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Hughson gives city manager a second chance

POSTED November 24, 2009 9:49 p.m.
The approximately 100 residents of Hughson that attended Monday’s city council meeting weren’t the only ones confused and caught-off guard with the conflicting agenda items that preceded an even more surprising closed session decision. Council members demonstrated their own confusion when discussing the hiring of potential city managers at a special meeting on Dec. 7, then not even an hour later taking back City Manager Joe Donabed with open arms.
The council members seemed to be heading in the direction of hiring a new city manager — whether in a permanent or temporary capacity — with two agenda items ready to discuss the process. After going into greater detail Monday night on the way the council would select and interview city manager candidates, councilmembers then designated Dec. 7 and Dec. 8 for a special meeting to interview candidates. Then they went into closed session where somewhere in between, their opinions changed.
After about an hour in closed session, the council members unanimously voted to rescind the 30-day termination notice for Donabed, who was requested to return to work on Monday.
“This is not an offer, it is an order,” said Thom Clark, director of planning and building, director of public works, and interim city manager. “The city council is his boss and if he wants to continue to work for the City of Hughson he will do what his boss says.”
As of Tuesday, Clark said he had not yet discussed with the city council what they will be doing about the already planned Dec. 7 meeting to potentially hire a new city manager.
Before their closed session decision, the councilmembers discussed the 12 resumes added into the agenda packet for Hughson residents to look through for the city manager interviews. One of the resumes was submitted by David Whiteside, who was offered the city manager pro tempore position at the last city council meeting on Nov. 9. At that time he couldn’t take the position because he said he was not able to get a leave of absence from his work.
His application for city manager has stirred up quite a bit of controversy, with a number of residents refusing to be led by Whiteside yet again.
“As the first vice mayor of Hughson, I don’t want to live through another session with Whiteside,” said Homer Combs.
Former member of the Hughson planning commission, Diane Souza-David, asked the city council, “Why can David Whiteside leave his job now? Why get rid of Joe Donabed now?”
“Rushing to hire David Whiteside looks like there was no problem with Joe Donabed and you just want to get him out of the way to hire your friend,” said Hughson resident Candice Steelman. “You are rewarding your friends and stabbing your enemies.”
With utter chaos surrounding the city of Hughson, Mayor Ramon Bawanan presented a letter addressed to himself from union representative Doug Gorman about the “authority of mayor and possible overstepping of authority,” placed on the agenda by Councilmember Ben Manley. Manley tried to remove the agenda item to discuss it in closed session, but Bawanan requested to discuss this item in open session.
“Mr. Gorman, I will not allow you to hold this city hostage,” Bawanan said.
Bawanan suggested that Gorman pick a battle with him, and him alone and not drag any city employees or staff into the fight.
Bawanan also submitted the potential case to the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury to investigate his own actions.
The council also discussed the contents of a letter that was placed on cars Saturday at a Hughson event, calling out the actions going on in “Mayberry.” There was no name on the letter and the author is unknown.
The letter states Whiteside was fired from his job, plotting with Gorman and the “Gang-of-Three” to fire more city managers, and begin a war against the sheriff’s office.
“The note left on the cars is a shameful piece of trash,” Councilmember Thom Crowder said. “At least write your name. It is comical that you have nothing better to do.”
With Councilmember Doug Humphrey’s wife attacked in the note, he left the residents of Hughson with the stern words of “leave my family out of this.”
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Crowder once again brought up a possible recall election that was first suggested by a Hughson resident at the Nov. 9 council meeting.
“I am not afraid to be recalled,” Crowder said. “If you don’t think I am doing a good job then throw me out of office.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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