State

Hughson manager back at work

HUGHSON -- It's business as usual -- or what passes for usual around here -- at City Hall.

Five weeks after his near-ouster, Joe Donabed resumed his job as Hughson's city manager Monday.

On Tuesday, Donabed said he's had a hectic couple of days, getting caught up on all that's gone on since the October day he cleaned out his office.

"But I'm upbeat, positive and happy," he said.

The City Council, which acted on a split vote to begin termination proceedings against Donabed, last week reversed course and unanimously voted to bring him back.

In recent meetings, residents have castigated the council for what some saw as an attempt to remove city administrators and replace them with friends. In the meantime, Donabed retained a lawyer, who warned the city that its manager was considering a lawsuit.

Councilmen Ben Manley, Thom Crowder and Doug Humphreys initially voted to oust Donabed in late October.

Mayor Ramon Bawanan -- who, along with Councilman Matt Beekman, voted against firing Donabed -- said Tuesday that he wants to get past the tumult that Hughson has experienced.

"I just want to be able to do the city's business," he said. "We have a lot of good projects, and I think it's important we work on those projects."

Donabed expressed a similar sentiment, saying that projects such as the city's waste-water treatment plant construction take priority.

One of his first tasks upon his return was to hold an all-employee meeting to go over goals and lines of command within the city. Some staff members have been warm and welcoming. Others haven't said much, he said.

"It'll get better as time goes on." But, Donabed said, he doesn't take personally the infighting the city has seen recently.

"I've been in this business 38 years," he said. "I've seen a lot of things."

As far as what the future holds, Bawanan said he doesn't foresee any further attempts to remove Donabed, at least in the immediate future.

"It's my hope we can put all those distractions behind us," he said.

Donabed refused to speculate about the future and his contract, which expires May 1. For now, he said, he's focusing on the positive.

"I've had many of those employees, big men, come up and give me hugs," he said. "Those are the parts that'll melt my heart."

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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