Jill Arthur, Santa Ana's former deputy city manager accused of wrongdoing at the city's unemployment office, is no longer employed at City Hall after a city investigation into the incident, Voice of OC has confirmed.
Last year, Arthur allegedly backed her car into a vehicle owned by a 23-year-old Buena Park resident, Marcel Alvarez. Instead of exchanging insurance information, Arthur offered to use her influence at the city's work center to help Alvarez find a job, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Alvarez confirmed the details of the incident in an interview with Voice of OC. He said he received a $50 gas card monthly from the city, but was unsuccessful finding a job through the work center. He also said that he received a phone call from an Officer Gonzalez requesting a meeting about the incident but never called the officer back.
Alvarez stopped returning to the work center to renew his gas card after the call from Gonzalez, Alvarez said. And he said he notified his uncle, a police officer at another agency, about the call.
The city used an outside contractor to conduct the investigation into the incident and placed Arthur on administrative leave in April. But Arthur's city employment did not end until Sept. 12, according to city spokesman Jose Gonzalez. Whether Arthur was terminated, retired or resigned has not been disclosed. The spokesman did not respond to a question about the circumstances of her departure.
Yet amid Arthur's separation from City Hall, there are new questions regarding the integrity of the investigation.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, city officials concluded officially that Alvarez told the investigator he never received a phone call from an Officer Gonzalez.
Alvarez told Voice of OC, however, that's not entirely true. He said he may not have named Gonzalez in his interviews with the investigator but did tell the investigator that he was contacted by a police officer.
“I don't know why she would say that,” Alvarez told Voice of OC, referring to the investigator. “She asked me if the police were involved. I said no … but that I received a phone call from an officer.”
Gonzalez declined to comment on the inconsistency between Alvarez's account and the reported conclusion of city officials.
Councilwoman Michele Martinez said that the disparity worries her but that she hasn't seen the city's report on the issue. The council only has purview over the city manager, city attorney and city clerk.
“Certainly it does concern me,” Martinez said. But, she added, “I don't think even if I were to ask for these reports, they would give them to me.”
Other questions have risen about Arthur’s final payout.
Upon separation, Arthur received $83,856.15 for unused time off, although she was eligible for “just over $125,000,” Gonzalez wrote in an email.
Yet Gonzalez wrote that city officials would not provide an hourly breakdown of the payout, such as the number of vacation and sick hours Arthur had accrued, because Arthur requested that information remain confidential. The city has in the past provided similar information for thousands of employees.
Passing along a response from City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, Gonzalez wrote:
The City admits that it has in the past created documents in response to your Public Records Act requests. However, the Act does not require the City to create spreadsheets or documents. In this case, the former employee specifically mentioned that she does not want to share her personal information to the extent such information was shared in the past. … How an employee chooses to use accumulated time or how much an employee chooses to place in a 457 deferred compensation plan, for example, is a personal choice and in this case the City will honor the employee’s request for privacy.
Terry Francke, general counsel at Californians Aware and Voice of OC's open-records consultant, said that nothing in the state's public records law allows an employee's request for privacy to trump the city's mandate to provide information.
“I don't think there's any authority for that,” Francke said.