By the Daily Post staff
Jonathan Reichental is stepping down as Palo Alto’s chief information officer to take a position at Oracle days after his frequent foreign trips had come under fire from a resident activist.
But Reichental, in an email to the Post today (Nov. 21), said that over the summer he told his boss, City Manager Jim Keene, he was going to look for a new career opportunity after overseeing the IT department for nearly seven years.
That conversation occurred several months before the controversy arose over 28 trips he took between 2013 and 2017 to places such as China, the French Riviera and New Zealand.
The controversy began Nov. 9 when Jeanne Fleming, who campaigned unsuccessfully against the installation of 11 Verizon antennas, filed a 15-page complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, against Reichental.
She contends the travel was funded by the telecommunications industry mainly through nonprofit trade groups and is illegal under state laws that prohibit gifts to state and local government officials.
“Dr. Reichental has been using his senior position at City Hall to influence the city’s dealings with the telecommunications industry,” Fleming said. “This includes shaping the city’s response to the applications telecom companies have made to install cell towers in Palo Alto’s residential neighborhoods.”
Reichental told the Post on Nov. 16 that he consulted with the FPPC before accepting the trips, and that he met the state’s criteria.
“I use a lot of my free time for teaching, learning and education,” Reichental said. “The trips I took were generally in consultation with the FPPC advice phone line and met the reimbursement criteria of government, educational or non-for-profit.”
He said he reported all the trips on the financial disclosure document officials must file annually, called a Form 700.
Reichental said he didn’t participate in the decision-making regarding the Verizon antennas because his job involved the city’s IT department, and the antenna applications are handled by a different department.
He added, “I don’t believe any of my trips were paid for by commercial interests in technology and communications.”
But Fleming pointed out that one of his trips was from TMForum, a nonprofit partially funded by AT&T. And AT&T is seeking to install equipment in Palo Alto, Fleming said.
In his email to the Post on Wednesday, Reichental said he is excited about the next chapter in his career.
“About a year ago I started speaking with City Manager Jim Keene about my next career move. After six years, it felt like the right time to begin exploring a variety of career growth opportunities,” Reichental wrote. “This past summer I told Jim that I would be leaving before the end of the year.
“After entertaining several compelling offers, a few months ago I found exactly the right organization and role,” he wrote. “I will be the Global Industry Solutions Leader for Public Sector at Oracle.
“I have enjoyed every moment of my time at the city of Palo Alto. It has been a remarkable privilege for me to serve this warm and engaged community,” Reichental said in his email. “I also got to work with amazing co-workers and a great IT team. Almost seven years to the day I began my journey at the city, I will start my new role at Oracle on Dec 17.”
Reichental was paid $243,360 last year. Including benefits, his total compensation came to $321,660, according to Transparent California.