The city of Carson has a lot riding on it's potential future with the NFL. They're right now locked in a pitched battle with the city of Inglewood to convince the NFL that they should serve as the league's new home in Los Angeles, but their focus is being pulled away by one man in city hall. Before Carson can get their hands on a lucrative NFL franchise, they need to rid themselves of their crooked former mayor, who a new report says is holding up all business in the city. And the timing is pretty bad: the NFL owners are meeting in New York this week to try to make what is reportedly a very tough decision between a stadium in Inglewood that would house the St. Louis Rams or a joint stadium in Carson that would house the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.
Jim Dear was mayor of Carson from 2004 to March of 2015 when he resigned the position to become Carson's city clerk (an elected position). What could possibly entice someone to leave the office of mayor for the relatively less glamorous position of city clerk? The mayor of Carson makes about $25,000 a year, while the city clerk makes $113,000.
But Dear is having a hard time with the transition. Just months into his tenure, Carson has found itself crippled with inaction due to the hostile work environment he's created, according to an independent investigation by Riverside attorney Maria Aarvig. Interim City Manager Ken Farfsing commissioned the report to see if Dear was making the city vulnerable to workplace harassment lawsuits after hearing that employees were planning escape routes from city hall in the event that Dear were to "snap or go postal."
Meanwhile, Carson is three months into their fiscal year, and they still haven't passed a budget because all their energies are going into containing the erratic actions of their city clerk, reports the Los Angeles Daily News.
"When the City Council hired me, they asked me to balance the city budget, find a new finance director, and work on the NFL project, I didn't expect that, within a month, I'd be calling for an investigation of the city clerk," Farfsing said. The result of the investigation is a 52-page report chock full of anecdotes from abused employees. There's some relatively innocuous stuff, like Dear pressuring officials to give his girlfriend a government job, or the time he told a coworker "You know what, Lisa, this is Carson. Not everybody plays by the rules" when he was caught using office postage for his personal Christmas cards. But the overwhelming picture the report presents of Jim Dear is that of a mad man, prone to fits of anger and racism that have several employees concerned for their safety.
Debbie Green, executive assistant to the city manager, called Dear "[s]omeone that's calm for the most part but boy, you tick them off, and they had a bad day or something else went wrong (snap) and they can just go postal." City Administrator Lisa Berglund thinks if Dear is angered he's "either going to hurt somebody or have a heart attack" and that she would be a target. She believes that if "push comes to shove, he could snap and if he snaps, he's going to hurt whoever is in his way," and she definitely feels in his way. Berglund even inquired about having "panic buttons" installed in the city manager's office for the day Jim Dear snaps.
One employee says she and coworkers have developed an escape plan for the day Dear goes "postal," going so far as having a dry run for opening their window of escape and testing 911 to see if they needed to dial a "9" first. They're even ready to face bodily harm to get away from Dear. According to the report, their escape plan involves jumping out of a second story window with the hopes they can slide down a sloped ledge to take half their fall, "a risky maneuver," admitted the anonymous employee.
Yet another city worker who chose to remain anonymous in the report feels so unwelcome at the office, "she has taken most of her personal affects home ... with the exception of an angel she could grab on her way out the door." To get away from the stresses of being around Dear, she regularly volunteers to clean the city's underground vault for several hours a day, saying she "would rather deal with the mice droppings in the boxes than the tension upstairs."
Oh, and he's allegedly racist too!
Berglund told investigators that "if you bring up a person's name, a staff member's name and if that staff member is black, often you'll get some kind of snide remark before you can even ask a question or tell the story that you're about to tell." Former City Manager Nelson Hernandez claims that Dear showed favoritism towards white employees—a security guard was given a raise because he was white and, when a white employee was fired, Dear attempted to have a black employee fired without cause. "All the people that he wanted me to keep were white people," said Hernandez.
At a meeting with developers of the South Bay Pavilion, he said "You know, the real problem with public safety at the mall is the blacks. It's the blacks, you know, because they congregate there and they're up to no good, and they're causing all the trouble." Another time, Dear told coworkers he didn't want any nightclubs built in Carson because "too many black people from Compton will come there."
Because Dear is an elected official, he can only be removed from office by the state attorney general or through a voter-initiated recall campaign. Censure proceedings have begun and a hearing is set for October 20. Dear is calling the campaign to have him removed a "witch hunt" and has hired a lawyer to fight the charges. —Jeff Wattenhofer
· Carson City Hall business stalled by abusive clerk, report says [LA Daily News]
· Investigation of Carson City Clerk Jim Dear [Scribd]
· Three NFL Teams All Want to Move to Los Angeles Really Badly [Curbed LA]
· See the Chargers and Raiders Pitch to the NFL to Build a Ridiculous Stadium in Carson [Curbed LA]