It’s been three-and-a-half months since Tulare’s top cop, Chief Wes Hensley, was placed on administrative leave. He still knows little to nothing more than he did on September 27, the day he received notice.
He and his attorney, Michael Lampe, are tired of the slow response and/or a lack of correspondence they have seen from the city.
In a letter from Lampe to the city attorney, Heather Phillips, dated December 14, Lampe insisted the issue of an investigation for the reasoning behind the chief’s leave be placed in the Tulare City Council’s hands, however, without the aid of the mayor.
“I am asking that this request be placed on the City Council Agenda for its next regularly scheduled meeting. Chief Hensley hereby waives any privacy rights with respect to this agenda item.
“As we have previously advised, we will insist that any administrative hearing, whether conducted by the City Council or an independent
hearing officer, be held in public, as Chief Hensley has nothing to hide.”
The reasoning behind leaving the city’s mayor, Carlton Jones, out of the picture, was due to Jones’ comments made through social media and during radio interviews, Lampe said.
Mayor Jones is part of the problem, Lampe wrote in his letter.
Lampe cited several episodes including that of a Facebook post made by Jones, “crossed the line.”
The post appears to be a screenshot of AO’s comments from the Voice website.
“Are you aware that chief ran an internal affairs investigation into what was said at a union meeting? A conversation which he and everyone else knew was privileged. The goal, simply to teach the union president a lesson. The result was unfounded but the stress it caused the union president sent the message.”
“This statement is completely false, and the mayor knows it is false,” Lampe said in his letter. “The investigation that he refers to was actually an investigation into the mayor’s improper, and possibly illegal, use of a city-issued credit card.
“The mayor’s statement is not only false, in constitutes an outrageous violation of Chief Hensley’s rights under both the Peace Officers Bill of Rights and the City of Tulare’s personnel rules.”
A response, dated December 18, and sent via electronic mail to Lampe by Phillips, she stated:
“Your most recent letter makes much of statements that you attribute to Mayor Jones, via social media. However, even a cursory review of the posting that you provided as an ‘exhibit’ to your letter, reveals that the statements were not made by Mr. Jones. The statement was apparently made by an unnamed TPD officer in response to an online article posted by the Valley Voice.”
Lampe has said that it does not matter where the statement originated – he feels the mayor’s conduct of reposting the statement is an error in judgement.
In his response dated December 22, Lampe wrote:
“Please review my December 14 correspondence carefully. Contrary to your representation, I never attributed the actual statement to Mayor Jones. My concern was that the mayor, in what has become a series of negative comments made by him in his weekly radio address, had now elevated his attack by posting the libelous remark on his Facebook page.
“The Facebook page belongs to the mayor, and he is responsible for its content. The posting of the statement was not made by a third party. The post clearly indicates that ‘Carlton Jones’ added two new photos, one being the cell phone ‘screen shot’ of the defamatory material, and the other being the advertisement for the Battle of the Badges All-Star Game.
“That fact that the libelous statement was authored by someone else (in this case “Anonymous Officer” in the comments section of Valley Voice), is irrelevant. If a defendant reprints or circulates a libelous writing, it has the same effect as the original publication.”
Investigation remains out of council’s hands
In her letter, Phillips further stated:
“As you may be aware, Council member Sigala requested an update be placed on the agenda for the December 19, 2017 meeting. I have declined said request and will continue to decline to involve members of Council in personnel matters in a manner that could violate Mr. Hensley’s rights to confidentiality, jeopardize the investigation, or violate the City’s personnel procedures.”
Here, Lampe’s response is that he, “barely knows where to begin.”
Lampe has shared with the press, with permission of his client, the December correspondence between himself and Phillips, which was copied to city council members. Lampe reviews some items he feels crucial to his client’s case and for which he feels he has had little to no response.
Tulare’s slow response
“The attached correspondence was sent to the Tulare City Attorney 25 days ago,” Lampe said. “To date, we have received no response.
“On December 18, the Tulare City Attorney made the following representation to my office:
“‘Since the time that Mr. Hensley was placed on leave, additional information has continued to come to light that requires investigation. Additional information relating to each and every one of the numerous allegations now being investigated will be provided to Mr. Hensley, when appropriate and as required by law.’
“The following day, on December 19, the City Attorney was quoted in the Visalia Times-Delta as having said, “an out-of-the-area investigator will be hired to handle the investigation, but no one has been appointed.”
On January 12, Lampe said he was told by a news reporter that an investigator had recently been hired.
“To date, we have heard nothing from the City confirming the appointment of an investigator.”
An investigator has been hired
While the city manager, Joe Carlini, has confirmed to the Voice that an investigator has been hired and a contract signed – he said he could not provide the name of the investigator, as he did not know it.
Carlini did state that the same investigator is hired not only for Hensley’s investigation, but for that of Capt. Fred Ynclan and Lt. Jerod Boatman, who were placed on leave the first week of November – although apparently each command staff member is on leave for different reasons, Carlini has said. The investigation is scheduled to start “sometime with the next week or so,” he added.
It is not clear just how long the investigation may take or how much it may cost. What is clear is that the city is spending around $37,000 per month for Hensley, Ynclan and Boatman to be on leave.
Lampe is still insisting the matter be taken over by the city council.
“We renew our request that the City Council, sans Mr. Jones, take control of this so-called investigation under §16 of the City Charter. This is a decision to be made by the council, without the participation of either you or Mr. Jones. I hope that the council does so, for the good of the City of Tulare.”
But, he also added that Chief Hensley does hope that an investigation begins soon.
“Chief Hensley hopes that an investigator has, in fact, finally been hired,” Lampe said. “Chief Hensley will cooperate fully with the investigation, which we believe will allow Chief Hensley to resume his duties to the citizens of Tulare.”
None of the investigation matters were on the January 16 city council agenda. However, for the third time in the past five council meetings, a Public Employee Performance Evaluation of the City Manager was scheduled during closed session. When asked why a performance evaluation has come up so much recently, Carlini replied, “they [council] just wanted to give updates and some guidance. That’s good – I’m learning, too.”