The city of Tulare will pay two of its police officers a total of $40,000 to avoid going to court over an allegedly improper disclosure of information about them by Councilman Carlton Jones.
At its meeting August 18, the Tulare City Council voted 4-1–with Jones casting the sole no vote to pay $23,000 to Lt. Jarad Boatman and $17,000 to Sgt. Fred Ynclan in the wake of Jones’ releasing portions of a confidential report about the pair to the public via social media in 2018.
This brings the total paid to five members of the Tulare Police Department by the city to $84,000 as a result of Jones’ disclosure.
Reports Improperly Released
Jones claims the report should be disclosed and that the public has a right to know its contents, however the nature of the so-called McGinness Report was judged by the city attorney to be confidential, as it contained information regarding internal personnel matters.
Special council Mandy Jeffcoach, who represents Tulare in the matter, explicitly contradicted Jones’ assertion about the lack of confidentiality.
“There is no question those were improperly disclosed,” she said. “As a result of that, we are settling these claims, because a failure to settle these claims would have resulted in formal litigation being filed by (Visalia attorney) Mike Lampe on behalf of officers Boatman and Ynclan, which would have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to litigate.”
Jones Alleges Favoritism
Jones, however, argued the settlement amounts to a “backdoor deal” that rewarded the officers for their supposed cooperation into a separate investigation into the conduct of Councilman Greg Nunley and the possibility he created a hostile work environment for staff at City Hall.
“To me that’s what it looks like. That’s what’s happening,” he said. “That’s money that could go out to our city to put in speedbumps, put in streetlights, make concessions to bargaining units that would help everyone. But instead, to date, three councilmembers have given away almost $600,000.”
Jones says the city’s agreement to settle the claims out of court amount to a reward for the officers and represent a subversion of the system for dealing with similar claims.
“That’s a good-ol’-boy system that I can’t stand, that I’m disgusted by, and I would hope that we would put it back on an even playing field, where all of our employees feel that they have to go through the same process, instead of if you’re liked, you’re going to get paid,” Jones said.
Jones Ignored Advice
Jeffcoach countered Jones’ assertion, saying settling the claims would save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-recoverable attorneys fees even if it successfully defended itself. She also pointed out Jones was the cause of the officers’ justified complaints.
“This is not a back (room) deal reached with friends to avoid some sort of bad dealing,” Jeffcoach said. “This is the result of two claims out of a total of five that were the result of the unauthorized disclosure of an internal investigation report by yourself, Mr. Jones, that you had been told repeatedly that this report was confidential.”
Jones behaved exactly opposite of the advice of the city’s legal counsel, Jeffcoach said.
“Rather than adhere to those instructions, you (Jones) went to the former city attorney (Heather Phillips) who was no longer the city attorney and requested a copy from her,” Jeffcoach said. “She (Phillips) then improperly disclosed that report to you (Jones), which is separate litigation the city has against that former attorney.”
The case against Phillips was filed in 2018.
Jones Denies Responsibility
Although Jones did release the report, he alleges his actions could not have harmed the officers financially or caused harm to their careers.
“There’s nothing that the [garbled] councilmember can do to cause that, for him to lose raises,” Jones, who was attending the meeting from his home, said. “We don’t give them promotions or anything.”
He again argued the settlement amounted to a secret payoff to the officers, as well as claiming it amounted to some form of discrimination against other city employees.
“These type of claims have to be rejected,” Jones said. “We have to let these two officers go through the same process that we would require every single employee if they felt the same, like if they felt stressed, if they felt harassed, if they felt like an injustice was done to them, they make their claims with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and make their claims with the department of Fair Labor and Housing instead of making these backdoor deals into the pockets of friends.”
Judge Singled Out Jones
Jones has claimed that because another independent investigation into a separate confrontation between Jones and Boatman was made public, all similar reports should be disclosed as well. However, Jeffcoach said that in his ruling regarding that report, Judge Brett Hillman stated that while the second report was confidential, its contents should be disclosed so the citizens of Tulare could know what members of the council had done to expose the city to possible legal action.
“The councilman that Judge Hillman was referring to was you, Mr. Jones,” Jeffcoach said.
Jones maintains the decision to settle was not merely a matter of saving money for the city, and that no one was forcing the city to take the settlements.
“No court said that,” Jones said. “No judgement has went against the city.”
He continued to allege a special relationship between those who engineered the settlement and the officers who made the claims.
“It’s funny that the same people who gave information in that report are the ones who are getting paid now, because three councilmembers are settling with them,” he said.
Jones’ Day in Court
In response to the decision to make the payouts to Boatman and Ynclan, Mayor Jose Sigala read a statement giving his own opinion on Jones behavior, calling it “intentional reckless conduct,” and reaffirming that Jones’ actions were not sanctioned by the council.
Jones, who interrupted Sigala as he read the statement into the record, said he would welcome litigation, again asserting his actions could not have harmed the officers’ careers.
“I would love a day in court for them to show how I kept them from getting promoted,” he said.
Jones may get that wish, as Jeffcoach reported all five officers intend to sue Jones as an individual now that the city has agreed to their terms.
“They all want to pursue Mr. Jones, if he could get his day in court,” she said.