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Hampton returns to Turlock
Former police chief, city manager hired as interim Development Services Director
Gary Hampton
The Turlock City Council voted on Tuesday to hire former Turlock police chief and city manager Gary Hampton as the city’s interim Development Services Director (Journal file photo). - photo by Journal file photo

Former Turlock police chief and city manager Gary Hampton is back for his fourth go-round with the city after the city council voted 5-0 to name him interim Development Services Director during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Hampton served as the city’s chief of police from 2006 to 2011 — he also served as interim city manager starting in 2009, following the firing of then-city manager Tim Kerr — before leaving to become chief of police in Tracy, where he also served as interim assistant city manager and public safety director. 

Hampton, now 62, returned to Turlock in April 2016 as the city manager, a position he held until his retirement in 2017.

But Hampton’s tenure as city manager ended six weeks before his planned departure; he filed a claim that he was subjected to a hostile work environment by then-Mayor Gary Soiseth, councilmember Matthew Jacob and city attorney Phaedra Norton.

Hampton’s claim stated he was solicited by “an appointed official of the city to engage in unethical activities intended to undermine the 2017 city manager recruitment/selection process.”

In the claim he went on to say that after refusing, he “became the subject of continuous criticism and character attacks by the appointed official and supporters of the official, amounting to a hostile work environment.” 

The claim was settled and the city paid Hampton for lost salary and benefits.

Mayor Amy Bublak said she had no reservations about hiring somebody who had a contentious parting with the city, confident that city manager Reagan Wilson and the human resources department have done their due diligence.

“He’s got great character and great work ethic,” Bublak said of Hampton. “If Reagan and HR worked this out, then I’m sure it’s fine. But we, as an elected body, can’t get into the weeds on every hire.”

Councilmember Cassandra Abram said she was unaware of Hampton’s past claim against the city, but had she known, she said it wouldn’t have changed her vote. Still, she has some reservations.

“I’m skeptical about the city’s practice of rehiring retired employees for multiple roles within the city,” Abram said. “With that comes institutional knowledge and experience, but also lots of history.

"I believe this role requires expertise in federal and state housing policies, and city development standards. So, as Mr. Hampton returns, I will be looking to see if he can effectively serve the city and our residents in this new capacity.”

Two years after his departure as city manager, Hampton was back again, this time working in an unpaid special assignments position for the Turlock P.D.

“I have been able to secure Gary into the program because of his desire to give back to the Turlock community he loves,” then-police chief Nino Amirfar said at the time, pointing out that Hampton was helping with grant writing/research, and working on a strategic-plan workshop for the department. “These are all programs that would cost us thousands of dollars, which he is doing for free.”

According to the report prepared by city staff for the council ahead of Hampton’s most recent hiring, “performance of the development services director position requires specialized skills, which Mr. Hampton possesses, as demonstrated by his prior service with the city of Turlock before his retirement.” The report does not state what those skills are.

Hampton will be paid $87.91 per hour, and will not receive any benefits or bonuses. As a public retiree, he is limited to working 960 hours — about six months — in a fiscal year.