Report details hostility between Tulare councilman, officer

Citizens of Tulare are finally getting a look at the details of a pair of altercations between one of their city councilmen and a high-ranking officer of the Tulare Police Department.

 

Hostile Work Environment

Following a pair of hostile interactions between Councilman Carlton Jones and TPD Lt. Jarod Boatman during city council meetings on April 2 and May 7 of 2019, Boatman filed a pair of complaints alleging Jones created a hostile work environment. The accusations led the city to commission an independent investigation by Clovis attorney Dan Rowley, which Jones declared vindicated him. The city, however, refused to release the report, claiming it contained protected confidential personnel information.

Jones’ fellow councilman, Greg Nunley, sued the city to force release of the report, claiming the public had the right to review the investigation’s findings. On April 9, 2020, Court Judge Brett Hillman agreed, ruling the city must make the report public and pay Nunley’s court costs.

 

Public’s Right to Know

The court found that the public’s right to know the extent to which Jones exposed the city to possible financial liability during his interactions with Boatman outweighed Boatman’s right to confidentiality.

“The report’s conclusions provided to the parties indicate the investigation of the police officer’s hostile environment claims were found at least partially sustained,” Hillman wrote in his ruling. “There is a substantial public interest in knowing what actions of its elected official with a city employee might result in liability to the city. This weighs heavily in favor of disclosure and offsets privacy interests which might be asserted by the subjects of the report.”

 

City Hall’s Response

A press release from Tulare City Hall indicted an intention to comply with the court’s ruling. It has since made the report into Jones and Boatman’s interactions and accusations available to Nunley and his attorney, as well as to the public.

“The court ruled that the public has ‘an interest in knowing whether a city council as an employer is violating the rights of its employees’ under the applicable law,” the release stated. “While the city opposed disclosure of the report given the fact that it was a confidential personnel record with sensitive information about the officer’s claims, it respects the court’s ruling and now has the direction it needs with respect to this particular personnel report.”

The report itself provides details regarding a pair of confrontations between Jones and Boatman, and it upholds in part Boatman’s claim Jones communicated with him in a hostile manner.

 

April 2 Incident

The first allegedly hostile interaction between Jones and Boatman occurred during a break at a council meeting the evening of April 2, 2019.

While Boatman was at the dais in the Tulare City Council Chambers speaking to TPD Police Chief Wes Hensley, Jones was seated nearby in conversation with Nunley and Tulare Fire Chief Luis Nevarez. According to the report, Jones claims Boatman began to stare at him in a hostile manner he referred to as “mean mugging.” According to witness statements in the report, Jones then made a hostile gesture toward Boatman and spoke to him.

“Chief Hensley reported that when he turned his head, he saw Mr. Jones push back the chair in which he was sitting, throw his chest back and his arms out in a very agitated/confrontational posture that he understood to be a challenge,” the report said. “Chief Hensley stated that Mr. Jones said something like, ‘What is your problem? I am right here.’”

The report–which ultimately concluded both Jones and Boatman made incorrect assertions and allegations–concluded video of the confrontation did not support Jones’ claim Boatman had at some point turned his entire body toward Jones to stare at him.

Video evidence also does not support Boatman’s claim of the timing of the incident, which he said occurred during the break after the council’s closed session. Video and witness statements put the timing of the confrontation between the council’s study session and its regular meeting.

 

May 7 Incident

The second confrontation between Jones and Boatman followed the city council’s meeting on May 7, 2019.

After the meeting concluded and Jones was making his way to his car, he allegedly initiated another interaction with Boatman, who was in the parking lot of the Council Chambers. Boatman ignored Jones, prompting the councilman to call out more loudly in what Boatman described as an “elevated, angry voice.”

According to the report, Boatman claims he remained silent and Jones, who had undergone shoulder surgery two weeks earlier, then challenged him to a physical fight.

“Lt. Boatman originally alleged that at this point it appeared to him that Mr. Jones took off the shoulder sling he was wearing to support his right arm,” Rowley’s report said. “Lt. Boatman reported that Mr. Jones then said, ‘If you are that mad, we need to get together and handle this like men.’ According to Boatman, this statement and the prior incident on April 2, 2019, convinced him that Mr. Jones was challenging him to a fight.”

Boatman reportedly responded by telling Jones he had filed a complaint against him and that he was recording their current interaction. Jones, Boatman said, then repeated his challenge before leaving.

Video of the confrontation shows Jones did not remove the sling, and Boatman later admitted to lying to Jones about recording their interaction that night in order to “de-escalate the situation.”

 

Rowley’s Conclusions

While Rowley found both men’s recollection of the two incidents was sometimes not supported by evidence and witness statements, he concluded Jones had acted with hostile intent toward Boatman during the April 2, 2019 council session.

“I find that the weight of credible evidence supports the allegation by Lt. Boatman that Mr. Jones postured toward him in a confrontational, aggressive manner, motioned with his body language that he was seeking a confrontation with Lt. Boatman and mouthed to him, ‘I’m right here,’” the report states. “Therefore, Lt. Boatman’s allegations are sustained.”

Jones was wrong, Rowley said, when he claimed Boatman provoked his hostility.

“I also find that the evidence does not support Mr. Jones’ explanation that Lt. Boatman essentially started the whole thing by staring at Mr. Jones,” Rowley wrote. “While Lt. Boatman can be seen in the video looking right in the general direction of Mr. Jones, this did not occur until 4:26 in the video and Lt. Boatman never looks in that direction for more than a few seconds at a time.”

Rowley, however, found Boatman’s claims about the second incident in the parking lot were not supported by the available evidence.

“I find there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations that as Mr. Jones walked through the parking lot on the evening of May 7, 2019, he said to Lt. Boatman something like, ‘If you are that mad, we need to get together and handle this like men,’” the report said. “Therefore, this allegation is not sustained.”

 

Background and Credibility

According to Rowley, the hostile atmosphere between Jones and Boatman is rooted in Boatman’s investigation of Jones’ alleged misuse of a city credit card in 2017 that both Jones and Boatman referenced in their testimony. The investigation of Jones, initiated by Hensley, eventually led to Hensley’s dismissal, along with the suspension of two other ranking TPD officers. Hensley and the officers were later reinstated.

The report also concluded a mutual dislike exists between Boatman and Jones stemming from the 2017 investigation and its fallout. Both men, the report states, made assertions regarding the other that are either false or not sustained by the available evidence, and both attempted to dirty the other’s name.

“Both Lt. Boatman and Mr. Jones attempted to attack the credibility of each other by referencing negative statements and/or acts allegedly made by the other party,” Rowley wrote.

Neither Boatman or Jones, the report concludes, was a more reliable witness to the events.

“Based on the foregoing, I find that the relative credibility of both parties is about the same,” Rowley’s report said. “Both were truthful and accurate in some regards and mistaken in others.”

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