HUGHSON — The uneasy truce here, it seems, has ended.
As a committee put together by Mayor Ramon Bawanan prepares to interview candidates for city manager next week, Councilman Doug Humphreys scheduled a special closed-session meeting tonight to discuss the same topic.
The agenda includes only an item considering a city manager appointment; the same topic is listed for next week's interview sessions.
Humphreys could not be reached for comment, but Interim City Manager Thom Clark and Councilman Thom Crowder confirmed the meeting.
"It kind of surprised all of us," Crowder said. "I'm not sure exactly what's going on."
Clark said Humphreys sent a note to City Attorney Dan Schroeder, saying he wanted the meeting and that Crowder and Councilman Ben Manley agreed.
"He said he had spoken to Councilmen Crowder and Manley just about having a meeting and not about any content and they both had agreed," Clark said. "There were three votes to call the meeting. The city attorney said that's clean, there's no Brown Act violation, we can have a meeting."
Crowder, Humphreys and Manley are facing a recall election Aug. 24 after a Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury found they violated the Brown Act, the state's public meeting law, in conspiring to fire then-City Manager Joe Donabed. The grand jury further found Crowder tried to use his elected position to get a job with an ambulance company considering taking over his Hughson Ambulance. Crowder denies that was the case.
City Council meetings, which had grown contentious with Bawanan and Councilman Matt Beekman calling on the others to resign, settled down somewhat after the recall was scheduled.
But accusations flew again Monday as Crowder, Humphreys and Manley cited problems with the committee Bawanan put together to interview city manager candidates; two residents on it are father and daughter. Bawanan offered to come up with another list, but said he couldn't do it until the next regular meeting. Humphreys called that a tactic to delay the interviews.
Crowder said Thursday he believes the meeting tonight will address the makeup of the committee, which as it stands includes Bawanan, Humphreys, Planning Commissioner Alan McFadon, former Mayor Ken Moore and Hughson Elementary School Principal Brenda Vaca, who is Moore's daughter.
"That was one of my concerns," Crowder said, referring to Bawanan and Beekman as a "conspiracy of two."
"This is just one stall after another."
Crowder also said he was concerned the city's recruiter wasn't acting fairly. He pointed out that a former city manager had applied for the job and had been told the application wouldn't be considered because of "baggage" the individual had. Crowder didn't name the applicant, but former City Manager Dave Whiteside applied for the job last year before Donabed returned to finish out his contract.
He said none of the applicants the recruiter selected for an interview had city manager experience.
"Regardless of them being a candidate that's selected, I think that they at least deserve the respect and ... an opportunity to go through the process," Crowder said. "It's not the recruiter's responsibility to select the city manager. ... This seemed almost like a setup."
The City Council meets in closed session at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 7018 Pine St.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.