Two former city managers are taking on the cities that let them go.
Tim Kerr is suing Turlock for money he says the city owes him. And a Fresno attorney notified Hughson that his office has been retained for a potential lawsuit by Joe Donabed.
Turlock's City Council fired Kerr in January after three years on the job. Hughson's council ousted Donabed last month, although he remains on the payroll at least through Nov. 23.
Legal fees from court fights would mean the costs of firing the public officials will continue to snowball well after their dismissals.
The Turlock council fired Kerr by a 3-2 vote in January. He was paid $181,000, which represented nine months of salary and unused sick and vacation time.
Kerr said the city complied with all of the severance requirements in his contract except for a retirement contribution of about $37,000.
"They don't think I'm entitled to it," he said Wednesday.
Kerr filed a claim against the city in April; the council denied it. He filed his lawsuit Oct. 29.
The lawsuit is seeking the retirement contribution, along with any legal fees. A specific monetary amount is not set. Kerr said he does not want to take the case to court, but that might be unavoidable.
"In total, it's hard to say where this is going to end up," he said. "I filed a claim with the city trying to resolve the issue. Initially, they didn't seem amenable to any type of negotiations."
Turlock City Council members held a special closed session late Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit.
Mayor John Lazar said Wednesday that the council hired a lawyer to handle Kerr's lawsuit.
"I can't divulge anything else at this time," he said.
Kerr, recovering from foot surgery, said the matter is in the hands of the lawyers now.
"I would hope neither party would want to go to court," he said. "But I tried every opportunity to resolve it and was unsuccessful. I was kind of forced into this position."
Kerr, who also served in Livingston and Ceres, said he doesn't miss being a city manager. But, "if the right situation came up," he would consider a new job once he is fully recovered from surgery.
Eight miles to the north, Hughson has been notified that Donabed hired an attorney.
A letter from the Fresno law office of John C. Fowler to City Attorney John Stovall asks the city to preserve any evidence related to Donabed's employment.
A divided City Council voted 3-2 on Oct. 19 to begin termination proceedings against Donabed, its city manager since 2003. A final vote will take place later this month, as required by Donabed's contract.
Donabed moved his belongings out of his office and hasn't been at work since the original vote.
On Wednesday, Donabed said he couldn't comment on the matter.
Among other records, the letter seeks "any and all non-privileged communications by and between City Council members, the City Mayor, the City Finance Director, their individual staffs, agents, attorneys, and representatives, in any way relating to the job performance, duties and responsibilities of Mr. Donabed as City Manager, David Chase as Public Works Director, and Mary Heminger as former City Clerk."
Heminger is no longer with the city; Chase is out on leave.
The letter seeks to have "all cellular phones, personal data assistants, ... collected, maintained intact and kept available in anticipation of and during the pendency of this litigation."
Councilman Matt Beekman said the city hasn't determined how it will comply with that request.
Hughson's recent history of upheaval continues, with an attempt by some council members to appoint former City Manager Dave Whiteside to a position last week foiled when Whiteside opted out of consideration.
And Stovall told the City Council this week he's been called to testify at the Stanislaus County civil grand jury Friday. The council waived attorney-client privilege with Stovall, so he can reveal closed-session discussions to the grand jury.
"I think it's important that the grand jury needs to (bring to the) surface any information that's out there," Mayor Ramon Bawanan said.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.