Consultant says City Council can’t return to City Hall, but she won’t say why

Los Altos resident Freddie Wheeler, seated, confronts Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins, right, during a meeting break at Tuesday night’s meeting. Post photo by Sara Tabin.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Los Altos City Council last night suspended the contract of a disability consultant after she told council that they can’t move back to City Hall, but wouldn’t explain why.

Council meetings were moved to the Los Altos Youth Center in January after Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins claimed the air in City Hall was triggering her asthma. Rachel Shaw of Shaw HR Consulting of Newbury Park in Southern California was hired by the city in September to deal with the disability issues posed by Bruins’ complaint.

Shaw recommended last night that council stay at the youth center or move to a new location.

She said there are at least two, but less than five, councilwomen requesting disability accommodations.

She wouldn’t give an exact number.

Shaw claimed she has looked at medical documents for the disabled councilwomen and has determined that city hall is unsafe for at least one councilwoman. The youth center is safe for everyone, she said. Having a disabled councilwoman participate in a meeting by telephone would not be inclusive, said Shaw. Shaw, who is not an attorney, suggested that having a council member call in might violate the open meetings law, though it is common procedure in other cities.

Shaw refused to elaborate on what makes City Hall unsafe, saying only that it has to do with the square footage and there is no fix. She explained that she was being vague because of medical confidentiality laws, and she asked council to trust her.

Shaw admitted that air testing she ordered for both buildings had determined that neither has unsafe air.

‘Not fully baked’

Vice Mayor Jan Pepper called Shaw’s presentation “not fully baked.”

Residents have complained that the youth center is hot, has poor acoustics and lacks the technology to broadcast meetings on cable TV. The city finally started broadcasting on TV again last night after a 10-month blackout.

The audio issues have not improved. Last night, almost every council member had to do a mic check and shout back and forth with the crowd before speaking last night to make sure everyone could hear.

Resident Freddie Wheeler said Shaw’s report was “unacceptably vague.”

Resident Eric Steinle said his wife has debilitating allergies so he understands how difficult disabilities can be. Steinle said they use strong air filters in their house and suggested that the city do the same at City Hall.

Mayor Lynette Lee Eng asked why City Hall is safe for staff members if it’s unsafe for the council. Shaw refused to explain.

Consultant’s bill questioned

Lee Eng also asked why Shaw’s bill has gone up. Shaw was hired on a contract that was not supposed to exceed $40,000. Since then City Manager Chris Jordan raised her contract to $70,000. Shaw said her price increased because she put in more time.
She also said she began working for the city in July, which doesn’t line up with previous statements about how she was hired in September.

The council has wanted to discuss moving back to chambers for months and the issue kept being put off, said Lee Eng. She said she doesn’t want more taxpayer money to be spent on this issue. She proposed a motion, which passed unanimously, to accept Shaw’s report and suspend her contract.

That does not mean council is taking Shaw’s suggestions.

Council voted to have Jordan put on council’s agenda for next week a vote on where council will meet in the future. At a June 25 study session, council voted 4-1 to move the meetings back to City Hall. But Jordan didn’t follow the council’s directive, and has kept the meetings at the youth center. His defenders say he bypassed the council’s decision because he wanted to avoid an ADA lawsuit.

The council also directed Jordan to make a list of possible alternative locations, with details about those venues such as their size.
Jordan complained that that is too much work to complete in time for next Tuesday’s meeting.

It will also be difficult for the councilwoman to know whether the new locations are acceptable under Shaw’s criteria now that she has been suspended and is refusing to tell anyone what the risks are at City Hall.


  1. This drama has lasted as long as it has owing to the simple fact City staff act as if they are above and beyond law, and they do so confident they have the support of complicit members of the City’s Council. The former, public servants earning their livelihood off the taxpayers’ monies, have run amok approving projects under false pretexts, misrepresenting the public, and engaging in other bad faith. In all this some Council members, including one that was voted out Nov 2018, and the City’s Attorney were active co-conspirators. Quite a racket, if you are inside it!
    Bruins’ “mystery malady” that only and suddenly became an issue when her co-conspirator City Attorney Diaz failed at violating the constitutional rights of a resident. Where was Bruins’ purported malady PRIOR to that attempted eviction of a resident from a Council meeting? And, if the consultant is being paid by our tax dollars, why is she not transparent and answering all Qs by Council members concerning her study and report? Why this sudden opacity and a conclusory “recommendation” on where Council meetings are to be held?
    Time to get the DA’s Office involved as this concerns the integrity of public offices and oficials who have a duty and responsibility to the public. If the managers (i.e., Council members) are unable to manage and provide the necessary checks and balances (to City staff) the whole system goes awry and it’s time somebody step in to take names and correct things.

  2. >This is what an all-woman city council has

    Wow! That’s what the former Mayor said after he was voted out in the last elections. Look up his comments online and you’d find confirmation.

    A lot of the current mess involving City Hall and Council originated during his tenure and can be directly traced to his own conduct. His own comments (on record and confirmed by looking up the PA Daily Post) show he was outright demeaning to fellow council member and current Mayor Eng Lee and hired City Manager Jordan and City Attorney Diaz (key players in this current mess) for no reason other than “I like their chemistry”.

    Anyone want to bet Pettysquables is none other than the former Mayor with a “I told you so” smirk on his face?

  3. City Manager Jordan engaged the consultant.
    He then disregarded Council’s 4-1 vote to move Council meetings back to Council Chambers. This was not his first (and likely not his last) instance of his acting contrary to his managers’ decisions. It is also common knowledge Jordan has long sought to evict Council from chambers designed and engineered for Council meetings.

    Is it any surprise the consultant’s report is opaque, unilaterally and arbitrarily rules out the use of Council chambers for purposes it was explicitly designed and engineered for?
    Is it any surprise the consultant’s report is completely consistent with Jordan’s wants and desires?

    A right and proper next steps is for Council to hire its own independent consultant. That consultant should report back to Council–not to Jordan, not to Diaz, not to Bruins. And if that consultant’s report is contrary to Rachel Shaw’s, why, the City should sue Ms Shaw for conspiracy, compel her to name the other co-conspirators, recover costs and attorney fees, and insure she is suspended from practice sparing other citizens the costs she inflicted on Los Altos.

  4. I’ll bring the popcorn to the next best show in town next week. It would be cheaper to provide Councilwomen a breathing device then to put with this. Something smells in the City Government.

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