HUGHSON -- The man at the center of the ongoing controversy over the selection of a new city manager withdrew from consideration Monday afternoon. But that didn't keep residents from letting City Council members have it Monday night over their recent actions.
Dave Whiteside, a former city manager and police chief in Hughson, was voted into a City Hall position at a special meeting Thursday.
The council was scheduled to consider a contract with Whiteside on Monday night. But Whiteside, who works for the city's risk management authority, called City Attorney John Stovall and declined the offer.
"He said he is unable to obtain a leave of absence from his employer," Stovall said in an announcement at the beginning of the regular city council meeting. "He did say thank you very much for having considered him and that he would be involved in the city of Hughson in the future, as a citizen."
Stovall's announcement took many crowded into the council chambers by surprise.
But several residents addressed the council with their consternation anyway over last week's meeting, hastily called by Councilmen Thom Crowder, Ben Manley and Doug Humphreys, the three members who voted to offer Whiteside a contract to serve as temporary city manager.
Hughson still has a city manager, though the council has notified Joe Donabed of its intent to terminate him. Crowder did not attend Monday's meeting.
Humphreys last week said he voted to hire Whiteside because the city needed help quickly in its administrative ranks. It doesn't have a public works director, and Donabed is not in the office while he awaits a final vote Nov. 23 on whether the council will fire him.
"I'm so embarrassed of the recent events of the city of Hughson," said Jean Henley Hatfield. "Why was an emergency meeting needed?"
Henley Hatfield said she asked Crowder and Manley in January about a rumor she'd heard that they were looking to get rid of Donabed and bring Whiteside back.
"They said, 'Oh, no. David has a great job; he would never come back to Hughson,' " she said.
Former Mayor Ken Moore also chastised the council, calling Donabed "probably the best city manager the city has ever had."
The matter is far from over: Also Monday, Stovall told the council he'd been summoned to testify before the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury on Friday. And the city got a letter from a Fresno attorney representing Donabed, seeking evidence and data from records.
The power struggle at City Hall has left the city staff depleted and the community split. Mayor Ramon Bawanan, who voted against terminating Donabed, said the council still needs to get some help for Planning and Community Development Director Thom Clark, who has been wearing many of Hughson's administrative hats.
Bawanan asked Clark to contact the League of California Cities to seek a pool of qualified applicants who would be available to work with the city.
"We need to get some help as we transition through this period and look to who's going to lead this city as its manager," he said.
Bawanan also thanked residents for speaking out.
"I commit to everybody out there that I will work very hard for this city that I have a passion for," he said. "We will work through this very dark time."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.