Port Hueneme resolution attempting to bust Mayor Pro Tem Hensley at Monday, Aug. 7 Council meeting

By George Miller

Mayor attempting to force Hensley out of Mayor Pro Tem position, strip commission appointments, reprimand

Port Hueneme City Manager Rod Butler has put a resolution on the 8-7-17 Council meeting agenda to strip Jim Hensley’s appointment as Mayor Pro Tem, which would have put him in line to be Mayor next, remove him from all commissions/agencies, which would also cost him about $600/month and formally reprimand him. It appears that Mayor Tom Figg supports it if not also initiated it. The reason given for this was Hensley’s alleged repeated “unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations” against departing Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols. The resolution indicates this was agendized at Nichols’ request. She has sent letters to the City Attorney about the issue and claims she tendered her resignation last week because of Hensley’s alleged actions.

 

From 8-7-17 meeting agenda:

14. COUNCIL MEMBERS’ REPORTS, COMMENTS, AND REQUESTS FOR
FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS
A. RESOLUTION TO REPRIMAND MAYOR PRO TEM JIM HENSLEY
– MAYOR TOM FIGG
Action: Request for approval of a Resolution of the City Council of
the City of Port Hueneme reprimanding Mayor Pro Tem
Jim Hensley for inappropriate conduct and removing him
from all committees assignments, agency appointments
and official duties

From details on page 103 of meeting materials in agenda:

COUNCIL AGENDA STAFF REPORT

TO: City Council
FROM: Rod Butler, City Manager
SUBJECT: RESOLUTION TO REPRIMAND MAYOR PRO TEM JIM
HENSLEY
DATE: August 7, 2017

RECOMMENDATION:
It is recommended the City Council consider the resolution and take such action
as it deems appropriate with respect to the following agenda item:
A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PORT HUENEME
REPRIMANDING MAYOR PRO TEM JIM HENSLEY FOR INAPPROPRIATE
CONDUCT AND REMOVING HIM FROM ALL COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS,
AGENCY APPOINTMENTS AND OFFICIAL DUTIES
BACKGROUND/ANALYSIS
On August 2, 2017, Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols tendered her
resignation as an employee of the City. In a letter to the City Attorney, Ms.
Nichols made it clear that the basis for her resignation is what she believes are
unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations continually made against her by
Mayor Pro Tem Hensley, both in public and in private, and to members of the
City staff, other Council Members, the City Attorney and members of the public.
In her letter to the City Attorney, Ms. Nichols demanded that Mayor Pro Tem
Hensley cease and desist from such conduct with the specific request that Mayor
Pro Tem Hensley make no public or private statements about her of any kind and
refrain from making in statements to her employers or future employers.
Mayor Tom Figg, on receiving copies of the foregoing letters, asked that this
matter be placed on the agenda for consideration by the City Council and in
order to make a public statement that the City of Port Hueneme does not and will
not tolerate conduct which is unbecoming of a public official and potentially place
the City in legal jeopardy.

City of Port Hueneme
Page 103 of 106

In addition, Mayor Figg has asked that the resolution include an action removing
Council Member Hensley from his position as Mayor Pro Tem, as well as all
committees, boards and organizations where he serves as a representative of
Port Hueneme by the authority of the City Council.
For these reasons, as requested by the Mayor, staff took steps to add this item to
the agenda for the August 17, 2017, meeting.

FISCAL IMPACT
The recommended action will have no fiscal impact on the General Fund.
Attachment:
Resolution

~~~~~~~

.

Figg and Hensley had been allies on the Council, often in opposition to Jon Sharkey, Doug Breeze (now off the Council, replaced by Will Berg) and Sylvia Munoz-Schnopp.  Those opposition members comprised a majority and had done similar things to Hensley and Figg. Hensley was elected to the Council in 2014 on a reform and fiscal soundness platform, along with support for lifeguard and crossing guard  programs. He also opposed the proposed large business tax increase initiative, which was defeated at the polls when he won his Council seat.

Figg sent Citizens Journal notice of the proposed action but would not provide more details or talk to us on the phone before the meeting, although it appears that he did talk to at least one other publication.

 

Hensley believes he was blindsided

Hensley expressed complete surprise that he had been blindsided on this move by Figg, although he was aware that some were not happy with how he has confronted resigning Assistant City Manager Carmen Nichols, who has served the city for two decades. She says she is resigning due to Hensley’s alleged harassment..

Per Figg, Hensley has committed multiple offenses, but what triggered the current resolution was Hensley’s recent response at the July 17 Council meeting  to Nichol’s presentation on compensation reductions of highly paid employees. Hensley claims that they in fact received a “sneaky backdoor raise” to offset any concessions that they made.

Citizens Journal asked Hensley what behavior he thought Figg was objecting to and what encounters he had with Nichols. He cited two incidents, both of which he thought were well-justified:

  1. confrontation at the July 17 Council meeting item on personnel reductions and savings with Nichols. When asked for info on this, he sent us the following video clip below (Hensley’s response starts at 11:18):

Hensley’s position is that these weren’t really savings at all, since they were more than offset by other compensation increases, which Nichols maintains were merit and interim position-justified increases. But he went a step further, characterizing it as a “sneaky backdoor raise.” Mayor Figg then apologized to Nichols for Hensley’s response, further telling Hensley that he had no facts.

This seems fairly mild compared to some of the confrontations we have witnessed at Oxnard Council meetings. We leave it to our readers to decide if this exchange was appropriate. But ultimately, it will be left up to the Council to decide a course of action.

 

2. Another confrontation was over lifeguard staffing, one of Hensley’s signature issues. He says that Nichols insisted that staffing is not lower than last year, which he disputed. However, Hensley said he brought the head lifeguard up to the meeting podium to refute her.  He said she was furious over that. Hensley claims that she was actually talking about a comparison to staffing years back, but he says that was not the case for last year, which he said was higher than now.

Councilman Hensley’s response to proposed resolution: Denial of Charges by Mayor – Pleading

Councilman Berg weighs in

Will Berg was elected to the Council in November and seems to be the most neutral member in all this. He said it’s a real disappointment and thinks the motion will carry. He would not reveal how he planned to vote, though. He said this is also a needless distraction from the budget, the two-year plan and other things that the City needs to be doing. He is very concerned about what he says is a $5-6 million structural deficit which must be addressed by budget cuts and revenue enhancements.

He said that some items will also require higher spending, even as others are cut. He feels that progress has been made in all this and fears a loss of momentum. Berg acknowledged that Hensley has been a valuable advocate in making progress in all this and has worked very hard at reducing salaries and expenses, but has also pushed some of his priorities which would increase them. Berg is afraid that this issue will “take their eye off the ball.”

He said that he would have approached the issues differently from how Hensley has. He also believes that Hensley should have been asked at the time for an explanation of his statement on the police compensation issue (see video in this article). Instead, Figg quickly shut him down, criticized him and apologized to Nichols. Berg said “I find no evidence of the accusations,” which he said addressed “not just Carmen, but the staff” in supporting the compensation increases. Also, he didn’t think it was “sneaky,” because it was handled in open meetings and the council debated and approved it in a transparent manner. He said that he had been observing Council meetings closely for two years before he was elected. In retrospect, he said “I wish I had said something to support the Mayor” at the time.

He said said that he was not sufficiently knowledgeable about the lifeguard staff issue to comment, but says that the manpower issue will be addressed in the budget.

Councilman Berg opined that the departure of Nichols is a very big loss.”She has been such a pivotal part of what we were trying to do…. she was our go-to-person.”

When asked to recall other incidents, he said that Hensley had strongly opposed Nichols’ assignment as Deputy City Manager and the raise she got along with it. He even urged her to turn down the raise. According to Transparent California, she has a base salary of $136,805.09 and a total compensation package of $219,642.98, which is high for such a small city. She had been interim City Manager before Rod Butler was appointed.

When we asked him if a lawsuit by Nichols may be involved, he told us that a lawsuit could have been coming months ago, that this was not the only incident and that he could not comment further on it.

He is concerned about how Hensley would react to the proposed resolution. When asked if passing the resolution could reduce Hensley’s chances of re-election, he said that it depends on how Hensley would handle it.  “Hopefully, he takes it in the spirit intended,” he said, without describing said spirit further. “We need him on the Council…. his actions with us will determine his ability to get though this.”

 

Other possible motivations for actions

We spoke to two very knowledgeable followers of City affairs, who did not want their names used. Both told us that Hensley does not have a demeanor suitable to be Mayor. One said that he knew people have talked to Hensley about their concerns before, but thought that it was being resolved offline and knew nothing of Figg’s resolution to be be taken up at the 8-7-17 meeting. Hensley was removed from commissions and agencies a couple of years ago, but restored by the new Council. One source also said that the new 3-2 Council majority on many issues could be lost if Hensley left. The resolution, if accepted and implemented as written by City Manager Rod Butler, could jeopardize Hensley’s prospects for re-election.

Because of excessive lawsuits against the city, especially harassment suits with large settlements, and conditions imposed by its insurer, The Joint Powers Authority (JPA), the City likely feels a need to take a very cautious position.  More than a year ago, JPA imposed an agreement on the City affecting training, hiring and monitoring  to help reduce harassment suit risks.

 

August 7, 2017 meeting agenda (budget will also be addressed):

http://porthuenemeca.suiteonemedia.com/Web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?aid=99

http://porthuenemeca.suiteonemedia.com/Web/Player.aspx?id=294&key=-1&mod=-1&mk=-1&nov=0

 

Port Hueneme agrees to insurance co-op demands … – Citizens Journal

 

Also: Star article on 8-7-17 meeting:

Port Hueneme mayor seeks to strip deputy mayor of job duties

 

City of Port Hueneme “Team Building” session ends … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/city-of-port-hueneme-team-building-session-ends-in-bitter-conflict-…

 

George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard


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