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TMCNet:  TEMECULA: Emails show Johnson may have known of discontent

[December 19, 2012]

TEMECULA: Emails show Johnson may have known of discontent

Dec 17, 2012 (The Press-Enterprise - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- One week before he was suspended, former Temecula City Manager Bob Johnson announced he was going to meet with union members, staff and departments in an effort to improve communication at City Hall.

But the email one of more than 5,000 pages of documents released by records manager Gwyn Flores through a public records request was one of the few that offered any hint of discontent in the city's administration. The pages included email from mid-October to mid-November addressed to Johnson and former Chief Financial Officer Genie Wilson, who also has been fired due to a "difference in management philosophies and goals," according to an official City Hall statement.

A review of the documents by The Press-Enterprise found that Johnson and Wilson maintained professional communication with city employees through email correspondence. The emails showed mostly routine business dealings, such as communication with other government agencies, responses to media inquiries and updates on various projects.

The documents did show that Johnson was aware that city employees were seeking greater communication with the executive team.

On Nov. 5, exactly eight days before the City Council voted unanimously in closed session to place him on paid administrative leave, Johnson sent an email to all city employees announcing the creation of a "transparency sharepoint page" containing information regarding city salaries and benefits and official communication between the city and union representatives, among other information.

"Over the past several weeks, it has come to my attention for enhanced communication with city employees (sic)," Johnson wrote in the email. "In an effort to address that need, I have scheduled meetings with the union, mid-management staff, individual staff members, and individual departments." Johnson was officially dismissed by the council on Nov. 27. Interim City Manager Aaron Adams dismissed Wilson. Save the vague statement regarding management philosophies, City Hall has not commented on what sparked the decision.

Shortly after the suspensions, Teamsters 911 President Chester Mordasini said Johnson and Wilson had created a hostile work environment that caused employees to dread going to work. Although he declined to offer specific details, Mordasini said the sentiment had spread among employees and was affecting their ability and desire to provide top-notch customer service to the public.

The emails, however, offered no evidence of contention between Johnson and Wilson and their subordinates, and some emails indicated that Wilson carried on a cordial relationship of shared bagels, coffee, congratulations and fitness tips with some employees.

"You have an awesome team!" Read one email from Wilson to Michael Heslin in the information technology department. "What a great project and great teamwork." The emails also showed that on Nov. 7 six days before he was suspended and 20 days before he was fired Johnson asked to review the contract of a previous interim city manager.

Efforts to reach Johnson and Wilson have been unsuccessful. City Hall reported last week that neither Wilson nor Johnson have filed claims against the city.

In addition, the city has not disclosed any grievances filed against Johnson or Wilson.

Staff writer John Hunneman contributed to this report.

___ (c)2012 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.) Visit The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.) at www.PE.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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