The Tulare City Council has rejected Councilman Greg Nunley’s demand for a public apology and a $16.5 million compensation package for alleged damage to his reputation and income; and, meanwhile, an independent investigation of Nunley’s treatment of city employees has been released, finding the councilman threatened to have city hall staff members fired.
According to the investigative report by Fresno attorney Daniel Rowley, Nunley was accused by city staff of “rude, inappropriate treatment” of building inspectors, issuing demands certain members of the staff at city hall be fired and threatening to sue both the city and individual staff members. Nunley also claims he was the victim of a campaign of harassment by Chief Building Inspector John Karlie.
Rowley’s report on Nunley’s behavior–which cost the city more than $20,000–appears to support staff’s claims of inappropriate behavior, finding that Nunley, while cooperative, was not reliable in his testimony.
“Mr. Nunley was not a credible witness,” Rowley’s report concluded. “On key issues involving his interactions with city staff, I find Mr. Nunley to lack credibility in comparison to …city employees.”
The move to reject Nunley’s claim for compensation–stemming from his accusation the city allowed false information about him and his business to be published–came during a council session held on April 16. With Councilwoman Terry Sayre absent and Nunley recusing himself from voting on the issue, the vote to reject the claim was a unanimous 3-0.
“The ball is in his court,” said Mayor Jose Sigala, who voted to reject Nunley’s claim.
Sigala also said there are concerns about limiting Nunley’s future communication with staff at city hall, as well as his continuing presence on the council.
“(Councilman) Denis Mederos and I spoke out about him staying on council,” Sigala said, “how we can limit (Nunley’s) contact with staff.”
“He has a right to make a claim,” Mederos said. “And, the city has a right to defend itself.”
Now that Nunley appears poised to sue the city, Sigala says there are issues about how information Nunley receives from staff at city hall will be used in future litigation.
“We’ve called on our city attorney to look into how we can limit his contact with staff,” Sigala said, addressing Nunley’s role as both a council member and a private businessman with dealings with the city. “We need to figure out those questions.”
Sigala expressed concern about how information Nunley requests from staff will be used.
“We have some issues with communication,” Sigala said. “Emails he’s sending to the city, is he going to use those against us?”
Visalia attorney Mike Lampe–who is currently challenging Nunley’s business practices with regard to the city in an ongoing lawsuit and who made the report on Nunley’s behavior public when he received it as part of a public records request–has called for Nunley to resign.
According to the Rowley report, many of the claims regarding Nunley’s inappropriate behavior toward staff members appear to be substantiated. Among its findings, the report claims Nunley attempted to intimidate former city managers Joe Carlini and Willard Epps, both of whom refused to fire members of the city staff demanded by Nunley.
Nunley was also rude, condescending and intimidating to members of the staff at city hall, the report said, and threatened to have some staff members fired. The report also says Nunley repeatedly threatened to sue both individual staff members and the city itself.
According to Rowley’s report, there were several instances where “Mr. Nunley demonstrated a very good memory” yet his account of interactions with city staff did not match other evidence, including testimony from staff. Nunley also declined to turn over video evidence he said is in his possession and which would have corroborated his claims of harassment by city staff. Nunley also apparently changed his retelling of events after presented with documentation, Rowley reported.
“This, in my opinion, is an example of Mr. Nunley initially ‘shooting from the hip’ with a response he does not know to be true,” Rowley wrote. “Thereafter, when he realizes he did not state the truth, he admits what he said was wrong. Such behavior, in my assessment, demonstrates a lack of commitment to telling the truth.”
In contrast, Rowley’s report found that members of the city’s staff were credible in their testimony.
“Where applicable, their verbal reports were consistent with prior statements reported by themselves and others and, in some cases, supported by documentation that was created at the time of the alleged event,” Rowley wrote. “It should also be noted that the investigation did not result in the receipt of any credible evidence that any of the other city staff had any reason or motive to fabricate what they were saying.”
According to the report, several of the city’s building inspectors feel that Nunley was harassing them and making it difficult to complete inspections of his construction projects, allegations the report sustains.
The inspectors also reported to Rowley they believed Nunley was using his position on the city council to ignore city building regulations. While the report makes no conclusion about Nunley allegedly abusing his power as an elected official, it does say Nunley admitted being upset by the inspection requirements.
“Based on his admission, and the relative credibility of the witnesses, I find that the weight of the credible evidence supports the allegation that on this occasion Mr. Nunley went off about how he was being harassed, and that he was going to sue Mr. Karlie and the city for harassment and questioned the need for two inspectors, how long they had been building inspectors, etc.,” Rowley wrote.
The city began assigning more than a single inspector for projects involving Nunley due to concerns about Nunley’s behavior, according to testimony contained in the report. The city has since hired an independent inspection firm to review Nunley’s projects, spending $28,000 on inspections of Councilman Nunley’s projects during February and March. According to Lampe, it appears Nunley has not reimbursed the city for either the cost of independent building inspectors or the $20,000 cost of the investigation into allegations against him.
“It has become crystal clear that Councilman Nunley routinely acts to better himself at the expense of Tulare’s citizens,” Lampe said in a statement released along with the Rowley report. “It is equally clear that the city council will need to engage independent legal counsel for the purpose of recovering tax dollars expended solely as a result of Councilman Nunley’s wrongful conduct and insuring that his intimidation of staff comes to an immediate halt.”