Update: HURLBERT OUT AS CITY MANAGER
Council votes 3-2 to accept resignation
August 8, 2019
Jamie Stewart | The Shafter Press
[Updated at 2:50 p.m. Wednesday]
The City Council, by a 3-2 vote, accepted City Manager Scott Hurlbert's resignation at a special meeting of the council on Tuesday night.
In a split vote, Mayor Gilbert Alvarado, Mayor Pro-tem Cesar Lopez and Councilmember Manuel Garcia voted to accept the resignation, and Councilmembers Cathy Prout and Chad Givens voted no.
The council appointed the city's chief financial executive, Administrative Services Manager Jim Zervis, as acting city manager. He is a former city manager for the City of Wasco.
Details of Hurlbert's termination package were disclosed in a separation agreement obtained by [BEGIN ITAL]The Press[END ITAL] Wednesday morning. City Attorney Marco Martinez said that Hurlbert will receive one year's pay, plus a severance package, amounting to $248,718.
Hurlbert makes approximately $199.032 in base pay. He had signed to a five-year contract just last year, leaving four years remaining.
The agreement overrides his contract, and limits any legal action by the city or Hurlbert, For the payment, he gives up normal protections, including for harassment and bias, under the law. Such an agreement, or “release,” is not unusual when a separation is negotiated.
The vote came in a closed session after a long line of people expressed their displeasure with the possible decision and what they saw as the direction of the city.
Members did not take questions following announcement of the decision.
Before the meeting went into closed session, the public comment period gave the residents a chance to voice their opinions. Mary Crabb-Sharon, who spoke at the last regular meeting on Aug. 6, spoke this time about the lack of confidence she has in the City Council. “I am very disappointed in what has gone on here. I just pray that you guys end up doing what we elected you to do, and that is to do what is right for the city.”
Larry Starrh opened up the comments with scathing remarks that reflected the sentiments of the majority of the attendees. Starrh told of a show on HBO that he had watched, “The Game of Thrones,” He said that it is about a group of cities who were vying for power throughout the land. They decided to unite and work together to have peace in their kingdoms. But, there was one leader who used lies and manipulation to gain all of the power. “Through backroom strategies and ploys, this leader was wiping out everyone serving, and that she was ruling. This reminds me of what is going on here. It seems all about power and that it is just a big game,” he said.
Woody Colvard voiced concerns he has had for a few months. The former mayor and council member said that he had heard the rumors of what was happening and the reasons behind the actions but didn’t want to pre-judge anyone. “But, after attending the last few meetings, and seeing for myself what is being done and said, I believe that there is truth to the rumors.” Colvard went on to ask if he could ask what the details of the contract are that Hurlbert has in place and how it will be affected. “If if is truly a resignation, then he shouldn’t get paid anything. If there is some sort of buyout or compensation, then we know what happened, and it wasn’t a voluntary resignation.”
Former Councilmember Eli Espericueta said that Scott is a good person and that it seems that this has been a quick turnaround from a couple of weeks ago. “You said, Manuel [Garcia], that the council had done a great job in fixing the roads and alleys, and that is the city manager and the staff. Now, he is being forced to resign like he hasn’t done his job? I think it is not true. It is your own fault that you three ended up looking like fools by trying to put your names on that memorial. It wasn’t anybody else’s fault. You guys looked like fools and now all of a sudden, this is happening.”
There was a smattering of laughter at one point in the proceedings when a resident said that she knew the people on the council and knew that they wanted to do the right thing, particularly when Garcia said, “We are not bad people.”
Councilmember Cesar Lopez remarked on when he repeatedly smirked when addressed by speakers at the dais. At the last City Council meeting, the mayor pro-tem said that there were people in the community who agreed with him, but they didn’t feel comfortable coming to the meetings and would not come to speak.
Resident Susan Walden rebutted that statement in her time to speak. “I am a Hispanic woman, and I have plenty of Hispanic friends and know many more. I am her to tell you that they are not afraid to come here to the meetings -- they just don’t want to get involved. They are not afraid.” She went on to say that she has lived in Shafter since 1976 and doesn’t have the same confidence that she once did in the City Council. “I know that you guys want to do what is right for the city. I just pray that you end up doing what is right.”
Christine Wilson, who retired as city clerk last year, had some of the strongest worded remarks of the evening. “I worked for this city for 28 years, and I am ashamed right now for this city and the way it is being ran. Gilbert [Alvarado], I cannot believe that you have been on the council for 10 years and are just now concerned about knowing what is in the charter and how the city works.”
She went on to say that Hurlbert was always dependable, honest and a man with integrity. “I have seen what you do, Gilbert, when you do not get your way in a meeting or an issue you believe in. It is always the city manager’s fault or someone else’s fault.” She said the city has built a reputation for being strong, stable and independent, but now” the city is more of a punchline or sideshow.”
It was asked if the people would be able to ask questions or make remarks after the meeting was reopened, and they were told the council would decide afterward. When the meeting reconvened, the announcement of the acceptance was made by City Attorney Martinez and the council members exited without comment.
When contacted, Hurlbert — who did not attend the meeting -- said that he had no comment, and that there would be a statement at a later date.
A statement was released by the city Wednesday afternoon, headlined "Shafter City Council Accepts City Manager’s Resignation":
"At a special city council meeting held on August 13, 2019, the Shafter City Council
and City Manager Scott Hurlbert mutually agreed to end Hurlbert’s employment
agreement with the City effective that night. The City Council accepted Mr.
Hurlbert’s resignation and approved a separation and release agreement that
confirms the terms of his separation from the City. The City Council also named
Administrative Services Director James Zervis as the Acting City Manager.
"Mr. Hurlbert had been with the City since 2005 and became the City Manager in
March of 2014. The mutual agreement to end the City Manager’s employment
relationship with the City now means that the City Council will begin the search for
a new City Manager. Mayor Gilbert Alvarado said he will be working on a transition
plan to hire a new City Manager with the City Council and the City’s management
team at an upcoming City Council meeting.
"Mayor Alvarado also said “The City Council and the residents of Shafter wish to
thank Mr. Hurlbert for his years of service to the City. We believe we have a great
team in place at the City and employees who will make the transition to a new city
Zervis was listed as the contact, along with the telephone numberfor City Hall -- 661-746-5000.
This is a continuing story, and The Press will update this report online and in Thursday's print edition.