

700,000 dollars is about the value of the equity Charles has in his property on Emily.
If he donates the house to the town this would resolve in part, the debt he has incurred to us by miss use of public funds--
and the issue of his residency would be resolved once and for all.

Posted by Stop the WITCH HUNT
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 5, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Look at the Atherton Web site. Wynne Furth has posted another memo, this time DETAILING why Charles Marsala is completely innocent. No laws were broken asking for the mortgage, and his Atherton residency is established.

She also points out that Buckheit was only able to get the factual innocence through DNA testing. That is information the police did not have available to them when they made their arrest. He cannot sue them for information they did not have. Since they operated in good faith, it seems like he's on a witch hunt also.

Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

"Stop the WITCH HUNT", you (and Wynne Furth) both don't know what you're talking about. There was no DNA evidence presented in my factual innocence. There was however, an admission from an Atherton cop that my police report was falsified. If that's you standard for "good faith", perhaps your other comments should be taken in a similar light.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Wynne Furth City Attorney

Is reporting the future actions of Mr. Buckheit: From her report:

On October 10, 2010 Mr. Buckheit filed a lawsuit.
He served the lawsuit on December 14, 2010

Now for a more serious question of the City Attorney, does she have any duty to identify the Atherton Police Officer who committed a felony against Mr. Jon Buckheit. She has knowledge of the crime being committed and she knows its one of the Officers.

Posted by just a thought
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Mr. Stogner,

Having not read the report, did YOU make a mistake here? or is this a symptom of temporal dyslexia on the part of the City Attorney?

Further, does this and other statements on this thread raise questions regarding professional competence? or is that unfair.

I don't mean to be imprudent and don't know a lot about it, but it seems the two things mentioned here by Mr. Stogner and Mr. Buckheit are unusual in their nature as regards a city attorney.

Why would a Government attorney misrepresent facts publicly and make such a silly error in a report? I'm lost here.

I'm wondering if this is really true.


Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2010 at 7:48 am

Dear Just,

No mistake........The DNA statement is huge according to Mr. Jon Buckheit

Posted by Renee Batti
associate editor of The Almanac
on Apr 6, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Renee Batti is a registered user.

Michael and Jon, I interpreted Ms. Furth's sentence regarding DNA testing differently. I don't think she's claiming that DNA testing was a factor in your (Jon's) case. It seems she was just giving a parenthetical example of one type of evidence that might be presented at anyone's court hearing to determine factual innocence. I found the example helpful, but judging by the confusion it's causing, it might be a case of too much information, which always risks clouding an already complicated matter.

Here's a link to the staff report, so readers can judge for themselves:
Web Link

Posted by Can't wait
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Renee is correct --- and in fact, Wurth's comment is so clearly an example and not an actual occurrence in Jon's case that it seems "Stop the witch hunt" is deliberately muddying the waters here.

Best of luck to John Johns on ousting Charles Marsala. It is truly embarrassing to be part of a community with a councilor whose manipulation of the facts and misleading statements are so egregious. Is there any chance Johns can post his documents in advance of the meeting? The unrolling of Charles web' has been truly riveting!

Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

My take on the DNA comment in Furth's report, after reading it, is that it was a total non-sequitor and a foolish attempt by her to attempt to influence readers into thinking that factual innocence orders are only given in situations in which evidence comes out later that the police could not possibly have known at the time (DNA being an example). It is a highly inappropriate comment to make in the context of my own situation in which an Atherton police officer admitted, after being broken during cross examination, that my report had been falsified.

In her own efforts to exculpate Charles Marsala, Ms. Furth made NO ATTEMPT to interview me or otherwise collect any facts or evidence from me. If that were the way factual innocence proceedings were conducted in court, anyone could get one, by just presenting one side of a story.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm

To all the residents of Atherton,

"an Atherton police officer admitted, after being broken during cross examination, that my report had been falsified."

What this means = An Atherton Police Officer committed a FELONY against Mr. Jon Buckheit.

Another way of saying this: A Police Officer who might still be on staff committed a FELONY against Mr. Jon Buckheit.

To this day Jerry Gruber, and Mike Guerra have refused to identify and charge this Police officer.

Why is this OK with the residents of the Great Town of Atherton? How is this possible?

Stand up and protect Jon Buckheit and you will be protecting yourselves.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm

First, thanks to Ms. Batti for the link to Ms. Furth's report.

If you read Furth's report carefully, her explanation (and exoneration) for Mr. Marsala's proposed loan from Mr. Buckheit appears to be limited to Fair Political Practices issues. According to Ms. Furth, because Buckheit's loan to Marsala was never consummated, there was no conflict. Furth is walking a very narrow legal tightrope here.

Ms. Furth's report appears to be silent about Mr. Marsala's SOLICITATION of the loan from Mr. Buckheit. To me, it is Marsala's solicitation of the loan that is the real offense. The fact that the shake-down never occurred is secondary.

Posted by Thanks Atherton!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Man, this stuff is really, REALLY interesting.
Perhaps a made-for-TV movie some day?
Maybe it even makes the NYT (if the hub-bub over watering your lawn in MP can, this certainly should).
Thanks for the intrigue, folks - I look forward to the next installment!

Posted by Steve
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Oh Boy!! here we go again, I can harly wait for the hate and discontent, not to mention the burning at the stake!!!!, Oh, I forgot, that's not pc any more.

Posted by Du Judge
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

After listening (reading) to all the testimony, and living in this town for over 25 years, it is clear to me who is the culprit and who is (are) the victim(s). Marsala has always been a flake with "another side" to his personality and his life. He was a "last resort" candidate for Council because competant people rarely step forward in this town. He needs to be gone. So do the bumbling, over-paid hires at the top of the town's list. Would that we could dump them all! Lawsuits such all these that we taxpayers have paid off over the last decade should never have happened. Enough already! We REALLY need to clean house! Is anyone listening? Off with their heads!

Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Isn't everyone just dying to run for City Council. What a grand a glorious job from an adoring citizenry. NOT!

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Funny comment from Hank, perhaps the most cruel commenter in the short history of Menlo Park's forum.

Posted by Or Consequences
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Truth does not speak for Belle Haven. He speaks for himself and perhaps R. Gordon.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 7, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Never claimed to represent anyone but myself. Get over it.

Posted by Can't Wait
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm

So... what happened?? Curious people want to know --- and I'd like to have the J.J.J. and J.B. take on things!

Posted by monkey business
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 7, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Press Release
Atherton Council majority == hear no, see no, speak no evil

Posted by Tired and frustrated
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Apr 7, 2010 at 10:58 pm

What happened? No resignation, no fire and brimstone from John Johns, an admission by Marsala that he displayed poor judgment, lots of "let's just move forward and put this behind us."

Maybe just putting it behind us and starting to focus on the huge problems (budget morass, high speed rail, questions about the police department, etc.) facing the town would be the best course. Maybe. After listening to all sides, I'm still not sure.

Posted by Reality
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm

The reality of the situation is that Marsala is a dedicated public servant. He had a business downturn and needed a home equity loan. He asked for help from a person whom he thought was a friend.

Long story short...he lives in Atherton, still owns a home in Atherton, and needs to get his business going again.

Give the guy a break. He loves his Town.

Posted by monkey business
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:45 am

City Atourney Wynn Furth has declared Marsala to be factually innocent on the grounds that he doesn't know any better and promises to try harder in the future--a version of the tweenkie defense? We might understand her reasoning better, but she has refused to allow the release of the basis for her findings to the public--against the mayor's suggestion that we all have a right to know.
She stated publicly that her only obligation is to the council majority that hires or fires her--not to demonstrate her own ethical understanding or knowledge of the law to differentiate between right and wrong behavior.
This is the legal "guidance" you are paying your taxes for.
Expect your town to go up in flames shortly---- Ms. Lewis and her developer friends will be more than happy, to rebuild it for you. If we are lucky there will be no more need for taxes and P.P.G. may step up, and pay for the city attorney directly --dropping the pretense that the public has any need for representation.
Property values may sky rocket--and thats all that matters--right?.

Posted by involved
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 8, 2010 at 6:18 am

Atherton sure seems to have a lot going on. In all of our 40 years in town I had no idea all of this drama was going on. Was there ever a time when things were right ? Between this situation and the widows I am just shocked as it seems such a quiet place that so many desire to live in.

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 8, 2010 at 6:50 am

Honest Services Fraud. This is what they call the pattern of conduct Marsala has engaged in.

Marsala made a showing of laughing just as hard as everybody else in the room when Buckheit made his joke about having a special on 15 and 30 fixed loans. Inside Marsala was seething.

Marsala did not laugh when he was confronted moments later with the fact his conduct with respect to Buckheit was not an isolated instance of an error in judgment brought upon by business reversals.

Mr. Marsala was confronted with documentary evidence of how he has abused his office for personal enrichment.

Let us see if Marsala is as glib when federal agents come knocking at his residence in Atherton, wherever that may be.......

Posted by Too Funny
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 8, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Thanks Atherton!
I know it is too funny. It's a case where you look at your side of the fence in Menlo Park and say, the grass is greener over here and thank goodness. Atherton is a soap opera. You can't wait to watch and see what the clan will do next. You couldn't make this script up if you tried. Hollywood are you listening?

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