Closed Sessions, And How They Have Been Abused

Times Founding Publisher
October 4, 2018

This is written in direct response to the story which appeared recently in the Merced Sun-Star accusing Mayor Jim Price and Mayor Pro-Temp Jim Vineyard of texting information which came from a Closed Session of the Atwater City Council.

We will not deny information did come from Closed Sessions, but “The Gang of Three” were as guilty as anyone else.

In one case, this reporter interviewed Councilman Paul Creighton, and he gave out some information which came directly from a Closed Session, and when we pointed this out, he said: “Oh, that already happened!”

Well, of course it already happened.

There is a much bigger issue here, and that is the use and abuse of the Closed Sessions to discuss matters which should have been discussed in open meetings of the council. It is our belief that Atwater City Attorney Doug White purposely discussed issues in Closed Sessions which would have been embarrassing to certain members of the city staff if they were help in open sessions.

In the Sun-Star’s story, there is repeated mention of the Brown Act and violations which occurred. Actually, it takes three members of the city council to be in violation of the Brown Act, not two; so it was the three members of the council — Brian Raymond, Paul Creighton and Cindy Vierra — who were guilty with the first Brown Act violation when they were seen holding a meeting with Art de Werk at the Almond Tree restaurant before his hiring as city manager.

Clearly, Cindy Vierra hired Doug White with the idea that he would be her “hatchet man” to go after people on the city staff, or on the Atwater City Council whom she did not like. The fact that the mayor and the mayor pro-temp were not even allowed to interview Dough White before he was hired, showed that there must have been a violation of the Brown Act for her to get an OK from both Councilman Brian Raymond and Creighton before the vote came to hire him.

During the past two years, since the meeting at the Almond Tree, it appears there have been several back fence deals in which one or another member of the Atwater City Council violated the Brown Act or broke the rules of Closed Session.

Nothing in Atwater is secret.

How is it that Art de Werk was even hired without open discussion of the entire council? The Gang of Three decided ahead of time that they intended to hire De Werk no matter what.

What is even more disturbing is the question of motivation involving key players in the City of Atwater.

Why were the Gang of Three so intent of getting rid of former Police Chief Sam Joseph?

Why were the Gang of Three so intent on getting Art de Werk to be the city manager of Atwater?

Why did it only take 11 working days for Art de Werk to do the job of putting Police Chief Sam Joseph on administrative leave, and why has Sam Joseph remained on administrative leave all this time without having a public hearing.

Why does City Attorney Doug White continue to sit on the information which was gathered in the POST investigation — the same investigation that was bought and paid for by the tax payers of Atwater?

Why did Art de Werk turn in his resignation rather than allow the POST Investigation to become public?

These are all questions which are far more important to the voters and residents of Atwater.

Meanwhile the cost to the city of keeping Doug White on the payroll keeps going up.

Now it is over $440,000, and that is only for 8 months — the highest in the history of Atwater.

Maybe that should be taken up in Closed Session.

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