Arbitrator Upholds Termination Of Former Upland City Manager Quincey

(August 3)  In a decision handed down July 17, retired Judge Sam Cianchetti upheld the Upland City Council’s May 2011 termination of former City Manager Rob Quincey.  Quincey sued the city alleging his firing was without cause, and sought $7.8 million in damages.
After arbitration proceedings in June,  Cianchetti found that Quincey intentionally concealed his settlement of a retaliation claim brought by a police sergeant who investigated a July 2008 domestic violence incident involving Quincey and his girlfriend.   The officer’s claim named Quincey, the city and  former city officials.  Quincey did not inform the city council of the claim and used city money to fund the settlement.
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.
Wohrle requested that the matter be heard by an arbitrator rather than in open court.
Wohrle and Quincey maintain that Quincey was made into a scapegoat in the aftermath of the political corruption scandal that overtook former Upland Mayor John Pomierski in 2010, resulting in the mayor’s resignation and indictment on bribery and extortion charges in 2011 and his guilty plea in April 2012. Wohrle and Quincey maintained 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 purported 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 asserted 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.
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 city 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 would 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 meeting 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  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 2007, an amendment voted upon by the city council granted Quincey, a resident of Chino, 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.
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.
Cianchetti was provided with testimony from current mayor Ray Musser, councilmen Brendan Brandt and Ken Willis and former councilman Tom Thomas 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 attorney representing the city, Timothy Owen of the law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, demonstrated 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 maintained that enhancements to his contract were legally approved by Pomierski.
The grounds for Quincey’s termination pertained to having exceeded his authority to spend no more than $25,000 without prior city council authorization. That expenditure came about as a consequence of 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. 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. 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, 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.
Judge Cianchetti determined that Quincey violated the city’s ethics rules and broke his employment contract.  Still to be decided is whether Quincey is owed compensation for unused leave and 30 days of wages.

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