The settlement between the City of Turlock and former City Manager Toby Wells was agreed upon last month after the two parties had conflicting opinions regarding whether or not his termination was justified, documents obtained by the Journal show.
Wells was awarded a lump sum of $55,000 to be paid by the City in addition to his wages and any accrued and unused leave payments through June 11. The City will also pay to continue health and dental insurance for Wells and his spouse through September at the cost of $1,953 per month, according to the settlement agreement released by the City through a public records request from the Journal.
According to the agreement, the City believed it had sufficient cause to fire Wells following an investigation, while Wells disagreed that he was subject to termination “with cause” and denied any and all allegations. The employment contract signed by Wells when he was hired stated that if he was fired without cause, the City would have to pay him eight months of severance, or over $146,000.
Wells and the City reached an agreement because they wished “to resolve all matters among them concerning employee’s (Wells’) separation from employment,” the document reads, and the settlement includes a list of promises both parties signed their names to. One item on the list is that Wells waived his right to a “name-clearing” hearing, which he was originally entitled to under his employment contract should he end up being terminated without cause.
The settlement agreement was approved by the City Council in a split 3-2 vote during a closed session meeting on May 25 after Mayor Amy Bublak, Vice Mayor Pam Franco and Councilwoman Rebecka Monez voted in favor of the separation settlement, with Councilmembers Andrew Nosrati and Nicole Larson dissenting.
Wells was placed on investigatory leave on Jan. 7 — to which Nosrati and Larson also voted “no” — less than a month after new Councilmembers Franco and Monez were sworn in, and neither the results of the investigation nor the reasoning behind it have been released to the public. Larson and Nosrati were part of the Council which voted 4-1 to approve Wells as City Manager in March 2020, and Bublak was the sole dissenting vote at the time.
The Journal also requested the investigative report on Wells, but was denied after the City cited exemptions to the California Public Records Act including attorney-client privilege, attorney-work product privilege and the confidential personnel exemption.
Wells commented on the settlement in a statement via text to the Journal when the agreement was first announced.
“The mutually-agreed upon separation agreement ends my tenure with the City of Turlock. I am very proud of the accomplishments of our team at the City of Turlock in the midst of budget constraints, staffing shortages and a global pandemic,” Wells said. “The passage of Measure A and several new developments will continue to make Turlock a great place to live and do business.”