Monday, May 8, 2017
[Humboldt County] Former county commissioner claims he was fired for whistleblowing
A former Humboldt County human rights commissioner is asking the District Attorney’s Office and County Counsel’s Office to investigate alleged violations of public meeting transparency laws and grand jury conflicts by commission Chairman Jim Glover.
Phillipsville resident Chris Weston claims he was “fired” from the commission by county 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennell on Tuesday through a text message shortly after he forwarded a letter outlining his concerns to Deputy County Counsel Blair Angus.
“There is absolutely zero connection between the one and the other, and Chris knows that,” Fennell said Friday afternoon.
Glover is also a member of the county grand jury. Weston states that grand jury qualifications prohibit a grand juror from serving on a commission or committee appointed by the county board of supervisors.
County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck stated he was informed of Glover’s two positions on Friday and that he will be looking into Weston’s claims. Glover deferred all questions regarding his grand jury membership to superior court Judge Joyce Hinrichs, who oversees the grand jury.
“I am unable to answer this question at this time and will be referring it to our [Court Executive Officer] Kim Bartleson to consider when she returns to court next on May 3rd,” Hinrichs wrote in an email to the Times-Standard on Friday.
Speaking to the Times-Standard on Friday, Weston — who was appointed to the commission in January — claims that Glover was making “back room deals” with fellow commissioners about setting up an ad hoc committee looking into southern Humboldt County issues at its April 26 meeting. Weston references an April 20 email from Glover to fellow commissioners in which Glover states that he expects that an ad hoc committee will be formed.
“I’m not an expert, but it looks to me that he is telling the commission, ‘This is what we’re doing’ and this is a statement done behind closed doors and then the next meeting on the 26th he implemented his plan,” Weston said.
Glover denied that he violated the Brown Act.
“The chair of the Human Rights Commission has the authority as stated in the bylaws to set the agenda,” Glover said. “There was no action recommended other than to set up an ad hoc committee to discuss the items as part of the agenda. That is exactly what happened at the meeting [Weston] was not present at.”
The commission’s April 26 agenda has an item titled “Human Trafficking, drug related issues” and another item where the commission decides whether to take any action.
Weston states he asked Glover to self-report, but was ignored.
Weston said he then sent the emails to Angus on Tuesday asking whether a Brown Act violation occurred. A few hours later, Weston said, he received a text from Fennell stating she was removing him from the commission.
Weston said he spoke to Fennell over the phone on Thursday and said she told him she removed him because he was “causing friction” with other commissioners.
“When I talked with him, he confirmed the information I had received about friction,” Fennell said, adding that she did not want to go into further detail. “He agreed with that and the situation he had with several members of the Human Rights Commission. He knows why.”
Weston said he occasionally “ruffled feathers” of other commissioners, but stated he was the most active member of the commission and did so in order to bring forth several proposals to the commission.
“We didn’t get rid of slavery in this country without a few ruffled feathers,” Weston said. “We didn’t get rights for women without some ruffled feathers.”
Glover states that Fennell’s decision to remove Weston the day Weston submitted his Brown Act concerns was “purely coincidental.”
“I’m quite sure she didn’t know anything about that,” Glover said.
April 28, 2017
By Will Houston