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Hughson votes out city manager; mayor calls for resignations

Hughson votes out city manager; mayor calls for resignations

Hughson City Councilman Thom Crowder stands up during public comment to defend his recent actions.


POSTED January 26, 2010 9:44 p.m.
Many controversial issues were tackled at Monday night’s Hughson City Council meeting, that saw community and council members speaking out of turn in heated debate.
The agenda was filled with issues concerning the city manager’s contract, Councilmember Thom Crowder’s ability to teleconference into meetings, the creation of an investigative community committee, and discussion of the city attorney’s contract.
Crowder and Councilman Ben Manley kicked off the eventful meeting with statements about the December 2009 Civil Grand Jury report that found them in violation of the Brown Act, Fair Political Practices Regulations and the Hughson Municipal Code. They both assured the public that while their actions may have been illegal, they are just trying to “expose the truth.”
“I am desperate to try to get information to expose run-away government,” Crowder said. “I am trying to bring this stuff to light and instead it back fired.”
Manley also stated that he had “witnessed local government at its worse.”
“I want to assure the people of Hughson that the whole truth has not been told,” Manley said. “I feel if the citizens knew the truth, there would be much more support for the City Council. The only thing I am responsible for is trying to keep these issues from being swept under the carpet, and trying to disclose the truth.”

City manager’s contract up in May

Monday’s meeting ended with the City Council voting not to renew City Manager Joe Donabed’s three-year contract, which is up in May. It was a three to two vote with Council members Doug Humphreys, Manley and Crowder in favor of the non-renewable contract.
“I am ready to take a different direction,” Humphreys said.
Crowder said he has been constantly misled under the direction of Donabed.
Some questioned the legality of placing Donabed’s contract negotiations on the public agenda.
“How can all three of you (Humphreys, Crowder and Manley) request this without breaking the Brown Act?” asked Councilmember Matt Beekman.
Beekman also commented on “what a coincidence” it was for the three councilmen to place this item on the agenda without discussing it prior to the meeting.  
Humphreys said these ideas have been discussed in closed session before.

Community pleas to keep city attorney
No action was taken in closed session on Monday regarding an agenda item regarding City Attorney John Stovall’s “public employee discipline/dismissal/release,” but the topic did bring some community members to tears.
Jean Henley-Hatfield said she was prepared to resign as Hughson planning commissioner to save Stovall from being another one added to the “hit list.”
“I think that one of those issues brought to John was about the Planning Commission. I am sorry to do this to you, Thom (Thom Clark, Director of Planning/building) . . .” Henley-Hatfield started to say as she wiped her tears, before Mayor Ramon Bawanan convinced her not to resign just yet.  

Crowder allowed to teleconference
At the last council meeting, the city council voted against allowing Councilman Crowder to teleconference in to the City Council meetings. He had requested the ability to teleconference from his home due to numerous doctor’s appointments and surgeries he had scheduled.
However, the council did approve Crowder’s request to teleconference in from his San Francisco hospital room from March until June.
Beekman and Bawanan voted against Crowder’s request and then were called “heartless” by Crowder.
Beekman responded to Crowder with “you’re unethical.”
By law, for Crowder to teleconference in to the council meetings from his hospital room his room must be available to the public.
Crowder welcomed those to join him in his San Francisco hospital room.

Investigative community committee denied

The creation of a community committee was up for official discussion Monday night, but failed to garner the support it needed.
Crowder suggested a community committee be formed with each council member appointing their pick from the community. Crowder said the blue-ribbon committee could then “seek information that has been beyond reach and look up issues as they come up.”
Councilman Beekman was against this idea.
“We have a city council and if we can’t do that then we shouldn’t be here,” Beekman said.
“I think it is the wrong idea,” Bawanan said. “We have a blue-ribbon group called the Civil Grand Jury.”
The community committee was voted down with a vote of 3-2.

Mayor calls for council members’ resignations
Mayor Bawanan is on a mission. He plans to repeatedly ask Council members Humphreys, Crowder and Manley to resign at every council meeting until they give up their seats.
Bawanan said he was influenced by teenagers he met at a crab feed who asked the mayor what he was going to do about the three council members.
Bawanan said he told them he would keep asking them to resign but he feels it would “be a waste of time.” To which, Bawanan said one teenager responded by saying “my grandfather always told me that it is never a waste of time when you do what is right.”
Beekman expressed his support for the mayor’s request for the three council members to resign.
“Even if there are good intentions, you broke the law,” Beekman said. “There is an extreme lack of remorse.”
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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