Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 6, 2011

News Digest

Greenmeadow embezzler pleads 'no contest'

Kimball Allen, the former administrative manager who embezzled nearly $70,000 from the Greenmeadow Community Association in Palo Alto, pleaded no contest last Friday (April 29) in Santa Clara County Superior Court in Palo Alto.

Allen, 29, was accused of a 2010 spending spree using the neighborhood association's credit card. His expenditures included a down payment for a BMW roadster, trips to Hawaii and Mexico and other vacations, and hair transplants.

Under a plea deal, he will receive a six-month sentence in county jail and must make full restitution of the total amount he took from Greenmeadow within one year.

The jail term will be stayed while he works to pay back the debt. But if he does not make restitution within one year, he must serve the sentence, Rob Baker, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney, said.

The exact sum that Allen embezzled will take several months to compile, Baker said. Upon completion of restitution, the judge will reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor, and Allen would be on probation for three years, he said.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 18.

Baker said the primary goal was to hold Allen accountable for his crime and to enable Greenmeadow to recoup its losses.

Allen's age, lack of a prior criminal record and willingness to accept responsibility were also factors in the deal, he said.

"He's been very remorseful. I think it's a very fair resolution," Baker said.

Palo Alto to share dispatch system

While other Peninsula cities are preparing to merge or outsource their public-safety departments, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos are pursuing a less drastic idea — a "virtual consolidation" of their emergency operations.

The three cities have been working for the past three years on upgrades that would allow each department to effortlessly communicate with the others and provide backup service as needed. Currently, the cities' respective dispatch systems can't communicate with one another.

The project would also boost the cities' ability to respond to incidents along their respective borders and provide redundancies for each dispatch system — a useful measure in the event one of the dispatch systems becomes inoperable, said Charles Cullen, director of technical services at the Palo Alto Police Department.

Cullen, who updated the City Council on the effort Monday night, called virtual consolidation "an important and groundbreaking project" that will allow the cities to leverage the benefits of consolidation without the "upfront cost of a brick-and-mortar facility." By pooling their resources, Cullen said, the three cities were able to bid together on a common dispatch system that each would not be able to afford on their own. Last year, they selected the company Intergraph Corporation to design and install the new system, Cullen said.

The upgrade will cost the three cities a little more than $3 million, with Palo Alto and Mountain View each contributing roughly $1.3 million and Los Altos (which has a smaller population and no fire department) chipping in $740,000. The mutual-aid channel would be partially funded by a grant from the State Homeland Security Grant Program.

South Palo Alto housing proposal shot down

After seeing hundreds of housing units pop up in their part of the city over the past decade, dozens of south Palo Alto residents breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday night when the City Council shot down the latest residential proposal.

The 23-home proposal for 525 San Antonio Road, near the Mountain View border, wasn't nearly as massive or dense as housing complexes that have been built around East Meadow Circle and on El Camino Real, at the former site of Hyatt Rickey's. Applicant SummerHill Homes, Inc., argued that the modest development — six one-story homes and 17 two-story homes — would provide a perfect transition between the small Eichler community in the Greendell neighborhood to the west of the site and the apartment buildings to the east.

SummerHill had also agreed to reduce the number of houses from 26 to 23 and to position its one-story homes between the new two-story homes and Greendell's one-story houses.

But after hearing from dozens of residents, the council voted unanimously to deny the application, arguing that SummerHill's application is not consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan and that the project's site doesn't have enough amenities to warrant more housing. In doing so, the council followed the recommendation of its planning staff, the Planning and Transportation Commission and about 30 residents from the Greendell and Greenmeadow neighborhoods. Project opponents cited overfilled schools, insufficient public facilities and a lack of good transit service in the area as reasons for rejecting the plan.

— Gennady Sheyner

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