Grand jury says Atascadero needs more transparency

June 24, 2011

James F. Mulhall

Atascadero’s handling of its $126,000 settlement with former Chief of Police James F. Mulhall “led to public confusion and complaints” about lack of transparency, according to a report released Thursday by the San Luis Obispo County grand jury.

“There was no violation of law or other improper action” by City Manager Wade McKinney in negotiating and signing a mutual agreement to terminate Mulhall’s employment, wrote the grand jury.

The report —“What was the deal between the City of Atascadero and the Former Chief of Police?”— found no illegal activity in the negotiations but said city officials could have avoided confusion in the community by being more transparent.

Mulhall resigned unexpectedly Jan. 7 “to spend more time with his family” after signing a mutual termination agreement with McKinney. At the time, no mention was made of the settlement payment.

Questions were raised about whether Mulhall had resigned or was fired. Additionally, complaints were made that the city manager might be paying too much to settle with former employees.

Neither the city nor Mulhall would disclose details. Complaints were made about improprieties regarding settlement payments to former city employees.

Responding to inquiries from the media and public, Atascadero officials eventually released a copy of the settlement agreement about two weeks after Mulhall’s resignation, which says that he would not sue the city in exchange for $126,000, and the city promised not to fire him with cause. It wasn’t clear whether Mulhall’s settlement includes $35,000 in unused paid administrative and vacation leave.

The city’s “partial and sequential disclosure” in the termination of Mulhall’s service, says the grand jury report, “exposed the city to media and community complaints about the lack of transparency.”

The grand jury suggested that Atascadero “review and consider an appropriate revision to the process by which its personnel decisions are disclosed to the public.”

It also noted the disparity between the city’s employment agreement requiring annual written performance reviews of its employees and the actual number of reviews made. Mulhall had received one review in his time with the city.

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This is a city that does everything it can to keep the public from viewing PUBLIC RECORD INFORMATION, just do a little searching on this and you can find lots of examples…

Neither side is talking because there is plenty of dirt to bring them all down; of course he’ll take the shut-up money, and the city is more than willing to pay it. This can only get worse.

I just don’t buy any of it. Mulhall says he wanted more “family time” so he resigns abruptly? It all smells fishy. But like the other issues in A-town, the truth will probably remain buried.

Heh, I can translate that politicese:

“I wish to spend more time with my family”

ALWAYS translates to

“I’m being thrown under the bus and was told to leave”

If we fired Wade McKinney with all the freebees and benefits, vacation time, administrative leaves, and etc. the city would be broke for years. We have to keep him on just to keep our money until Walmart gets in then we can let him go. All that wonderful tax money will help us til we have to fire another city employee. And we begin again. We better annex Templeton, and Paso. We are going to need them. God Bless you today and everyday.

I like what you say but as far as annexing Paso,……. I DON’T think so! I use to live in Atas. in early ninites and am glad I live in Paso. You guys can keep your problems. ;-)

P.S. The biggest thing we have to worry about is keeping our Police Chief from table top dancing!

She can’t sing or dance too well but she’s sure good at losing loaded guns.

It seems to be getting worse all the time.