Hayward Council Candidate Greg Jones Was Nearly Fired Before Quitting As City Manager

ELECTION ’12//HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL

June 1, 2012 | The rumors had been swirling for months. But various public officials in Hayward along with a few city leaders in the know, were nonetheless skeptical that its popular city manager Greg Jones was, indeed, having an affair with then-Councilwoman Anna May. Several of the same people had received an invitation to Jones’s annual Christmas party in 2010, held at his home in the Hayward Hills. Those who attended the get-together a year ago enjoyed the event and complimented the beauty of Jones’s home. Party-goers the following year didn’t know what to expect this time around. Jones was known to have divorced his wife earlier in 2010 and most assumed it was the ex who had taken the lead in organizing the Jones Christmas party the year before. As the guests walked into the Jones home in 2010, several tell The Citizen, the sight of May and her mother, obviously in charge of the night’s soiree, made it indelibly clear, Hayward’s sitting city manager Greg Jones and May were an item. The ramifications for this not-so-secret union and the couple’s refusal to officially admit to it would soon pose serious questions of conflicts of interest and workplace harassment over the next three months for members of the City Council and various city employees.

The depth of the ordeal, only recently revealed, shows Jones, who is running for Hayward City Council this June, was by almost all accounts, a quite capable and very popular city official, faced likely termination in early 2011 from the fallout of the scandal, according to numerous past and current city officials with knowledge, at the time, of the situation. Jones ultimately resigned in March 2011, saying he and May would explore running together for the Hayward school board in the fall of that year. After a brief flirtation, both reconsidered, saying they had located a better candidate and worried about their ability to lead with the possibility of the beleaguered school district facing a takeover by the state. Jones denies the assertion. “I wasn’t at risk of being fired and left at my own choice,” he said in an email.

Nearly every source interviewed for this article, say they were more than willing to work with Jones on the issue, but he and May simply refused to cooperate with the city or even acknowledge the romance was occurring while both sat in closed session meetings, nor the workplace impropriety of May, not only a council member, but also, technically, Jones’s boss, having a personal relationship with an underling. The upheaval had risen to such a level, The Citizen learned, that the City Council took the additional step of hiring outside legal counsel to deal with the growing crisis. Sources say both Jones and May refused to answer any questions on the matter, further tying the city’s hands in the matter. A Cold War then ensued. Although both Jones and May spoke to many at City Hall, in public, as if nothing was going on, their demeanor behind closed doors was frosty.

“He didn’t have to resign,” said one former city official. “People really liked Greg and we were willing to work this out. We’re all adults here.” The city was then left with no other short-term recourse other than to shut May out of closed session meetings. It should be noted that no source mentioned any single issue where the potential conflict of interest claim put the city directly in danger, but it is wise to note the city’s was just fully emerging from a wide-ranging scandal at the Hayward Police Department where over a dozen female cops alleged sexual harassment against male officers on the force. The city settled the claims for over $1 million. City officials in early 2011 did not want another sexual harassment case to blow up in their face and were particularly vigilant in handling this new, potentially explosive case in a proper and discreet manner. Especially, since there were additional allegations among some women at City Hall that Jones had previously made unwanted advances on them, too.

Jones’s abrupt decision earlier this year to run for City Council struck some who were well aware of the scandal, as absurd, based not only on the salacious aspects of the story, but over Jones’s growing record of antipathy towards potential conflicts in multiple government settings. Jones’s interest in running for the school actually started around November 2010, says a source, while many in the city were totally in the dark over his involvement with May. Instead of quitting his over $200,000 job as city manager and running for the school board, Jones believed he could potential hold both seats concurrently. Despite, the city’s city attorney clearing nixing the legality of Jones’s plan, he then moved to ask the state attorney general’s office to weigh in. They too, found the arrangement was a clear conflict on interest. One source tells The Citizen, they had suspicions that Jones was using interest in the school board as a smokescreen to allow for a smooth and honorable exit from his city manager job. But, Jones’s affinity for mixing dueling constituencies was not new. Early in his tenure, Jones attempted to sit on the board of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce while serving as city manager—a clear conflict when the city constantly hears from the chamber on a range of zoning and business-related city ordinances. Jones told colleagues there was nothing inappropriate about it and, in fact, had done the same thing as city manager in Chico.

At the time of Jones’s resignation in March 2011, the news elicited considerable head-scratching around town (including requisite gossip). Why would a person give up a well-paying job for an opportunity to sit on an unappreciated school board with little or no pay? It just didn’t make sense. Although Jones was well-liked, his public persona bordered on quiet and nerdy. The juxtaposition of the vibrantly young and beautiful May hooking up with Jones seemed to many like the ending scene of “Revenge of the Nerds,” where the high school misfits come out on top and walk away with the prettiest girl in school. In fact, many Hayward insiders knew May as something of a “Maneater.” Just a year before hooking up with Jones, she announced she had married a local attorney. The news came seemingly out of nowhere to city officials, but just as soon as their union was sealed, she abruptly divorced him within months. May’s penchant for short-term exuberance it seems was not only reserved for interpersonal relationships, but also her one term on the City Council. Despite coming out of nowhere to snag a seat, city observers say she quickly became bored with the minutiae of city government. In fact, by the final two years of her stay, May would often be seen at council meetings staring blankly at the ceiling and exhaling deeply in exasperation. Parlor bets, if they indeed occurred, did not favor the person who had the new couple lasting more than a few months.

Ultimately, they were wrong, but May’s noticeable absence from all of Jones’s candidates forums over the past few month have struck many as odd. Although the affair and the city scandal that followed have stayed out of the public discourse for the nine-person race for City Council, Jones’s campaign made an allusion to questions over why he chose to resign as city manager over a year ago. In a large, eight page Nadia Lockyer-esque mailer created to look like a magazine, Jones answers the persistent, mostly innocent query, yet the question present is leading and insinuates he left his former job to open his own business. Jones and May later partnered in their own real estate business. “At the time I left, it appeared to me the school district was in desperate shape and though I could have helped. Instead, when election time came, I supported a much more qualified candidate than myself.” The mailer also includes a photograph of Jones with his ex-wife at one of their children’s wedding and another with May warmly embracing Jones.

While Jones’s candidacy for city council poses serious doubts about his past behavior beyond the public sphere, there is also a growing sense, should he win one of the four spots on the council next week, his presence could be a destabilizing force for a group known to exhibit a good working relationship among each other. In addition to Jones’s potential victory, some believe the current city manager, Fran David, who replaced Jones last year, is already on the hot seat. City Hall insiders say David’s transgressions, among other things, was dislike by some council member—a few up for re-election this June—who did not look kindly on David’s overly harsh and public wrangling with the city’s public employee unions. The rancor, putting union-friendly council members against labor leaders was not a situation any of them enjoyed, according to one source, who also believes Jones’s expertise in city matters will easily and uncomfortably overshadow David’s. One council member, who declined to speak on the record, said they loath to think what will happen to the council’s consistent level of comity with Jones’s inclusion and whether it dredges up bad memories from a year ago. “It was easily the worst three months I’ve gone through as a council member and I don’t look forward to going through it again.”

Advertisements