By Steve “Stef” Stefanides
City Attorney Alan Gabriel advised council that his efforts to reach an amiable result with Dr. Lee Niblock and his attorney regarding his employment status with the city has not provided any results.
The city attorney updated the council on his review of the contract regarding his employment. He focused on possible violations of the ICMA (International City Manager Association) Code of Ethics. He listed several areas that council would have to review. He left it to council to evaluate whether they saw this as a violation of the ICMA Code of Ethics.
Councilor Rios moved at the end of Gabriel’s review to terminate Niblock for cause. Councilman Brown requested that Niblock return any funds paid while on leave. Niblock has been on leave with pay, however, Gabriel would not recommend Brown’s suggestion due to a possible litigation exposure.
Councilman Batte questioned what the cost would be to the city if we dismiss with cause. Gabriel explained that he would be entitled to a 30-day waiting period prior to asking for a hearing and would be paid throughout that time period.
Councilman Reed would explain he felt that he would now support the termination for cause. “We voted to bring him here and voted to give him our trust, we are now removing that trust,” said Reed.
Councilman Honig pressed Gabriel regarding the city’s exposure if we terminated for cause.
“If you terminate for cause according to the terms of the contract and the breach of the ICMA Code of Ethics I believe it is defensible,” said Gabriel.
Council Chairman Grifoni reviewed several of the points made by Gabriel and questioned whether there was sufficient substance to each of them. This somewhat caught Gabriel off-guard, which caused Reed to doubt the chairman’s line of inquiry, as did Councilman Brown.
“We should not debate this any further and let the public have its say,” said Councilman Rios.
Ken Honecker rose to question whether the time Dr. Niblock has been on leave shouldn’t be deducted from his 240 hours of personal leave that would be part of the money he would be paid. He based that on the fact that there is no provision in the city’s codes for a “leave of absence,” said Honecker.
Council voted 7-0 to terminate Dr. Niblock’s employment for cause.