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Former Turlock city manager claims he was asked to engage in unethical activities
Gary Hampton
Former Turlock City Manager Gary Hampton filed a claim against the City of Turlock for six weeks of loss salary and benefits saying he was subjected to a hostile work environment. - photo by Journal file photo

Gary Hampton retired from his position as Turlock City Manager six weeks earlier than planned due to a “hostile work environment” that included being asked to “engage in unethical activities,” according to documents released by the City on Friday.

Hampton was set to retire at the end of August, but instead left on July 15. In November, Hampton filed a claim against the City of Turlock for six weeks of loss salary and benefits saying he was subjected to a hostile work environment at the hands of Mayor Gary Soiseth, Council member Matthew Jacob and City Attorney Phaedra Norton.

In his claim, Hampton states that he was solicited in May by “an appointed official of the City to engage in unethical activities intended to undermine the 2017 City Manager recruitment/selection process.”

“…I was requested to influence the selection of the next city manager to the benefit of the appointed official who was a candidate for the position. After refusing, I became the subject of continuous criticism and character attacks by the appointed official and supporters of the official, amounting to a hostile work environment,” said Hampton in his claim.

Hampton went on to state in his claim that after reporting the conduct to elected officials, he was “met with immediate bullying and retaliation by the elected officials and collusion between the elected and appointed officials to engage in a cover-up and further retaliation.”

Mayor Soiseth and Council member Jacob both said they had no idea why they were named in the claim.

“I can assure you that the City will handle this seriously and professionally,” said Soiseth.

“… Mr. Hampton naming me in his claim came as a complete surprise,” said Jacob. “Out of an overabundance of caution I have recused myself from voting on the matter. Let me be clear, I can unequivocally confirm that there is no merit to my involvement in whatever he is describing. It is blatantly false and I couldn’t begin to presume his motivation for naming me.”

When Hampton announced in March that he would be retiring at the end August, the City began a recruitment process to find his replacement. The City contracted recruitment firm Robert Neher & Associates — the same firm used following former City Manager Roy Wasden’s retirement in December 2015 — to find qualified candidates.

Those candidates were then interviewed and ranked by members of three panels of community members and a panel of City executive staff.

There was a total of 22 candidates, which were narrowed down to eight by the recruitment firm and then the top four — which included City Attorney Norton — were interviewed by the panels. The community panels then passed on their recommendations to the City Council.

The City Council decided during a closed session meeting on Oct. 10 to end the recruitment process and start over, and on Nov. 20 the City put out a request for bids for executive recruitment services.

Turlock Fire Chief Robert Talloni has been serving as Interim City Manager since Hampton left.