Attacks on Port Hueneme Councilman excessive, hypocritical?

By George Miller 

Port Hueneme Councilman Jim Hensley is in many ways a throwback to days bygone- a former telephone lineman- in Alaska, macho, even in his 80’s. highly politically incorrect, yet chivalrous and highly personable when he wants to be, a never say die, in your face, man’s man type of guy. He used to run the Oxnard Democratic club, was very active in party politics but seems more like the nearly extinct “Conservative  Democrat” sort. Conversely, he was also a Bernie Sanders supporter and will tell anyone who will listen about the terrible Hillary Clinton and her team’s campaign to unfairly, if not illegally, put forth a clandestine effort to halt the Sanders campaign, which he believes would have otherwise prevailed and would have won the democratic nomination for president in 2016.

(L-R): Jim Hensley and Tom Figg. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

He was elected on an anti-new business tax, anti-corruption, pro-people platform and was fairly successful in doing that both before and after elected. But he soon ran into trouble while seeking information on what was actually going on in the city. When he couldn’t get what he wanted from top-level managers, he called upon lower level managers and employees. Sometimes it got contentious. Complaints started coming in that he was “harassing” employees.

Technically, Council Members are supposed to go through “the chain of command” to find out what’s going on or make suggestions. There’s a good reason for this rule, since having higher level people, particularly elected politicians, sniffing around tends to confuse and intimidate lower level employees. On the other hand, a bureaucratic chain of command tends to distort and stifle communications.

In Port Hueneme that seemed to be happening. But Hensley, a retired Army career Master Sergeant, seems more like a “Management by Walking Around” guy, in the style of the formerly legendary Hewlett-Packard management. Dave Packard advocated walking out on the floor to talk to employees and see for himself what was actually going on. This flies directly in the face of traditional bureaucratic, “cover your a*s”  management style- major culture shock in action. I’m not saying PH managers were any worse than typical ones elsewhere, but there were a number of performance problems/scandals and people tended to be quite defensive  to Hensley’s watchdog approach.

The longer-tenured Council members seemed to be opposed to new Members and allies Tom Figg and Jim Hensley on a variety issues. Only Sylvia Munoz-Schnopp and Jon Sharkey are still left over from the old guard.

But after the complaints started coming in and the City’s liability insurance company (Joint Powers Authority) started balking, threatening to cancel coverage and imposing new conditions, the entire Council turned on him- twice, censuring him, then stripping him of his Mayor Pro Tem assignment and next year’s Mayoral slot, some of his powers, commission memberships and the extra income that they provided.

They held an open hearing on him, where he wasn’t allowed to defend himself and then voted to censure and restrict his powers. What appears to be an orchestrated letter writing and public speaking campaign was designed to further demonize him and provide the appearance of a groundswell of consensus to censure, restrict, if not oust Hensley. Hensley, being no slouch, mounted a counter campaign, running letters and articles from supporters and himself in the Star, Ventura County Reporter and Citizens Journal.

Hensley’s strongest ally on the Council, Mayor Tom Figg, became his biggest critic and led the maneuvers to censure Hensley and cut him down to size. Now Hensley points out that Figg has also been embroiled in harassment complaints, with not one, but two pricey settlements costing the City and insurance carrier well into six figures.

Some have said (wouldn’t be quoted) that it is cynical and hypocritical for Hensley’s former ally Tom Figg to be attacking him for what he also did, since Figg himself has been the object of multiple harassment settlements.

Has the whole “sexual harassment” outing movement gotten out of hand? Just this week, President Trump was attacked for sexual harassment because he described a “political swamp creature”, who happened to be female, as “willing to do anything”. It is quite a stretch to tag that as sexual harassment or sexual abuse, but that’s the label of the day.

 

Tom Figg Harassment settlements

See copy of the May 2016 harassment and sexual harassment $50,000 settlement agreement.  I’ve redacted the recipient’s name for her privacy:

 

 

 

Take note in page 2 of these settlement documents at the top in rows 3 and 4 the accused are named.  I saw, but do not have a copy of the document [specific complaint/grievance] made by the claimant in which each person was named and the allegations made against them. You can do a Public Information Act filing for the unmodified document with the city which names them

  1. Former City Manager. Harassment to force to quit,
  2. Deputy City Manager  Harassment  to force to quit,
  3. Councilman [now current mayor] Tom Figg;  Sexual Harassment alleging, when he was introduced to her at a small meeting allegedly greeted her with:

“Oh, I know you, I saw your name and phone number in the men’s bathroom!”  

It’s  ironic City Officials orchestrated a  dramatic show to publicly vilify him, in which Hensley wasn’t aware of the proceedings, but from hints from another councilperson, he told us he came prepared with documents and a video of his alleged harassment. But he was prevented from defending himself by the City Attorney telling him after the damning comments from the city allies that he should recuse himself.

By Procedures of Recusal; he should have been recused before the faux trial began. Part of the reason of the fake trial was to silence him from bringing out the below settlements.

It appears the VC Star isn’t interested in Mayor Figg’s, nor former City Manager and Deputy City Manager’s wrongful transgressions.  Obviously the VC Star expresses a unique and one-sided means of conveying the news to the public. Citizens Journal’s has a more open press policy.

In comparison, he has been publicly vilified, while Tom Figg has had two sexual harassment settlements against him, one for  $279,000, the other $50,000 = $329,000

The former Deputy City manager has one harassment settlement, and as I understand two more lawsuits pending.

Hensley opined that it appears ironic that Mayor Figg orchestrated a public faux hanging trial using weak fabrications that Hensley harassed the departing Deputy City Manager to justify stripping him from his position as Mayor Pro Tem and the protocol appointment to Mayor for 2018, as well as all paying boards and committees.

Hensley told us that as Mayor Figg has suffered two sexual harassment settlements, he should admit it to the public and remove himself from all boards and committees, too.

 

Mayor Tom Figg Comments

We contacted Mayor Tom Figg for his comments on the situation and he sent us this:

Indeed, it’s a very unfortunate situation, but one which Jim has brought entirely upon himself. As I stated when the reprimand resolution was introduced, I knew that it could change the political landscape and derail positive headway the Council was making. But the risk of that happening was less important than the consequence of doing nothing. I did not want the organization to suffer further, nor did I want the community to interpret inaction as a sign of complicity. Proactive measures were needed and the Council agreed by unanimous decision. Jim was disqualified in that vote by the City Attorney presumably because of the economic conflict (i.e., foregone revenue from Committee assignments).

Since then, a potential costly lawsuit has been filed against the City by the very party whose alleged harassment against Mr. Henley brought this issue to the public forefront. This was followed by a retaliatory lawsuit filed by Jim against the City and other named parties (including himself). Meanwhile, the City’s Joint Powers Insurance Authority threatened to terminate personal liability coverage for the City. Through the efforts of our City Manager and Legal Counsel, the city was able to retain conditional coverage for the next year with a $200,000 deductible. In short, Mr. Henley has exposed the City to unknown financial liability while showing no remorse for his actions.

Indeed, this is a sorry situation.

Hence my concern for Jim; his personal well being and seeming inability to separate or meld his civic activism with the interests of the broader community for whom he was elected to serve. I wish him well.

 

Conclusions

I like and respect both Mayor Figg and Councilman Hensley, so it saddens me to see this falling out between them. It is disappointing that it has all come to this, that both stepped over the line, although I don’t believe to the level of seriousness that this has all been accorded.  Why weren’t Council/Hensley able to come to a less public and severe solution to the claimed problems? Are there some additional ulterior motives behind this?

 

Some past articles:

Citizens Journal | Archive | News

citizensjournal.us/category/news/

Nov 17, 2017 – By George Miller Port Hueneme Council-censured Member Jim Hensley has filed a complaint against Mayor Tom Figg and former Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols, for 1st and 14th Amendment right of free speech abridgement, per a press release received today. A press conference announced only …

Port Hueneme: Councilman Hensley strikes back … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/port-hueneme-councilman-hensley-strikes-back-constitutional-right…

Nov 18, 2017 – By George Miller. Port Hueneme Council-censured Member Jim Hensley has filed a complaint against Mayor Tom Figg, former Deputy City Manager Carmen Nichols and the city, for 1st and 14th Amendment right of free speech abridgement, per a press release received today. A press conference …

Port Hueneme resolution attempting to bust Mayor … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/port-hueneme-resolution-attempting-bust-mayor-pro-tem-monday-…

Aug 6, 2017 – By George Miller. Mayor attempting to force Hensley out of Mayor Pro Tem position, strip commission appointments, reprimand. Port Hueneme City Manager Rod Butler has put a resolution on the 8-7-17 Council meeting agenda to strip Jim Hensley’s appointment as Mayor Pro Tem, which would have put …

Figg denied Mayor Pro-Tem post, Breeze became … – Citizens Journal

citizensjournal.us/figg-denied-mayor-pro-tem-post-at-port-hueneme-12-7-15-city-co…

Dec 9, 2015 – By George Miller The big news at the Port Hueneme Water Authority Board meeting was its removal of Chair Jim Hensley and Board Member Tom Figg and replacement with new Chair Jon Sharkey and Board Member Sylvia Munoz-Schnopp. This was in response to the PH City Council coup last week, …

Port Hueneme City Council member Jim Hensley sues city

www.vcstar.com/story/…/port-hueneme/…/port-hueneme-city…hensley…/878020001/

Nov 18, 2017 – Jim Hensley, a member of the Port Hueneme City Council, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city over alleged free speech violations.

Port Hueneme City Council member stripped of … – Ventura County Star

www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/…/port-hueneme/…/port-hueneme…/547480001/

Aug 7, 2017 – For the second time in less than two years, Port Hueneme City Council member JimHensley has been stripped of all official duties associated with his elected position. Hensley, elected to the City Council in November 2014, had been serving as mayor pro tem. … Deputy City Manager …

Port Hueneme retains insurance for now – Ventura County Star

www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/…/port-hueneme/…/port-hueneme…/713636001/

Sep 28, 2017 – For now, Port Hueneme still has insurance to help protect it against allegations of workplace misconduct and to help settle legitimate claims. … Shull said part of the discussion centered on recent council action to censure member Jim Hensley, his second council reprimand in under two years. The council in …

City of Port Hueneme “Team Building” session ends in bitter conflict …

citizensjournal.us/city-of-port-hueneme-team-building-session-ends-in-bitter-conflict-…

Nov 6, 2015 – By George Miller. Because of the City of Port Hueneme Council’s failure to work as a team, the City Manager engaged a psychologist, Dr. Bill Mathis, to conduct … The session looked more, someone told us, like a political assassination attempt on Hensley and especially Figg, than a team-building session.

 

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.


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One Response to Attacks on Port Hueneme Councilman excessive, hypocritical?

  1. Steven Gama December 20, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Both Jim Hensley and Tom Figg were very critical of the management of the city, particularly, with the many harassment suits filed by former employees. Case in point, is the recently announced Joe Gatetly $1.5 million dollar settlement. That case is a classic whistle blower case which alleged harassment by almost all upper level management employees, not the City Council. The settlement of Ms. Hass claim of $270k was never properly investigated and neither Tom Figg or Jim Hensley were ever interviewed. As such, it appeared to be a political settlement, meant at tarnishing Jim and Toms’s reputations. It appears after over one hundred thousand dollars spent in the defense of the Gately claim, the discovery process lead to the determination that $1.5 million is a good deal! In other words, trail was a risky proposition and a guaranteed $1.5 million loss was determined to be in the best interest of the City.

    Reply

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