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LATHROP RESIDENTS REACT TO SETTLEMENT

Criticism abounds of how City Council handled Browne case

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POSTED November 11, 2009 2:53 a.m.

LATHROP – Lathrop taxpayers are breathing a collective sigh of relief that the expensive and long-drawn Matt Browne debacle is over. However, they remain highly critical at the way the city’s elected officials have handled – or, according to some, mishandled – the entire process saying it did not have to have dragged on this long and cost the city a ton of money.

 “It’s about time! I have never understood what was so complicated that we should spend thousands upon thousands of needless dollars to attorney firms to attempt to resolve an issue they have no interest in resolving. By that, I mean that attorneys are paid by the hour to litigate and explore the loopholes in the truth,” said Dan Mac Neilage, one of a handful of concerned citizens who have continuously bombarded the City Council since the start of the Browne saga to find a quick resolution to this expensive legal undertaking.

“Why didn’t the city council ever call him in and ask Matt himself what could be done to resolve this issue? What happened to good old-fashioned common sense where conflict is resolved by a face-to-face dialog?” asked Mac Neilage.

J. Chaka Santos, who was arguably the most forceful one verbally who put the council to task at every opportunity on the seemingly never-ending time it was taking city officials to resolve the Browne matter, said, “This should never have gone this far. This should have been nipped in the bud in the beginning. It should have been resolved expeditiously and it wasn’t.”

He criticized the council members for allowing the city’s legal counsel in this matter, Michael Colantuono and his law office, to dictate them on what should be done during the process.

“They should have said, ‘You’re our attorney. What are our options? How can we nip this in the bud? We don’t want to pay anymore consulting and attorney’s fees. What do we need to do? Don’t tell us what you want to do; tell us what we need to do now,’” said Santos, a Lathrop business entrepreneur.

While he is happy for Browne for having gotten a settlement and getting his job back, Santos is still adamant that the city and taxpayers like him are still going to end up paying for the attorneys’ fees.

Still, he said, “I’m happy he’s back on the job. He’s going to be an asset and not a liability in the community and I will not stand behind him or in front of him. I will stand next to him.”

“I say, justice has been served,” firmly stated former two-time Lathrop mayor and Planning Commission Chairman Bennie Gatto who, on more than a few occasions in the past two-and-a-half years, have also pressured the council to stop the financial bleeding in the Browne case and to quickly have it resolved.

“His (Browne’s) termination should not have happened in the first place. If the man had been disciplined and had been a bad employee, then something could have come out of it. But to just up and fire a person for no reason at all, then have him go through what he went through is beyond words. I’m happy for him. Here’s a man who had his name dragged through mud and threatened, and all he was asking for was ‘get my name cleared.’ So I’m glad,” Gatto said.

The only thing he would like to know is how much was “the final cost to this; I’m sure it’s going to be in the neighborhood of a couple million dollars,” he said.

“At least, Matt’s back to work and that’s one good thing,” Gatto said.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail ralbanorisso@mantecabulletin.com or call (209) 249-3536.

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