HUGHSON — Rumors ran rampant that three rogue City Council members planned to appoint a city manager during a special meeting Friday night.
A crowd filled the council chamber, and several residents implored the councilmen not to do it. The mayor joined the fray, warning the three councilman, all facing an Aug. 24 recall election, against taking such action.
But the council didn't hire a new executive or take any action. Why the meeting was called remains a mystery.
One thing is certain: They'll talk about it again in another special meeting Monday.
Before the council went into closed session, residents questioned the three members' motives and took them to task for scheduling the meeting. The agenda item stated only that the council was meeting to "discuss City Manager appointment."
"You three cannot be trusted to do what is right for this city," Dianne David told Councilmen Doug Humphreys, Ben Manley and Thom Crowder. "Let this consulting firm that we paid $16,000 do its job."
At the council's regular meeting Monday night, Crowder said it wasn't fair that the recruiter the city hired to sort through applications dismissed one from a former city manager. None of the other finalists have experience as a city manager, he said.
Crowder didn't give the applicant's name, but the prevailing belief in town is that he was talking about Dave Whiteside, who had served as city manager until 2001. The three tried to appoint him as interim city manager last year, but he declined the appointment. The council later rescinded the notice of termination for Joe Donabed and he returned to serve out his contract through May.
Mayor Ramon Bawanan sent a statement to be read at Friday's meeting. He and Councilman Matt Beekman did not attend.
Bawanan apologized for missing the meeting, saying he was hosting a family birthday party.
He went on to warn the three councilmen against taking any action or making any changes to the recruitment process, cautioning that it would only further delay the hiring and potentially open the city to lawsuits.
Crowder, Humphreys and Manley have accused the mayor of delaying the hiring. The three face a recall election Aug. 24 after the Stanislaus County civil grand jury found they conspired to fire Donabed.
Humphreys, who called the meeting, said he had no plans to hire anyone Friday.
"We're by no means appointing a city manager," he said, adding that the meeting was to address a "benign, clerical" issue that had to be handled before the city manager interviews begin next week.
It wasn't clear at the conclusion of the meeting what that issue was. City Attorney Dan Schroeder gave this statement at the session's end:
"The reason for closed session is because more than one complaint about the process had been received by the members of the council and the city's recruiting consultant. City Council is scheduling a further special meeting for at the conclusion of the ad hoc committee meeting Monday at 8 p.m. in council chambers."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.