Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth took three appointments from Councilwoman Amy Bublak, argued with her over her concern that the City of Turlock had multiple vacant management positions while not allowing legal counsel to answer Bublak’s question, and followed that all up with a publicly witnessed door slamming, yelling fit berating Councilwoman Bublak.
Following a contentious Turlock City Council meeting on Sept. 26, Mayor Soiseth and Councilwoman Bublak left through the side door of where the City Council meets with the public, Soiseth was already questioning Bublak as they crossed the hallway into another room, and then Soiseth slammed the door to proceed yelling at Bublak.
Under the Public Records Act, TurlockCityNews.com requested any documentation pertaining to this Mayor Soiseth incident, as there were witnesses.
Turlock City Clerk Jennifer Land responded, noting the response was following consultation with legal counsel, that the documentation won’t be released to the public due to exemptions including personnel government code, jeopardizing an investigation, and protection under evidence and lawyer-client communication.
On the Sept. 26 Turlock City Council meeting video, a hot mic catches Mayor Soiseth saying, and loud enough to hear it from the hallway, "What was that?"
Mayor Soiseth was then witnessed slamming a door behind he and Councilwoman Bublak, and then heard from outside the room in the hallway yelling at Bublak.
For those of us out in the hallway, we could hear this and it continued for several minutes. Mayor Soiseth was yelling something in the context of Councilwoman Bublak not being professional, as he berated her where we could hear in public.
Turlock Chief of Police Nino Amirfar was one of the people there and went into the room, which broke up Mayor Soiseth berating Councilwoman Bublak.
This was referenced in a Turlock Journal article, “Local leaders question mayor’s ethics,” as a "heated discussion."
TurlockCityNews.com made a public records request of the City of Turlock for “any communication or documentation regarding an incident between Mayor Soiseth and Councilwoman Bublak after the last [September 26, 2017] City Council meeting.”
Turlock City Clerk Jennifer Land responded by stating that the public records request included documents that are exempt from disclosure and that the City would not be releasing them due to the reasons including being covered under personnel government code.
Also, City Clerk Land referenced an exemption that records released to the public may jeopardize an investigation.
Land stated the exemption of “the “catch-all exemption” under California Government Code section 6255, given that the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure where the release of these records may jeopardize an investigation or future investigation and the ability of the City to take appropriate actions. “
The City Clerk’s response continued by noting, “Further, the Act exempts from disclosure “[r]ecords the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code related to privilege.” (Cal. Gov. Code § 6254(k)). This provision incorporates records subject to California Evidence Code section 954, which exempts lawyer-client communications from disclosure. In addition, section 6254(k) also incorporates records subject to Code of Civil Procedure sections 2018.010 through 2018.030, which exempt attorney work product from disclosure.”
“Withholding these records is necessary to ensure that individuals may be frank and forthcoming with their attorneys, and receive candid, effective legal advice and representation,” stated City Clerk Land.
“Withholding these records is also necessary to ensure that public employees and officials who participate in work-related investigations are forthcoming and honest with attorney investigators hired by the City, and do not fear that information they provide attorney investigators will be made public, as that could have a chilling effect on future communications among the City and its employees and officials.”
Mayor Soiseth didn’t respond to questions about his behavior that was put on public display, or if this kind of behavior was exclusive to how he dealis with Councilwoman Bublak. However, he did make a statement.
“While I would like to talk with you about this private discussion with Councilmember Bublak, there are City personnel issues involved,” stated Mayor Soiseth. “The suggestion that I treated anyone differently based on gender or acted "violently" toward anyone is untrue.”
Prior to Soiseth’s incident against Bublak, Mayor Soiseth also removed Councilwoman Bublak from here committee appointments. His ethics were called into question as Bublak noted a resolution that night of diversity, yet Soiseth took the only woman off three committees/boards. Soiseth responded by stating it didn’t have to do with her gender but rather appointment equity between the City Council. Bublak is the senior-most sitting Council Member who has been elected three times and is also retired.
Also, a member of the public, Frank Johnson, alleged that Mayor Gary Soiseth bullies City employees and said that Turlock is not a dictatorship. He spoke about how Turlock has been a model city in every way, but not now under this leadership with unilateral decision-making going on and Brown Act violations. Johnson said there’s been talk about asking Mayor Soiseth to resign due to the concerns he was addressing during the public comment section of the City Council meeting.
Former Turlock Mayor Brad Bates also spoke during public comment asking what’s the progress with the City Manager hiring process, where City Attorney Phaedra Norton was as there was an outside legal counsel sitting in, and asked when the public can know what is going on with these top-level management positions that the City Council is responsible for hiring and overseeing.
Mayor Soiseth said that the process is confidential and wouldn’t comment with anything else.