HUGHSON — City Councilman Doug Humphreys wanted people to know he didn't ask for a special closed-session meeting to hijack the city manager selection process.
After Monday's meeting — the second in less than a week — he said he hoped people realized how "aboveboard" the council was acting in making sure the search for a city manager was conducted properly.
But a government watchdog says the meetings, called to address complaints made by candidates for the job, were illegal.
"It could be a legitimate reason for calling a special meeting, but not a closed meeting," said Terry Francke, director of CalAware.
"If you're looking for a new employee, you can hold a closed session to consider that employee or that candidate. As for the process of recruiting or selecting candidates in general, that's public."
Humphreys said Tuesday he can see how Francke would think that. But, he said, the matter had to be handled in closed session because even though it was a procedural problem, it had to do with how the process affected specific candidates.
"I could agree with him if it was strictly about the process," he said. "But it was a question of equal application of a process."
Mayor Ramon Bawanan, who didn't attend Friday's meeting but sent a scathing warning to the council members who did, said Tuesday that he understood why Humphreys requested it.
"It's my understanding that it was appropriate," he said.
On Friday, Bawanan joined several residents who chastised Humphreys and Councilmen Thom Crowder and Ben Manley for having a meeting. Several members of the public accused the three — who are facing a recall election Aug. 24 — of trying to circumvent the process and either name someone else to the post or add another applicant to the candidate pool. Interviews are being conducted this week.
Humphreys said he could understand why people thought the council was up to something nefarious. But he hoped that after Monday's meeting his intentions would be clear.
"It was only to deal with those complaints," he said, adding that he and the city's recruiter had complaints from different applicants.
"I got the complaint on Wednesday; we needed a 24-hour notification for a special meeting, and the earliest date would have been Friday," he said.
Bawanan and Humphreys said the council discussed the complaints with the recruiter and came away satisfied the application process had been straightforward and fair.
"People think we're trying to circumnavgate the system," Humphreys said. "I don't want anything but a good city manager. ... I felt it was necessary to get it dealt with prior to us moving forward."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.