City Hall will pay former City Manager Gary Hampton $39,000 to settle his claim that a nasty work environment — including alleged "unethical activities" by Mayor Gary Soiseth, Councilman Matthew Jacob and City Attorney Phaedra Norton — forced Hampton to retire early.
In other news, the City Council will stage a rare do-over at a special meeting this Saturday for votes taken last week in violation of the state’s open-meetings law.
The Hampton settlement came Feb. 14 on a 3-0 vote, with Soiseth and Jacob abstaining, "in the interest of putting this matter behind us and moving forward," according to draft minutes released by City Clerk Jennifer Land. Approving the payment were council members Bill DeHart, Amy Bublak and Gil Esquer.
Hampton in April had announced he would retire Aug. 31. But he left six weeks early, having suffered "continuous criticism and character attacks" for refusing to join a conspiracy aimed at landing Norton in the city manager’s job, the claim said.
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Norton had assumed Hampton’s duties for four weeks in early 2017 when he was out on medical leave.
The recruitment process eventually unraveled as the council bickered. The council scrapped the recruitment, despite having spent $13,000, and a new recruitment round is ongoing.
The council racked up a $290,000 bill for legal services from outside attorneys when Norton was away on leave for several weeks in the fall. Norton is not a candidate in the latest process; she returned to the dais in December, but she and other city officials ignored recent requests for information regarding her employment status.
The Modesto Bee was unable to reach Hampton for comment. He could have sued in the absence of a settlement.
The $39,000 payment roughly represents six weeks of Hampton’s former salary and benefits, or the money he missed out on by leaving early.
“Council member DeHart wished Mr. Hampton the best in his retirement,” draft minutes read.
Meanwhile, Norton advised the council to redo its Feb. 27 meeting because someone on city staff botched public notice requirements.
Soiseth had participated via teleconference from a hotel in Washington, D.C., as allowed as long as agendas are posted and the traveler’s location is accessible to the public. But his location was “incorrectly stated,” Land said in an email, so the council will hold a special meeting for vote ratification at 11 a.m. Saturday.
That meeting will piggyback on a budget workshop the council already intended to hold at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390