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Tulare police chief Wes Hensley rehired after $275,000 settlement, controversy still remains

Tulare police chief Wes Hensley rehired after $275,000 settlement, controversy still remains

By Nancy Vigran Reporting for the Sun-Gazette

TULARE – Following last week’s mediation between Tulare officials and the City’s former Police Chief Wes Hensley, City Council voted to rehire the chief. Previous to the formal vote Council met in closed session for more than an hour. The final official vote was 4-1.

Hensley had been placed on paid administrative leave in Sept. 2017 and had his employment terminated in March 2018, while still on leave. According to Hesley’s termination letter from former city manager Joe Carlini, he was fired because of a lack of leadership and department cohesiveness.

Hensley has been battling for his job ever since and filed a lawsuit against the City on May 1. Last week’s mediation was a last ditch hope to settle before the case formally went to trial.

During the City Council meeting, Interim City Attorney Mario Zamora read the terms of the agreement for the Chief’s rehire with a settling of all claims:

  • A $275,000 payment which includes Mr. Hensley’s back pay to his former termination and additional claims.
  • A provision for a three-year return hiring contract that would expire near the end of June, 2022.
  • A sick-leave balance before leaving the City would be restored; 835 vacation hours would be restored; management hours of 88 hours would be restored; holiday time of 16 hours restored.
  • In the hiring contract, Mr. Hensley would be able to terminate his contract with 30-days-notice. But, his employment could only be terminated by the city for cause.
  • There would be a payment of $195,000 in attorney fees to Mr. Hensley.
  • There would be a letter drafted by City Council to be released to the public.
  • The payment of the mediator fees would be paid by the City.
  • In exchange for the above, there would be a release of all claims from Mr. Hensley against the City Council, agents of the City, etc.

Immediately following the formal Council vote, screams of joy erupted from some in the back of the Council chambers. Police Department Administrative Assistance Chontelle Adney was elated by the Council’s decision.

“Justice has been served,” she told the Sun-Gazette. “This has been a long time coming.”

Hensley, himself was not in attendance at the meeting.

“I was very pleased with how it went,” Hensley later told the Sun-Gazette. He had a good feeling following last Thursday’s mediation, he added.

“It’s a big weight off my chest. For me, it’s finally over. It’s been a long process for me, emotionally,” he said.

But, some do not agree with the outcome.

City Councilman Carlton Jones was the sole nay vote. Jones has been mired in controversy since he asked for a copy of the outside investigator’s report into allegations which may have led to Hensley’s being placed on leave back in Sept. 2017. Not being able to receive a copy through current city staff, Jones requested a copy from the former city attorney, Heather Phillips.

She released it to him along with various confidential documents of police grievance reports and interview reports. Jones provided copies for other council members as well as posting some of the information to his personal Facebook page and sending to other individuals. The Sun-Gazette has received copies of the documents and a copy of a letter Phillips wrote to investigator John McGinness, dated Jan. 16, 2018 and sent to Jones on Oct. 9.

Phillips’ letter lays out her documentation and recall of the events which lead to Hensley’s administrative leave, along with two other TPD officers, Cpt. Fred Ynclan and Lt. Jerrod Boatman who had been subsequently placed on leave in early Nov. 2017. It should be noted that Ynclan and Boatman were both reinstated to their positions on May 29, 2018.

To some, the alleged reasons for Hensley’s leave and firing are not all what they seem to have been. Jones is one of those people.

“People should contact the officers involved,” Jones said. “I did all I could.”

Tulare Mayor Jose Sigala feels the issue has come to a close.

“With the action the council took tonight in regards to Chief Hensley, it is my hope and the council’s goal to move forward in bringing the city together and moving forward to put this contentious issue aside,” he said.

Sigala said he has never read the report and documents, and if presented to him, he would not read them. It’s not his place, he said.

“They were carelessly given out and [Jones] should have known better.

“My expectation is that the Chief, by being reinstated,” Sigala continued, “will step up and provide the leadership to make sure all of the officers are supported and to assure that all of their issues are addressed fairly.”

“There is nothing that can be gained by anyone, by looking at the past,” Hensley said.

“Everything that was included wasn’t only about me,” he added. “That should have never happened.”

It is anticipated that Hensley will return to the department by the end of January or early February. Until then Interim Chief Matt Machado will remain in the position. A formal letter regarding Chief Hensley’s rehire is being prepared to release to the public.

For related stories please see Tulare looks for permanent city manager, police chief and attourney while lawsuit looms and Details emerge about suspicious dinner, firings after Dec. 20 deposition 

This article was updated on Friday, Jan. 18 at 11:46 a.m.

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