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Hughson city manager receives 30-day termination notice

POSTED October 27, 2009 11:10 p.m.
The Hughson City Council got back to business as usual Monday night after seeing a period of upheaval that included the city manager taking a leave of absence.
There was no mention of City Manager Joe Donabed’s file for termination, just comments about grant writing for parks, construction on Locust Street and discussion on a local vendor preference.  
“Our citizens are expecting us to go on as business as usual,” said Hughson City Councilmember Doug Humphreys.  
On Oct. 19 the Hughson City Council voted 3-to-2 during a closed session to file a termination notice for Donabed.
According to the minutes of that meeting, all five council members were present to discuss the move to terminate Donabed.  Councilmembers Doug Humphreys, Ben Manley and Thom Crowder voted for the city manager to receive a file for termination. Mayor Ramon Bawanan and Councilmember Matt Beekman voted against the termination.
“I felt it was inappropriate at the time,” Beekman said.  “He still has a month to rectify things, it is not a done deal.”  
As of right now, Donabed is on paid administrative leave for the next 30 days until the City Council comes to a final decision, said Thomas Clark, interim city manager.  
The reasoning behind the file for termination are personal issues, Humphreys said. During the closed session, the Council informed Donabed the cause of his file to terminate and he has 30 days to come up with a plan to remedy the cause.
City Council will vote again Nov. 23 to either terminate Donabed or let him go back to work.  
“It is pretty unfair to say I have already made up my mind,” Humphreys said.  “We are going to see if he has a plan.”  
Along with the move to terminate the city manager’s contract, there is an on-going investigation concerning cameras and recording devices placed in city buildings, said Deborah Paul, Director of Finance for the City of Hughson.
Beekman gave no comment about the recordings.
One instance of the recording was a Jan. 12 City Council meeting.
“I was told I would be recorded in open session,” Humphreys said. “This was not during open session.”  
During the City Council meeting, there was a break and the device was left on, which recorded a personal conversation between Paul, Humphreys and Crowder, Paul said.
“Some of the things councilmembers said were explosive,” she said.  
Humphreys recalls being recorded discussing his displeasure of the city clerk and how she hand-delivers a packet to a member while the rest of the councilmembers have to come down to city hall, he said.  
According to penal code 632, members being recorded must be notified, Paul said.  
“I filed a police report and it is still pending,” she said.
Paul and Humphreys were both told that the recording during break-time was done on accident.  
“If they did it by accident, it should have been removed,” Paul said.  
Humphreys agrees.  
“The city manager and the city clerk kept the recording,” he said.  
Paul said she was questioned about the tape and that it had been “dispersed it around the city like candy.”
“They used the tape to flug me and councilmembers over the head,” Paul said.
During the recording, Paul said the two councilmembers were emotional and they were talking as if they were in a private setting, she said.
“They are concerned about stuff going on in Hughson,” Paul said. “There has been a lot of stuff going on in Hughson for the past couple of years.”
Humphreys said he isn’t too worried about what is happening in Hughson.
“As time plays out,” he said. “The truth will come out.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015. 

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