The Letter

Subject: Council Special Meeting Agenda for March 18, 2021


Hi Deborah,

Please attach this letter to the Council Special Meeting Agenda for March 18, 2021.

Thank you.



Mayor Tankha, Council members,

In the last month two staff members have resigned, Nichol Bowersox, Public Works Director and Kaho Kong, Sr. Engineer.  As you have been informed, they did not leave because of lack of advancement opportunity, job dissatisfaction, or uncompetitive salaries or benefits.  They left because of dissatisfaction with how Town employees are treated. They are clearly not the first.  By my count, 28 employees have left the Town in the last five years, which is almost a 25 percent annual turnover rate in a Town of 24 FTE’s.  In that time, the Town has had five Administrative Service Directors and will have four Public Works Directors.  Excluding the City Manager, only seven employees have remained with the Town more than five years, and four are members of the maintenance crew. This turnover rate is 2 to 3 times higher than typically observed in government operations.

Excessive turnover is not new to the Town.  In 2018, in response to high turnover, Council asked Staff to address the issue.  Staff responded with a “Value proposition proposal to attract and retain Town staff.”  The proposal was basically more money and a better dental plan.  This did little to address the true cause of turnover.

Keeping the best employees is an essential part of managing a successful organization.  High turnover is an indication of low employee satisfaction.  Government agencies typically experience the lowest level of employee turnover; however, the Town’s turnover rate is extremely high.  High turnover is costly, incurring recruitment, hiring, and training costs.  More detrimental than the additional financial cost is the impact on progress due to the time consumed in recruiting and training, lower productivity, and loss of institutional knowledge. High turnover predicts low performance and project delays.

Dissatisfied former employees are poor ambassadors for the Town and make recruiting good employees more difficult.  Exit interviews can provide information on the reasons why employees seek employment elsewhere.

  • Recommendation: Conduct a Post-Exit Employee Survey

Town should hire an independent HR consultant to conduct an anonymous Post-Exit Employee Survey and report the results directly back to the Council. An external consultant typically has several advantages over an internal interviewer, including expertise in exit interviewing and a complete lack of bias, so he or she is more likely to produce reliable data.   Such a survey could be completed for less than $5000 and a qualified consultant is available.

Survey Goals: (Taken from a Harvard Business Review Study)

  1. Uncover issues relating to HR.
  2. Understand employees’ perceptions of the work itself.
  3. Gain insight into managers’ leadership styles and effectiveness.
  4. Learn about HR benchmarks (salary, benefits) at competing organizations.
  5. Foster innovation by soliciting ideas for improving the organization.
  6. Create lifelong advocates for the organization.


Look forward to the Council taking meaningful action to address this continuing problem.



Allan Epstein

The Comparison of Staff Turnover

Update: April 28th 2021Statement from Los Altos Hills Mayor Kavita Tankha

Los Altos Hills City Manager Carl Cahill has advised the City Council of his intention to retire from his position of City Manager effective as of October 29, 2021. Carl started work with the Town in 1999 and served as Planning Director before being appointed to the position of City Manager. Carl has served as City Manager for the Town of Los Altos Hills for fifteen years.

As Mayor and on behalf of the City Council, the City Council appreciates Carl’s 22 years of service to the Town and its residents. Carl and the dedicated staff he has managed have provided thoughtful analysis and recommendations to the City Council, the Planning Commission and Town Committees, and we wish Carl the very best.

The City Council will now commence a process for selection of a new City Manager. We anticipate that process will take four to six months to complete. This process will start with issuance of an RFP to select a recruiter followed by a nationwide search for qualified candidates who will assist the City Council and staff to continue to implement the Town’s goals and priorities and to identify innovative ways to continue to provide excellent services to our Town residents. Los Altos Hills is an exceptional Town to live and work in and the City Council looks forward to finding a City Manager who can serve the needs of our diverse and engaged community.

Resignation Letter from Carl Cahill can be found:

Cahill Memo announcing retirement final (PDF)