The city of Upland is fortifying itself with information, materials, testimony and documents to controvert former city manager Robb Quincey’s contention that he was unjustifiably terminated. Quincey’s attorney has requested that the matter be heard by an arbitrator rather than in open court. The city is making its preparations to put its case on in that forum, confident that former mayor John Pomierski’s guilty plea to taking a bribe strengthens its hand.
In November, Quincey, represented by attorney Joseph Wohrle, filed a wrongful termination claim against the city, maintaining the city council breached the terms of his contract when it fired him in May 2011, four months after he was placed on paid administrative leave, and that mayor Ray Musser and councilman Ken Willis defamed him and maliciously and wrongfully characterized his performance in comments they made to the press at that time.
In the claim, the 52-year-old Quincey seeks “unlimited” damages, indemnification from the city in making his response to a federal grand jury investigation of the city of Upland and recompense of attorney’s fees he is incurring in the pursuit of his claim.
Wohrle and Quincey maintain that Quincey was made into a scapegoat in the aftermath of the political corruption scandal that overtook Pomierski in 2010, resulting in the mayor’s resignation and indictment in 2011 and his guilty plea last week. Wohrle and Quincey maintain Musser, Willis, former city attorney William Curley, city councilman Gino Filippi and city treasurer Dan Morgan made statements to the press which painted Quincey in a “false light.” In addition to ruining Quincey’s reputation and damaging his future earning potential, the claim purports that the city withheld payments and benefits Quincey was due during the time he was on administrative leave, and at the time of his firing, Quincey claims, the city made unwarranted deductions from benefits he was eligible to receive under his employment contract.
The claim asserts that the actual reason Quincey was terminated was because in the latter part of 2010 he had undertaken a critical evaluation of the billing practices of the city’s legal counsel, the law firm of Richards, Watson & Gershon, which employs Curley.
The firm now representing the city with regard to the Quincey matter, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, has assembled or is in the process of assembling an illustration of how it was the former city manager who, in league with Pomierski, took advantage of the city and its taxpayers rather than the other way around.
Quincey was chosen by Pomierski in March 2005 to succeed Upland’s previous city manager, Mike Milhiser, whom Pomierski together with his then-supporters on the council, forced into resigning, softened by a $200,000 severance package.
Quincey was hired on April 4, 2005 and given a five-year contract with an annual salary of $195,000 and a guaranteed pay raise each January 1 equivalent to the highest percentage afforded any other executive management employee, together with 10 percent of his salary payable in deferred compensation, eligibility for an annual incentive bonus of up to 15 percent each year, a $300-a-month technology allowance and a $950-a-month vehicle allowance plus use of city gasoline, together with $1,000 a month in public employee retirement buy-back.
An analysis of city documents shows that within seven months of his hiring, the first of what woud prove to be a series of amendments to Quincey’s contract upping his compensation was made. City records indicate that many of those salary or benefit increases were not ratified by the city council meetin in public as a body, but rather upon the signature of Pomierski and without an official vote being taken.
In October 2005, Quincey engineered for himself, with Pomierski’s blessing, a 4 percent salary increase to $202,800 that was retroactive to his hiring date. In January 2006 he received a 4 percent salary increase to $211,728. In April 2006, he was granted a 7 percent increase to $226,836, and granted a lump sum incentive bonus of $18,147 on top of that. On January 1, 2007 he was provided with a 6 percent increase to $240,444.
In Quincey’s original employment contract signed upon his hiring in 2005 there was no explicit requirement that he, then a resident of Chino, live in Upland. Nevertheless, a section of the Upland Municipal Code adopted in 1995 imposed that requirement on the city manager. One of the amendments that was voted upon by the city council in 2007 granted Quincey, on top of his salary, a $2,000 per month housing allowance to purchase, lease or rent an abode in Upland. In 2008, that housing allowance was boosted to $3,000 per month.
In January 2008 Quincey’s salary was upped by 4.5 percent to $251,268 and in April 2008 he was granted another 3.5 percent increase to $260,004 per year. Also in April 2008, all limitations on Quincey’s leave accruals, balances and carry-over from year to year were waived, allowing him to bank his leave time if he did not take it.
In January 2009, Quincey’s salary was raised 4.5 percent to $271,700 per year. As of April 1, 2009, Quincey’s contract was amended to have the city purchase an additional year of California Public Employee Retirement System retirement service credit for each year of his employment starting from his hire date, essentially doubling his pension from the city.
In January 2010, as the nationwide recession was entering its third straight year, Quincey was not given a salary increase. In April 2010, however, Quincey’s contract was amended to allow him to receive, at the city’s expense, two additional years of California Public Employee Retirement System retirement credit, through an arrangement by which the city would keep him on “paid status” on the city’s payroll for an extra two years past his date of retirement or separation or otherwise buy the retirement credit for him.
When Quincey was put on paid administrative leave in January 2011, he was receiving a base salary and add-ons of $368,529 with benefits of $92,096, for a total annual compensation of $460,625.
The city has lined up current mayor Ray Musser, councilmen Brendan Brandt and Ken Willis and former councilman Tom Thomas to testify that they were never informed about nor voted to ratify at least four of the eight contract amendments to Quincey’s contract, such that Quincey and Pomierski were acting independently and illegally to grant them.
The city is also prepared to show that Quincey engaged in a prohibited conflict of interest when he and Pomierski pushed through an amendment to his contract guaranteeing him a pay raise equal to that to be provided to the city’s police officers and Quincey then negotiated with the police union himself and granted officers 5 percent raises for three years.
Quincey maintains that enhancements to his contract were legally approved by Pomierski.
The city has also moved to secure documentation of the particulars that were cited as the grounds for terminating Quincey, whose employment contract contained a clause that he could not be removed without a four-fifths majority vote of the council and only if he were to be charged with a criminal act or could be demonstrated to have directly defied a directive of the city council. The grounds for Quincey’s termination pertained to having exceeded his authority to spend no more than $25,000 without prior city council authorization.
A precursor to the council’s finding that Quincey defied that specific directive is a police report compiled on July 27, 2008 by detective Craig Sipple under the supervision of sergeant John Moore pertaining to a domestic disturbance incident involving Quincey and his former fiancé, Jennifer Stelzer. An emotional exchange that devolved into a heated argument between the couple resulted in alleged vandalism to Stelzer’s vehicle and a series of insulting and profanity-laced text messages from Quincey to Stelzer, which, according to the police report, Stelzer deemed threatening. Sipple and Moore’s report stated that one of Stelzer’s neighbors witnessed Quincey driving by Stelzer’s home in the immediate aftermath of their altercation. As Sipple was generating an eight-page report signed off on by Moore in which it was recommended that the matter be reviewed by the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution, Quincey contacted Stelzer and persuaded her not to press charges and then sought to have then-police chief Steve Adams intervene in the matter. Penultimately, the eight-page report Sipple originally authored was reduced to six pages and Sipple and Moore’s recommendation that the matter be referred to the district attorney’s office was changed to state that the case was given “Exceptional Clearance. Stelzer does not desire prosecution.” The redrafted six-page version of the report was buried in an inactive police department file that prevented it from being open to public scrutiny. Moore, however, had retained a copy of the original eight-page report. When he later applied for one of two open lieutenant posts with the department and was passed over, he hired attorney Dieter Dammeier to represent him. Dammeier, in his discussions with Adams and Quincey, maintained his client had been bypassed for promotion because of his involvement in the Quincey domestic disturbance investigation and threatened to make a public issue of the matter and release the report. In response, Quincey and Adams upped the number of captain positions with the department from two to three, promoted a lieutenant into that new spot, thereby creating another lieutenant vacancy, into which Moore was promoted. Dammeier presented the city with a $57,816 bill for his efforts on behalf of Moore. To keep the matter quiet and from coming to the attention of the city council and the public, Quincey used his maximum $25,000 annual discretionary spending authority as city manager to pay Dammeier’s firm in two $25,000 installments, one before the close of the 2008-09 fiscal year and one after the opening of the 2009-10 fiscal year. Quincey persuaded then-assistant finance director Ruby Carrillo, with whom Quincey was alleged to have been intimately involved, to miscode one of those checks to make it appear that the payment had been made for another police department related matter. It was Quincey’s expenditure of $50,000 – double his independent spending authority without previous council authority – that was cited as his defiance of the council’s authority.
The city has adequate documentation pertaining to the payments to Lackie, Dammeir & McGill, irregularities relating to the cutting of the two $50,000 checks as well as conduct on the part of both Carrillo and Quincey that leaves the city’s legal team confident it will be able to justify Quincey’s firing, the Sentinel is told.
In his claim, Quincey maintains the two $25,000 payments were legitimately made under the aegis of his authority as city manager for two separate legal issues that the law firm had dealt with, one being the Moore matter and the other being the case of Potts vs. the City of Upland, which pertained to police officers seeking pay for the time they expended changing into and out of their uniforms.
According to Quincey’s claim, the payments to Dammeier’s law firm were properly processed by the city’s finance department and were included on the city treasurer’s registers and signed off on by the city council’s finance committee.
The city is also gearing up to dispute Quincey’s contention that he was terminated because in the latter part of 2010 he had undertaken a critical evaluation of the billing practices of Richards, Watson & Gershon. “For years, claimant expressed concern to his staff and the city council about legal fees generated by Richards, Watson & Gershon,” Quincey’s claim states. Quincey maintains he expressed concern to then-finance director Stephen Dunn about excessive billings by the law firm and in November 2010 he tasked the city’s claims investigator, NovaPro Risk Solutions, to audit the September 2010 billings Richards, Watson & Gershon had submitted for legal work in conjunction with two cases, litigation the city was involved with against the San Bernardino County Flood Control District and G3 Holistics, a medical marijuana clinic that had set up operations in Upland. That audit showed the law firm had billed the city $105,830 for the former and $72,973.20 for the latter during that 30 day period. This request for an audit led to his firing, Quincey maintains.
Dunn, however, is prepared to offer testimony and documentation that contradicts his former boss, whom he succeeded as Upland city manager. According to information gathered by the city’s legal team, it was Dunn who raised the issue of excessive legal billings by Richards, Watson & Gershon. The city has memos to back up that contention. The city’s lawyers are prepared to demonstrate that it was not until after the scandal involving Pomierski broke in June 2010 as a result of the FBI raid on City Hall and questions about the then-city manager’s relationship to the mayor were emerging that Quincey took up the city attorney’s billing as an issue. In this way, they are intent on showing that Quincey’s claim of being sacked because of his questioning of the city’s legal bills is a “smokescreen.”
An arbitrator is scheduled to begin hearing both sides of the matter by the end of the month. Wohrle’s strategy in seeking arbitration is intended to ensure that the hearings will be closed to the public.