At the November 14 Upland city council meeting, two city residents encouraged the city council to remain resolute in the face of a wrongful termination claim filed by former city manager Robb Quincey.
Quincey was city manager in Upland for slightly more than six years, having been handpicked by former mayor John Pomierski to oversee the city’s operations in March 2005. Quincey’s authority became synonymous with Pomierski’s rule. As Pomierski dominated the city politically by virtue of an iron clad ruling coalition consisting of himself and council members Brendan Brandt and Ken Willis along with former councilman Tom Thomas, Quincey became the vicar of Pomierski’s policy.
Pursuant to the terms of Quincey’s contract with the city, which were in essence dictated by Pomierski, the city manager was given unprecedented autonomy at City Hall, including the authority to fire at will all of the city’s department heads. Moreover, at Pomierski’s bidding, Quincey was given a so-called super-bonus, that is, job security in the form of protection from being fired himself on a simple majority 3-2 vote of the city council. Thus, to remove Quincey as city manager, it was required that at least four of the city’s five council members had to vote to terminate him. To further ensure Quincey’s loyalty to him and his regime, Pomierski conferred upon his city manager a salary and benefit package that not only topped the compensation offered city managers throughout San Bernardino County but dwarfed the pay of all but a select handful of city managers throughout the state. On top of his base salary of $368,529 per year, Quincey was provided with benefits totaling $92,096 for a total annual compensation package of $460,625.
But just as Pomierski’s ascension to the top of the political heap had paved the way for Quincey’s managerial preeminence in Upland, Pomierski’s ignominious fall brought Quincey crashing to earth.
For years there had been whispers about town that Pomierski was on the take. Ever so briefly indications that something was amiss would loom into passing focus and then evaporate, such as fleeting and then quickly hushed accusations that the mayor was shaking down individuals with business before the city, or that his construction business was generating more money than could logically be explained by his actual work load and schedule, or that there was something untoward about the consulting work he was doing for local landowners. But those ephemeral suspicions always seemed to fade and no one in town, other than the lone perpetual political outsider on the city council, Ray Musser, was willing to stand up against the imperious authority of City Hall, or challenge the wisdom, respectability and honor of Mssrs. Brandt, Thomas, Willis, Pomierski or Quincey.
Then, in June 2010, a team of 40 FBI and IRS agents armed with search warrants descended on Upland City Hall, Pomierski’s home in which his construction business was based, and several other homes and businesses of Pomierski’s political and business associates. In the wake of those searches, concrete information pertaining to questionable activity at City Hall surfaced. By January 2011, Pomierski’s grip on Upland’s scepter had loosened and his hold over the coalition that had empowered him had been undone to the point that when his fellow council members moved to place Quincey on paid administrative leave, he could only effetely go along with the vote. Toward the end of February, informed no doubt by his lawyer about what was in store for him in the coming days, Pomierski resigned as mayor, a little more than ten years after he had assumed that office. The following week, on March 2, Pomierski and his appointee to the city’s building appeals board, John Hennes, were indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with conspiracy, bribery and extortion in connection with allegations that they had used Pomierski’s authority as a city official in Upland to coerce businesses with permits pending before the city to provide them with money, disguised as consulting fees, to ensure their permits were granted. In May, two months after Pomierski’s indictment, the city council voted to terminate Quincey.
On November 1 Quincey filed a claim against the city for unlimited damages in connection with his firing, which according to his attorney unfairly and unjustifiably deprived him of pay and benefits due him under his contract, as well as for the damage to his reputation he suffered when Musser, who had been elevated to succeed Pomierski as mayor, and Willis defamed him with comments that appeared in the local press expressly made “to vex, injure and annoy” him.
At the November 14 meeting, two individuals, Hal Tanner, who was formerly employed as a chief deputy warden with the state of California, and Dave Stevens, a former Upland city councilman, addressed the council with regard to Quincey and his claim, The council had already been too generous with Quincey, Tanner said. “I was a political appointee,” Tanner said. “I never in my career saw a contract that generous or where the employee was exposed to the kind of accommodation that Mr. Quincey enjoyed. Whatever Mr. Quincey may have done was made possible because of the actions of our council. Yet, Mr. Quincey may be rewarded again in his litigation against Upland. This is made possible by the council’s negligence.”
Stevens told the council it should not even consider paying Quincey what he is seeking.
“I don’t think we should settle with him, even if settling is cheaper,” Stevens said. “There is a principle involved here. He knew it was wrong to accept nearly half a million a year in pay and benefits. He’s already got more money from Upland than he deserves. Let’s go into battle with him. He was wrong for the city and so was the former mayor.”