San Marcos City Councilmember Fred Terry, left, and San Marcos Director of Development Services Chuck Swallow, right.
By ANDY SEVILLA
Chuck Swallow resigned as Director of Development Services for San Marcos on Wednesday, just one day after a complaint he filed concerning an uncomfortable work environment was rejected by the city’s ethics commission.
In his complaint, a letter to San Marcos City Attorney Michael Cosentino, Swallow alleged possible misconduct by Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmember Fred Terry. Swallow also complained about Interim City Manager Laurie Moyer.
In a memo signed by Elizabeth Nash, who chairs the city’s ethics commission, Swallow’s Aug. 2 complaint to Cosentino was rejected because it was in the wrong form. The ethics commission gave Swallow until Aug. 18 to file a revised complaint. If Swallow does not submit a revised complaint by Aug. 18, Nash said in the memo that he can try the complaint again after the Nov. 2 election.
“The commission found that the complaint was defective in form because it did not specify any provision of the Ethics Ordinance or state conflict of interest law allegedly violated,” said the memo from Nash. “Based on this finding, the (Ethics) Commission dismissed the complaint as required by Section 2.444(b)(2) of the San Marcos City Code.”
Swallow said Thursday that he had no comment on whether he would resubmit his complaint. However, he also said everything in his Aug. 2 memo to Cosentino is accurate.
Moyer said Swallow resigned Wednesday without providing reasons for his decision. Swallow gave the city 30 days notice.
In his complaint, Swallow said that Terry sent numerous emails consisting of “inappropriate material of a lewd nature” to his personal account dating back to last summer. Swallow stated that he had informed Moyer of the instances on two occasions, with the last “inappropriate” email from Terry coming into Swallow’s inbox on July 14. Swallow said he had no desire to receive such emails.
“Shortly after I received the first of these emails, I had a visit with (Terry) and told him that as an elected official, he should not engage in such activity,” Swallow states in his complaint. “At the time, (Terry) flippantly ignored my advise by saying, ‘What are they going to do, unelect me?’ This practice has made me feel very uncomfortable and has, many times, made me feel awkward during my professional relationship with councilman Terry.”
Terry did not deny he sent Swallow the emails, but said it’s “what friends send to each other. It wasn’t derogatory.” Terry also said he can’t recall Swallow asking him to stop sending the emails.
Swallow further complained against Terry regarding an event taking place on July 22. Swallow said Terry scheduled a meeting with him, Assistant Planning Director Matthew Lewis, and Moyer. Swallow stated that Terry began the meeting by saying that he was coming to city staff as “just Fred and not a city councilman.”
However, said Swallow in his complaint, he began to take Terry as a councilmember once the latter began advising them that the public was losing confidence in the prospect of adopting the SmartCode. Swallow said Terry suggested ways the city staff should present the code in the future.
Terry said he was “shocked” at Swallow’s representation of the July 22 meeting and said he meant nothing more than a “true effort to bring help to planning staff.” Terry said he suggested city staff explain the SmartCode to residents in simple terms that were easily understood, and in no way was he intermingling in city staff’s affairs.
According to Section 3.08 of the San Marcos City Charter, “Except as provided for in Section 3.15 of this Charter (investigations by the city council), the council and its members shall deal with the administrative and management functions of the city solely through the city manager and other council appointees, as appropriate, and shall not give orders to any of their subordinates either publicly or privately.”
Swallow’s complaint also highlighted possible misconduct by Narvaiz stemming from an exchange with her husband, Mike Narvaiz, at City Hall.
Swallow said that as he exited the city council chambers after presenting an item to the council, Mike Narvaiz yelled out, “’Hey Chuck! … You’re still here?’” a question Swallow stated he answered with, “Why Mike? Do you know something that I don’t know?”
Swallow said the exchange occurred in the presence of 25 professional engineers and development employees.
“While I tried to handle this event lightly, the truth is that it was hurtful, intimidating, and harassing in view of recent events within the city government of San Marcos (namely former City Manager Rick Menchaca’s firing by a 4-3 vote in June),” stated Swallow in his complaint. “I felt like it undermined my integrity and reputation in the presence of the very professionals that I am called on to work with on a daily basis. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that if it was caused by any conversation that was shared between Mr. Narvaiz and his wife, Mayor Susan Narvaiz, that it raises a question of whether or not, Mayor Narvaiz has breached the Council-Manager provisions under the City Charter as it applies to directing or influencing subordinate employees.”
Susan Narvaiz said she couldn’t speak on Mike Narvaiz’ intent behind his words as, at the time, she was running a council meeting when the exchange allegedly happened. The mayor said she was unaware of the issue until she read the formal complaint. Susan Narvaiz said Mike Narvaiz and Swallow socialize outside of City Hall “as guys” and that Mike Narvaiz was surely “joking around.”
Susan Narvaiz said if ever she has a concern or complaint with any member of city staff, including department directors, she addresses those concerns to the city manager. She went on to say that she has not discussed any matters involving Swallow with her husband.
Swallow also complained against Moyer, saying that she has attacked him verbally and also has been critical of his ability to lead his department.
At the July 22 meeting, Swallow stated in his complaint, Moyer told him that he has been incapable of staying on top of key issues, to which he responded with several complaints about her management style, reminiscent of those of which Menchaca had been accused before being ousted. Among them, Swallow complained that Moyer was inaccessible and lacking in support and guidance. Swallow added, though, that the conversation “was very frank and somewhat elevated at times” and ended on a positive note.
Swallow said he was surprised by Moyer’s criticism, mainly because, he said, Moyer had told him a month earlier that he was doing good work and to continue business as usual. Swallow also said his last performance evaluation scored him “well into the eight range out of a possible 10 points.”
The following day, July 23, Moyer asked Swallow to sign a paper that detailed a work action plan and addressed several issues from the July 22 conversation, according to Swallow’s complaint. Swallow said he was surprised by the memo he was asked to sign, because he hadn’t believed the July 22 conversation was of a disciplinary nature. Because of the work action plan he was asked to sign on July 23, Swallow said in his complaint that he believed Moyer has been pressured to act “more swiftly” than called for by the normal protocol regarding disciplinary practices.
Swallow stated in his complaint that he and Moyer had three telephone conversations since the July 23 meeting. In two of those conversations, Swallow said, Moyer’s voice became elevated as she accused Swallow of not being on top of two issues that, he said, were outside of his span of control.
Moyer said she never meant to elevate her voice during the discussion and doesn’t feel that she did, though she does admit exhorting Swallow for “not performing as well as he could.”
Said Moyer, “I wanted him to rise to the occasion. We didn’t have heated discussions, and it makes me sad he feels that way.”
Swallow said Susan Narvaiz and Terry are invested in bringing him harm through acts of retaliation, compromising his 27-year career in public service.
“This is an act of retaliation that has been brought on by my reporting the actions of the Mayor’s husband for his act of harassment and attempt to publicly embarrass me,” Swallow stated. “I also am of the opinion that councilman Terry has influenced actions to be taken against me in response to the fact that I have previously reported his practice of sending inappropriate material through email correspondence.”
Swallow said in his complaint that he felt he was under attack and that the identified actions in the complaint have caused him physical anguish and mental absence at work.
“These attacks on me appear to be deliberate, calculated, and discriminatory,” Swallow stated. “They are at the very least, unprofessional and unethical. More probable is these are acts of harassment and hostility and they must cease and desist immediately.”Email | Print