Despite Reports Of Warren Shakedown, Hunt Lands Job As Rutherford’s Office Honcho

Less than a month after reports surfaced that Former Fontana City Manager Ken Hunt had shaken her former colleague Acquanetta Warren down for some $1.1 Million, Second District San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford has offered him work for the next seventeen months as her chief of staff.
Hunt, who began with the City of Fontana as a municipal employee in 1990 and was making a gradual rise up the chain of responsibility in that city, had the role of guiding the city thrust on him in the aftermath of Greg Devereaux’s 1997 departure to become the city manager in Ontario. In 1999 Hunt became the full-fledged city manager in Fontana.
Fontana was beset with a series of financial challenges in the 1980s and early 1990s, ones which had been redressed by several revenue enhancing arrangements that Devereaux made while he was both Fontana’s housing and redevelopment director and city manager in the early and mid-1990s.
Hunt’s management of the city in large measure followed the program Devereaux had designed, and the city experienced tremendous growth. In the years since, Fontana’s population has reached 217,237, making it San Bernardino County’s second largest city, less than 1,000 behind the county seat, San Bernardino.
Hunt was hailed as a competent city administrator, indeed one who was considered indispensable to the efficient operation of City Hall, without whom effective and good governance in Fontana could not be attained. Among the elected community leaders in Fontana during his tenure there was Janice Rutherford, who was elected to the city council in 2000, and reelected in 2004 and 2008. In 2010, Rutherford successfully vied for county supervisor in the Second District, and was subsequently reelected to that post in 2014 and 2018. Another elected official was Acquanetta Warren, who was appointed to the city council in 2002 and then elected to the council in 2004 and reelected in 2008, whereafter, in 2010, she successfully ran for mayor, and was reelected mayor twice, in 2014 and 2018.
Rutherford and Warren developed a strong and positive working relationship with Hunt. By 2011, Hunt was the highest paid city manager in San Bernardino County. In 2016 he was the third highest paid city manager in California. In 2018, he was the second highest paid city manager in California.
When Hunt’s rate of pay was cited or questioned, Fontana’s city council members and Mayor Warren forthrightly asserted that Hunt’s level of pay was more than justified, and that he was key to the continued financial health and managerial efficiency of the city. Paying him at that rate was not only a fair remuneration for the job he was doing, but insurance that he would remain in the post for the foreseeable future, at least until his current contract was to expire in 2021, and hopefully, they said, for another five years beyond that.
In May 2019, however, Hunt confronted Warren about disturbing information he had come across indicating she was on the take, stemming from knowledge he had that city contracts she had voted to approve and which she had induced three of her council colleagues to approve had not gone to the lowest bidder. Instantaneously, Hunt was on the outs with Warren. To prevent him from going public, however, she arranged to have a separation agreement with him drafted, signed by Hunt on July 12, 2019, which arranged to have him leave at once but kept him on the city payroll until the end of January 2020, so that he would reach his 30-year milestone as a public employee. The pay he received during that six month period totaled $194,755. In addition, as part of the severance package, Hunt was provided with another year’s salary and benefits running through until January 2021 of $464,584.53 along with a settlement stipend of $468,038.47, which totaled another $932,623. Thus, Hunt was paid $1,127,378 by Fontana after he quit working for the city.
Neither Warren nor the city made a disclosure of the arrangements made with Hunt. Warren’s account of what had transpired was amended several times. The settlement, she at one point said, was made by the city to accommodate his desire to leave, which implied his departure was a voluntary one of his own choosing. The contract Hunt was working under before his departure, which ran through 2021, however, made clear that he would be provided no severance if he left of his own volition. When questioned why the city had then given Hunt what totaled to more than a $1.1 million severance when the city had no contractual obligation to make such a payout, Warren evaded the question.
The separation agreement contains a clause prohibiting Hunt from saying anything about the reason for his departure other than that it was an “amicable” one.
Next Tuesday, July 27, the board of supervisors is set to consider an item brought before it by Supervisor Rutherford which calls for the board to “Approve [a] new employment contract with Kenneth Hunt to provide support services to the Second District Supervisor as chief of staff, effective July 31, 2021, for an estimated annual cost of $252,465 (salary – $156,125, benefits – $96,340).”
The report for the item states “Staff services to members of the board of supervisors are provided through contractual arrangement, as required by the county charter. The recommended employment contract would engage Kenneth Hunt to provide support services to the Second District supervisor as chief of staff, effective July 31, 2021. Either party may terminate the contract at any time without cause with a 14-day prior written notice to the other party. The contract may be terminated for just cause immediately by the county.”
Hunt is being brought in to replace her most recent chief of staff, Phil Paule, who left her employ yesterday to move into a position as the chief of staff for Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel.
Hunt will be Rutherford’s fourth, and likely last, chief of staff. She will be termed out of office in December 2022. Previous to Paule, her chief of staff was Andrew Takata, who succeeded Chad Mayes.
-Mark Gutglueck

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