The city of Tulare has so far spent more than $6,500 looking into allegations of harassment against Councilman Greg Nunley, who stands accused of mistreating staff members at City Hall.
The revelation comes as part of an ongoing lawsuit against Nunley, who, former Tulare police officer David Frost believes, used his elected position to further his business interests, according to the lawsuit.
“Based upon sworn deposition testimony given by former Tulare City Manger Joe Carlini and current Tulare Community Economic Development Director Josh McDonnell, it is apparent Councilman Greg Nunley has engaged in a persistent pattern of harassing city personnel who work on his development projects,” said a statement by Visalia attorney Michael Lampe, who represents Frost.
Nunley, on the contrary, says he is the one suffering harassment, and his confrontations with city staff have been blown out of proportion.
“Mike Lampe is so full of shit,” Nunley said of the accusations. “He’s got nothing better than to make mountains out of molehills. What does he do other than make problems for the city of Tulare?”
Nunley is the owner of Great Valley Builders, and is involved in several development projects in Tulare.
Lampe is motivated, Nunley says, by a desire to advance a different client’s interests in another case. Lampe also represents former Tulare Police Chief Wes Hensley in a wrongful dismissal case against the city.
“David Frost is Wes Hensley’s best friend,” Nunley said. “David Frost is an ex-cop who worked for the city.”
Hensley was fired from his position as head of the Tulare PD in September of last year. His removal came after a six-month investigation into his conduct that apparently showed Hensley’s behavior was not cause for dismissal. Hensley, who was an at-will employee, was fired on the advice of former City Attorney Heather Phillips.
The city is now suing Phillips regarding the advice she gave in the Hensley matter. (See ‘Tulare Sues Former City Attorney’ in this issue.)
Testimony from city employees taken during depositions by Lampe for the Hensley case tell another story.
In his recollection of events of January 9, while under oath Tulare’s Community and Economic Development Director Josh McDonnell described Nunley calling for the firing of two city employees, whose identity was blacked out in a transcript provided by Lampe.
McDonnell defended the actions of the employees, telling Interim City Manager Joe Carlini the two had done nothing to warrant dismissal. Carlini’s response, McDonnell said, was to protect himself from possible repercussions.
“I don’t remember the specific words, but the context was that, hey, either it’s going to be them or us,” McDonnell testified about Carlini’s reaction.
Fire the Engineers
McDonnell described Nunley’s complaints against the engineering department as mainly having to do with timeliness. City staff, according to McDonnell, moved too slowly for Nunley’s liking. Nunley also complained, McDonnell said, about the way development impact fees were calculated for his projects.
Nunley, who is facing fraud allegations in the lawsuit brought by Frost, says some of the forms he signed for the city were later altered by city employees, causing it to appear Nunley was in the wrong. Nunley says he plans to release his own written version of events that will exonerate him.
“My attorney doesn’t want me to say much,” Nunley said. “You wait for the press release.”
Nunley was not so reluctant to speak during another alleged run-in with McDonnell, which took place in May of this year. McDonnell said at that time Nunley asked him to fire the entire city engineering department.
“He (Nunley) referred to the entire engineering division as a bunch of Bozos,” McDonnell testified. “He wanted to get rid of them and hire consultants to do their tasks.”
Included in the information released by Lampe is a letter dated March 27, 2014 from Tulare City Attorney Marlin Koczanowicz to Nunley, who had yet to be elected to the City Council. In the letter, Koczanowicz threatened to seek a restraining order against Nunley to protect staff from Nunley’s alleged abuse and harassment.
According to the letter from Koczanowicz, Nunley threatened to “f*ck the city of Tulare” by refusing to complete contractually required upgrades on Mooney Boulevard next to his ongoing real estate development projects. He also accused staff of lying and being “puppets” of then City Manager Don Dorman.
The required upgrades have still not be completed.
In his letter, Koczanowicz told Nunley he would no longer be allowed to speak to city staff via telephone. When Nunley wished to interact with planning staff, he was to call ahead for an appointment so more than one staff member could be present. The measures were necessary, the letter said, to ensure civility and accuracy.
At the time the letter was written, Koczanowicz was a member of City Attorney David Hale’s law firm. Following a performance review of Hale initiated in March, Hale resigned the post. Phillips was eventually hired as his replacement.
Failure to Disclose Interests
The lawsuit brought against Nunley by Frost accuses the councilman of not only using his position to avoid paying development fees, but also of failing to disclose all of his financial interests, as is required by the Fair Political Practices Act.
Nunley maintains he must only report his financial interests if the holdings are within the city limits, and Lampe is intentionally misapplying the law in his case. He also says his lack of disclosure is not of consequence, despite the apparent financial conflict of interest. The assets Nunley did not report involve property located within Tulare’s city limits.
Yet Nunley maintains he’s done nothing wrong.
“At the end of the day, what difference does this make to anyone?” he said. “The Tulare city attorney has no concern over anything I’ve done. Michael Lampe is only trying to pressure me because the man who’s suing me is his client.”
It also appears Nunley’s behavior has attracted the attention of Tulare police, who interviewed McDonnell about Nunley’s interaction with city staff members on the same morning he gave his deposition to Lampe, November 9.
Nunley, according to McDonnell’s testimony, says someone at City Hall has attempted to pressure Nunley into firing his two employees. The TPD investigation, however, appears to be focused on whether Nunley’s claim of extortion amounts to filing a false police report. The officers spoke to several city employees, McDonnell said, and they asked if Nunley had called for a specific city employee to be fired. The name of the employee was redacted from the transcript.
Nunley said he was unaware of anyone trying to force him to fire his employees. He also declined to address police involvement.
“I can’t comment on that,” Nunley said. “There’s probably an ongoing investigation.”