By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Matt Browne finally getting public venue
Placeholder Image
LATHROP – For the first time since he was placed on administrative leave with pay in July 2007 and his eventual “wrongful termination,” as he called his firing in February 2008, Lathrop’s former chief building official Matt Browne addressed the City Council in person.

His main reason for speaking during Tuesday night’s council meeting was to request the removal of his name, and the statement which contains his name, from the proposed procedural process that would be enforced when the council deliberates on the recommendations of Administrative Law Judge Douglas H. Barton based on the fact-finding termination hearing he presided over in September through October.

Barton’s report, which could be filed any day now, is expected to spell out whether or not Browne should be re-instated to his old job and whether he should be entitled to monetary restitution, or to uphold former City Manager Yvonne Quiring’s decision and action to fire Browne based on his findings.

But Browne also took that opportunity to deliver some carefully chosen words to the council on his thoughts and feelings about the entire long-drawn-out investigation over his firing and the hearing process which his attorney, Ellen Mendelson of San Francisco, has always insisted as a “name-clearing hearing” based on her belief, with supporting evidences presented at the hearing, that her client was denied his constitutional rights and due process.

“Before I comment on Item No. 4,” Browne said referring to the object of his request, “I would like you to know that I feel like I have been slapped in the face enough in this matter. I feel my due process and constitutional rights have been trampled enough. I have had to, in my 15+-year career with the City of Lathrop, terminate two employees and neither of them has ever been before you or any other council in this fashion. Nor has any other terminated employee.”

And speaking publicly for the first time on his insistence throughout the whole process to open his termination hearing to the public and the news media saying he has “nothing to hide,” Brown told the council, “To your credit, I understand some of the difficulty in dealing with this situation. However, I requested an open hearing, not an open council session as stated in Item No. 4 (on the agenda), an open hearing  just as the EDD hearing was held – open. I requested an open hearing in order to clear my name in full public view.”

City officials have consistently opposed his request for an open hearing over concerns that doing so could infringe on former city employees’ rights to privacy.

The council unanimously approved the resolution outlining the procedural process to be used by council in the deliberation of the findings in the Browne case, as amended with the removal of the portion requested by Browne.

The section struck out reads: “Unless Mr. Browne’s prior request for open session discussion regarding his matter is retracted by Mr. Browne or his counsel within 10 days of the issuance of the Hearing Officer’s report to Mr. Browne’s counsel, Council shall schedule an open session meeting, with minimum 10 day notice to counsel for Matt Browne and management.” The statement is followed by specific actions by the opposing attorneys that would be allowed in the open session.

Even though the item on the agenda only dealt with a procedural matter as explained by Mayor Kristy Sayles, several residents addressed the council to comment and to ask questions about the Browne case.

City has spent $250,000 so far on Brown case
Responding to concerns raised about the “redaction” of certain items in the hearing officer’s report, City Attorney Salvador Navarrete explained that such redactions will only be limited to no more than 15 to 20 lines and whose main purpose will be “only to protect the rights of former city employees” and to protect the city from potential litigation.

He defined redaction, a legal parlance, as “fancy talk for crossing out,” which is what he will be doing to the report before copies of the nine-volume transcripts will be distributed to members of the council and the attorneys representing Browne and the city. In response to Dan Mac Neilage’s question, Naverrete said copies of the report will be available also to members of the public.

Still in response to a question from the public, the city attorney reiterated that the decision to conduct the council-deliberation hearing in open session will be up to Browne alone.

“That decision will be Mr. Browne’s. That’s his right,” Naverrete said, adding, the city council cannot decide whether the hearing will be open or closed to the public.

Thus far, the city has spent about $250,000 in the Browne case with more costs expected as the process continues. The city does not have an insurance policy to cover these expenses, so the money will come from the general fund. Money from the general fund comes from sales tax and property taxes and is used for employees’ salaries as well as fire and police protection.