Details emerge about suspicious dinner, firings after Dec. 20 deposition

Editors Note: The past few years of turmoil within Tulare city hall stem from a receipt notation, “Mayor Jones diner w/TPOU Kelly + 1.” That questionable + 1 and a Shirley Temple led to investigations, firings, a lawsuit, and shame to the City. Now additional details are coming to light.

By Nancy Vigran

Reporter for the Sun-Gazette

TULARE – What started as a somewhat benign investigation of possible misuse of a City credit card back on Sept. 16, 2017 by then Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones, was questioned by the former city manager. The receipt from a meal at Cattleman’s Restaurant on that date had a note from Jones, “Mayor Jones dinner w/TPOU Kelly + 1.”

Through his own assumption, former city manager, Joe Carlini, thought the mayor may have taken his wife and daughter out on the City’s dime. He asked then Police Chief Wes Hensley to investigate.

That’s not what happened, according to Jones.

And, so far, it has led to the firing of Hensley and his subsequent lawsuit against the City, and the firing of Carlini. Later, the City attorney was released from her contract after a one-year stint; and, in part, the investigation stoked the flames of public opinion, leading to an early reorganization of the Tulare City Council that saw Jones removed from his mayoral position.

Lawsuit, depositions, and transcripts

Following his firing in March of this year, Hensley filed a lawsuit. Hensley’s attorney, Michael Lampe, has been busy taking depositions with regard to the case. Most recently, on Dec. 20, Jones, came in for testimony.

With a video transcript of the depositions being posted to Lampe’s website on Dec. 22, which included information regarding Jones giving copies of a confidential investigative report to other council members, the press, and some local citizens, Jones decided it was time to tell Tulareans, through the Sun-Gazette, his side of the story.

Back on Sept. 16, 2017, Jones did dine at Cattleman’s with then Tulare Police Officers Union President James Kelly. They were accompanied by retired TPD officer Patrick O’Donohoe. Jones’ wife and daughter arrived at the restaurant with him; however, they sat in a different location and Jones paid for their meal separately, he said. He paid for his meal with Kelly and O’Donohoe with a city credit card.

The possible misuse question came up because a Shirley Temple was on the bill turned into to the City. With the inference Jones may have used they City’s credit card to pay for his wife and daughter’s meal, Carlini, asked Hensley to look into the matter.

In a March 30, 2018 letter from Lampe to then city attorney Heather Phillips, arguing for an administrative appeal for Hensley post firing, Lampe stated:

This entire saga began on September 19, 2017, when City Manager Joe Carlini approached Chief Hensley and requested that his department investigate Mayor Jones’ use of a City-issued credit card, saying words to the following effect:

“Man I need some [expletive] therapy. Wes, the mayor turns in his receipts from our League of California Cities trip and there is a receipt from Saturday night from Cattleman’s in Selma and on the receipt it states plus 1 with the total bill being around $144. I asked Carlton who is the plus 1 on the receipt and he basically tells me to go f*** myself that it was a meeting regarding potential personnel issues with the police department. Wes, this is total [expletive] now. I have the [expletive] Mayor committing fraud with the city credit card, what is next?”

Who had dinner on the city’s credit card?

Jones recollection differs. Despite his wife having reimbursed the city for the expenditure and his own former statement that “I bought my wife and daughter dinner, what’s the big deal,” he now admits the Shirley Temple was for him.

“It’s my favorite drink in the world,” he told the Sun-Gazette.

Jones recounted he was called by Roxanne Yoder, the City’s chief deputy clerk, asking him to explain who the Plus 1 was and stating Carlini wanted to know. He told her he would call Carlini.

He explain he had been contacted by Kelly regarding O’Donohoe, who was on early medical retirement from the police department. Jones only wanted to talk with Carlini for O’Donohoe’s privacy, and the fact that as a councilman, Jones is allowed to make recommendations for potential City staff positions, but is to otherwise stay away from personnel business.

Since leaving his position with the TPD, O’Donohoe had furthered his education, getting a master’s degree in public administration, and had expressed interest in employment, Jones said. O’Donohoe had wanted to keep it low-key, according to Jones, so he didn’t put his name on the receipt.

“We were going over his ideas to get funds for the city. He had some good ideas,” Jones said.

Carlini told Hensley to call off any investigation. But the wheels were in motion and two members of the department were already off to Cattleman’s viewing a video monitoring of the day in question, and interviewed Cattleman staff.

The story begins in 2015

According to Jones, shortly after the investigation had started Hensley called him, and said, “You know I am a good investigator, right? I thought you were coming after me the other day about what I did with Jerry Breckinridge.”

Breckinridge, the former Tulare police chief prior to Hensley, resigned in 2015 after being placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation. He had been arrested by Tulare County Sheriff’s deputies with suspicion of domestic violence in 2014. Later, he allegedly had been drinking and driving, and pulled over by a member of his own department within the city limits. However, he was not arrested, and there is no public documentation of an arrest for the alleged offense.

“The officers didn’t do their job, Jones said with regard to the alleged DUI incident. “He should be treated like any other citizen in that situation.”

“Up until then we had a good relationship,” Jones said of Hensley and himself. “I told him I had dinner with a retired officer, and an officer.”

“Now I thought, ‘was he one of the officers who had swept it [the Breckinridge incident] under the rug?’”

A short time later, Kelly called Jones and told him two TPD officers had shown up at his door asking questions, according to Jones.

The officers, Jones said, were Cpt. Fred Ynclan and Lt. Jerod Boatman.

Paid administrative leave, investigation and firing of the police chief

While it is not known how far any department investigation into the incident was taken, Hensley was placed on paid administrative leave on Sept. 27. Ynclan and Boatman, joined their chief on paid leave on Nov. 7.

An outside investigator, John McGinness, a former Sacramento County Sheriff, was hired to investigate the three police command staff officers on Jan. 19 of this year.

Hensley was fired by Carlini on March 20, prior to McGinness’ investigation being completed, and just hours prior to Carlini, himself, being shown the door by council.

In the statement of Hensley’s firing, Carlini said,

“You are not being dismissed from employment as the result of misconduct.

You are being dismissed to further the goals of this Organization, due to a loss of confidence in your ability to lead the Police Department in a manner that is consistent with the goals of this Organization; having management style that is incompatible with this Organization’s/Administration’s goals and the philosophies of leadership upon which they are based.

The City thanks you for your many years of service to the City of Tulare.”

Yet, in a declaration made by McGuinness and provided by Lampe,

In his testimony, Mr. Carlini testified that prior to his termination of Chief Hensley on March 20, 2018, he had a telephone conversation with me which caused him to lose confidence in Chief Hensley. This telephone conversation was summarized as follows:

Q. Your loss of confidence, as I understand your testimony today – and I want you to be real careful about this. Your loss of confidence on March 20 is completely based upon a conversation you had with John McGinness on March 20 in which he told you four things. Those four things being: The chief said the meeting in the library didn’t happen, that the chief said that you initiated the investigation into the credit card charge, there was a discharge of a firearm that you were never told about, and there was a sexual harassment claim that you thought the discipline was rather light on.

A. Right?

Q. Other than that, there was nothing that caused you to issue the notice of termination, correct?

A. Correct. [Carlini deposition,106:11-25]

What the meeting in the library was, isn’t clear to the public at this time.

According to Jones, the rank-and-file were unhappy under Hensley’s leadership, and they wanted him gone.

Ynclan and Boatman’s were later reinstated and returned to work on May 29.

The McGuinness report and Jones’ deposition

Jones told the Sun-Gazette, his deposition with Lampe had been scheduled since Oct., and was not a result of his releasing information to the public and the press.

It had been cancelled and rescheduled more than once, he said. In the interim, Jones received a copy of the confidential McGuinness report.

“The report revealed no actual testimony,” Jones said. “It is a summation. The public has a right to know.”

Prior to his receiving the report, “I didn’t know anything,” he added. “I told people once I get everything, I will give it to you.’”

And he did. He shared it with council at a closed meeting, with the approval of Interim City Attorney Mario Zamora, he said.

Afterward, he shared it with a television news reporter, members of his family, and friends. He posted part of it on Facebook, but later removed it.

“I asked if I could have it. Mario said I could have a copy. Janice [Avilla, the city’s Human Resources director] said she didn’t have it.

“I knew Heather [Phillips] did, so I asked her for it and she said yes.”

He shared it with a mutual friend of his and Hensley’s.

He told that friend, Sharon Allison, “You thought I was going after one of your friends, I wasn’t.”

“My interview is as much a part of the investigation as the report,” Jones told the Sun-Gazette.

“It wasn’t until recently the [city] attorney said it was confidential. If I had thought for one second that this was confidential, I wouldn’t have had it.”

This article was updated, Monday, December 24th at 1:08 p.m.

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