Old mayor calls new mayor a bully

Daily Post Staff Writer

Bad blood and political turf wars continued their reign in Los Altos last night (Dec. 5) as new Mayor Jean Mordo called for civility while disparaging his political enemies as well as new Vice Mayor Lynette Lee Eng.

The vote was quick and unanimous — other than Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, who was absent — despite that David Casas, who served on council from 2003 to 2012, had urged council to keep Mordo from becoming mayor.

“Much of the responsibility for the City Council’s dysfunction for the past several years has revolved around Jean, his behavior and his actions,” Casas said in an email to council at 2:32 a.m. Monday. “If Jean Mordo is selected as mayor on Tuesday, you will have knowingly and deliberately chosen a bully who has shown a propensity to disrespect women.”

In the email, Casas accused Mordo of demeaning former Councilwoman Megan Satterlee in public, acting dismissive of other councilwomen and threatening former City Manager Marcia Somers if she didn’t agree with his agenda.

“He went so far in an email as to tartly remind her that she worked for him, and that she was therefore bound to respond in an affirmative way to his requests,” Casas said.

Casas claims that Mordo has shown no remorse for encouraging violations of the state open meetings law, the Brown Act, involving the Downtown Parking Committee.

After an independent San Francisco attorney found that there were violations, and after council adopted a resolution acknowledging this, Mordo continued to be “dismissive and unrepentant,” Casas said.

Yelling from the dais

Casas also criticized Mordo for bullying members of the public who oppose his agenda, claiming that on one occasion, Mordo yelled from the dais at such a member.
Mordo, sipping champagne at a reception to celebrate his appointment as mayor, shrugged off the accusations as coming from a political adversary.

“The only person I’ve ever been rude to was (former mayor) Ron Packard, because he was being obnoxious and a bully,” Mordo said.

Packard, who Mordo said uses Casas as his “attack dog,” served on council with Casas. The two now sit on the board of the Friends of Los Altos or FOLA, an organization that Mordo said the two “hijacked” to continue exerting influence over the city.

For years, Packard has also been waging battle against Mordo’s friend Ted Sorensen over Sorensen’s planned building at 40 Main St., next door to Packard’s office building at 4 Main St.

Casas’ urging of the council to keep Mordo from becoming mayor likely fell on deaf ears, Mordo claimed.

“It was really so silly, especially since everybody in town hates him, and especially the four ladies on the council hate him,” Mordo said. “It’s very funny that they’re complaining that I disrespected Megan, when in fact they tried to essentially derail completely her promotion.”

On Nov. 27, 2007, Casas and Packard pushed to change the council norms and require council members to serve for a year before being elected vice mayor. If implemented at the time, the change would have kept Satterlee from being elected vice mayor because she had just been elected to council.

The rule has since been changed to require a year of experience before becoming vice mayor and two years of experience before becoming mayor.

Mordo was elected in accordance with the city’s council norms, because he was the only council member with at least two years of experience who had not served as mayor.

Eng, who was elected vice mayor as the only sitting council member who hasn’t held that position, has often voted as a contrarian on council since being elected last year.

“I think you should go with the flow, at least sometimes, and not make every vote an issue of principle,” Mordo said. “She’s a nice lady. She’s well-intentioned, but, you know, I’ve been on the council 11 years — eight years in Los Altos Hills and three years here — so I have a lot more experience.”

Mordo said that Eng’s approach to council — which often involves asking the questions that others tiptoe around — reflects on her two terms on the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

“Grand jury is more into investigation and asking a lot of embarrassing questions and to dig into things,” Mordo said. “In many council meetings, she’s exhibited this kind of behavior because it’s what you’re supposed to do, challenge everything that the staff is doing.”

Secret contract

Eng asked why the council was not shown the city’s contract with Noll and Tam, the architect planning the new Hillview Community Center, when council voted to approve it.

Hillview has been the focus of most of the rancor around council in recent months. City Manager Chris Jordan has negotiated the terms of a 20-year lease with Children’s Corner, a private daycare center that has leased space at Hillview since 1981.

Others have accused Jordan, Mordo and Councilwoman Mary Prochnow of giving Children’s Corner special access to a public facility. Some have expressed concerns that other programs, including the Mountain View Los Altos School District’s adult education classes, would be pushed out as a result.

Mordo focused on Hillview’s renovation in his acceptance speech Tuesday night.

“There is a lot of bickering among residents that some groups are getting more than they deserve and others less,” Mordo said. “I would like to encourage everyone to refrain from assuming the worst when they hear things that are not to their liking. Do not automatically assume that council or staff lie, are corrupt or are unfair.”


Casas’ email to the City Council

Editor’s note: The following is the email Casas sent Monday to council about Mordo. The parentheses () are his and the information in brackets [] was added by the Post.

Rather than send this email to a wide audience, I’ve chosen instead to send it to you, the decision makers, for now.

Jean Mordo should not be selected Mayor of Los Altos, on Tuesday. If he is chosen, you are declaring to our community that bullying others is OK; and that disrespecting women is OK. The residents of Los Altos deserve better.

First, and foremost, Jean has demonstrated that he’s a bully. His rude and demeaning treatment of former council member [Megan] Satterlee, is unprecedented in Los Altos.

While his treatment of her was particularly distasteful, he has been disrespectful and dismissive of other women council members as well.

Secondly, he’s been a bully with city staff. In private communications with former members of the senior staff, communications that I received as a result of several public records requests, Jean threatened the city manager if she would not agree with his agenda. He went so far in an e-mail as to tartly remind her that she worked for him, and that she was therefore bound to respond in an affirmative way to his requests.

Thirdly, he’s been a bully to members of the public who do not agree with (in his opinion) his superior knowledge and agenda. On one occasion, he actually yelled from the dais at a member of the public who disagreed with him. Raising one’s voice to a member of the public has not happened in the Los Altos City Council for over 20 years. It’s not only unprofessional, but completely unacceptable.

Fourth, he’s unwilling to accept responsibility for his mistakes. He formed the Downtown Parking Committee and was found through e-mails and videos of meetings to have encouraged Brown Act [open meetings law] violations.

Later, when the independent San Francisco attorney found that there were indeed violations, and after the City Council formally adopted a resolution that there were violations, Jean has continued to be dismissive and unrepentant.

Instead, he prefers to blame others for exposing the violations that were committed under his watch.

As a result of these and other items, much of the responsibility for the City Council’s dysfunction, for the past several years, has revolved around Jean, his behavior and his actions.

You have a choice. You need not blindly follow the council norms by appointing Jean as the new mayor. Instead, you can choose another member of the council to serve as mayor. If Jean changes his behavior, treats council, staff and the public with respect, then maybe he could be selected thereafter.

If Jean Mordo is selected as mayor on Tuesday, you will have knowingly and deliberately chosen a bully who has shown a propensity to disrespect women publicly (e.g. Megan), and privately (e.g. Marcia [Somers, former city manager]).