Carson City Clerk Jim Dear Gets to Tell His Side of the Story on Staff Abuse
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
Politics in Carson has always been a messy business. The March 2015 elections, in which former Mayor Jim Dear was elected to the city clerks office and the upcoming Oct. 20 censure hearings, which delves into his conduct among city staff, gives credence to that reputation.
The most recent turn of events follows Carson City Council’s unusual step to waive client-attorney privilege. The council announced at the Sept. 15 meeting, that the clerk’s office was investigated by an independent outside firm. The investigation is in response to complaints by city staff to the city manager’s office in August. The council voted to pay the firm $50,000 at that council meeting.
At the time, Carson Mayor Albert Robles noted that the city was exposed to significant legal liability if staff members elected to sue and the courts found that Dear created a hostile work environment.
Dear’s supporters, including his lawyer, Bradley Hertz, questioned the timing, adding that such personnel matters, if of genuine concern, are routinely handled in closed session. He charged that publicly airing them amounted to character assassination.
Initially, only a summary of the report was read into the record by lawyer Maria Aarvig. A week later, the city posted a redacted version of the report on the city website blacking out the names of the people interviewed. Meanwhile, a group allied with Dear called, the Carson Alliance 4 Truth, posted the unredacted version on its website and Facebook on the week of Oct. 5.
The 52-page report addressed staff complaints about Dear’s behavior. This allegedly caused them to take steps to secure work stations and plan escape routes in the event that Dear became violent. In addition, the report delved into complaints of Dear making racially derogatory remarks and allegedly meddling in personnel matters.
The interviews, along with the original staff complainants, paint a picture of a work environment fraught with tension. Dear was elected clerk in March; Albert Robles was selected as mayor in April; and a recall election was launched against Dear in June.
Quick takeaways from the document:
The staffers interviewed came primarily from the city clerk’s and city manager’s offices, including former city manager Nelson Hernandez and current assistant city manager Cecil Rhambo.
Two members of the clerk’s office provide perhaps the most detailed account of what was alledgedly happening behind the scenes while Dear was conducting the June 2015 special election and his reaction when recall papers were filed against him later that month.
Dear relied on temporary help to the exclusion of available full-time staff members in his office. Two of these temps, Joseph Pion and Joy Simarago, spoke in Dear’s defense during the Sept. 17 special council meeting, saying they never heard him say anything racist.
Though Dear pushed to make them full-time staff in the clerk’s office, the city manager’s office apparently let them go.
All interviewees gave examples of Dear’s alleged propensity to take the same liberties that he did as mayor, including accessing, unimpeded, every part of city hall, whether he had business there or not. He was allegedly directing staff from other departments according to his priorities and he allegedly forced his will on personnel decisions such as pressuring the city manager’s office to hire or terminate staff members regardless of merit—a power he did not have even as mayor.
The latter involves the hiring and retention of a former staff member alleged to be romantically linked with Dear. She was allegedly hired as a result of pressure from Dear, despite lack of clarity that she was legally able to work in the United States.
The city council discussed and approved modified versions of Aarvig’s recommendations that could be immediately implemented to help make staff feel safer in their work environment. These included a review of existing anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, adoption of a non-retaliation policy and anti-nepotism policies and adoption of a resolution urging the city clerk to seek professional psychiatric help.
City Manager Ken Farfsing moved the city clerk’s office staff to another wing of city hall as part of his effort to provide immediate relief for affected staff members.
By the end of the night, the council had restricted Dear’s access to Carson City Hall’s common areas, the clerk’s office and the vault in the basement.
Dear has since said he is considering charging the council with violating California’s penal code, which forbids anyone from delaying or obstructing any public official in the discharge of any public duty.
Dear said he’s making the charge because the council has stripped him of his staff, put them in an entirely separate office and told him to come to City Hall only on business.
“That’s the only reason I come to City Hall anyway,” he argues. “They cannot ban me from City Hall. I’m an elected official.”
Dear attempted to have three of his friends serve as volunteer replacements for the staff that was moved from his office, despite orders from City Manager Ken Farfsing to stop. City officials succeeded in obtaining restraining orders against the volunteers.
Just a day prior, a judge denied the city’s bid for a restraining order against Dear. The judge ruled that the city did not present sufficient evidence to warrant such a step. Another hearing on the ma