Markman Jumps Just As He Is About To Be Pushed In Upland

James Markman, who previously was employed as Upland city attorney from 1996 to 2003 and returned to that post in 2017, resigned Monday night. Markman’s move to quit came while the city council was holding a closed door discussion in which his performance was being considered and the option of terminating him was on the table.
Since his hiring in February 2017 by then-interim City Manager Marty Thouvenell to assist the city in its arrangement to close out its 111-year-old municipal fire department and clear the way for the absorption of the entirety of the city into an assessment zone so residents would be forced to pay a $150 per year tax to cover the county’s costs on providing the 76,000-population city with fire protection service, Markman’s presence in Up-
land has been resented by a large segment of the city’s residents.
The imposition of that assessment was challenged in a lawsuit and found by a Superior Court judge to have been illegally imposed. The city suffered another defeat in court after Markman sought to validate the city’s sale of 4.631 acres of Memorial Park, including a long-extant baseball diamond, to adjacent San Antonio Hospital for conversion to a multi-story parking structure.
In both the fire department closure/assessment zone annexation and the parkland sale actions, Markman structured those procedures to prevent the city’s residents from having a say in approving them or nixing them by means of a vote. In the legal challenges of those actions that ensued, complaints were lodged that Markman was using his legal expertise to render opinions and craft contracts which violated citizens’ constitutional rights and due procedure protections.
With the 2018 election there was a changeover in three of the city council’s members.
“Mr. Markman is shutting down our democratic process,” said Irmalinda Osuna, a city resident, during the public comment portion of the meeting prior to the council adjourning into its discussion of Markman and his performance conducted out of the earshot of the public. “He must go.”
After the council’s closed-door discussion, Assistant City Attorney Steven Flower appeared in Markman’s place on the dais within the council’s meeting chambers. Flower announced that in the course of the closed session Markman’s resignation as city attorney had been accepted unanimously on a motion by councilwoman Janice Elliott seconded by councilman Bill Velto. Flower, who with Markman is a member of the law firm of Richards Watson & Gershon, speaking in the third person, said that the council had also voted unanimously “to appoint Assistant City Attorney Steven Flower as interim city attorney.”
The council will discuss seeking bids for legal services at its next meeting.
-Mark Gutglueck

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