Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Controversial Eureka City Attorney Resigns, Effective Immediately

Posted By and on Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 2:05 PM

Day-Wilson
  • Day-Wilson
The Eureka City Council emerged from a special closed session meeting this afternoon called to discuss the potential firing or discipline of an employee to announce that the council and City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson have mutually agreed to part ways.

Mayor Frank Jager thanked Day-Wilson for her service and City Manager Greg Sparks called the separation a "mutual parting" that is effective immediately. Day-Wilson was not present at the meeting and her last day on the job was yesterday.

Today's meeting came exactly a week after the council met in closed session to review Day-Wilson's job performance.

Day-Wilson's seven-year tenure with the city of Eureka was marked by controversy, including the retracting of a letter of apology to the Wiyot tribe for Eurekans' involvement in the 1860 massacre of women and children, allegedly lying to councilmembers about and attempting to bully city hall employees into covering up a breach of confidential information, fighting a lengthy and expensive court battle to prevent disclosing a police dash cam video of an officer allegedly assaulting a juvenile, drawing the public ire of a city councilmember for allegedly refusing to agendize a shelter crisis declaration, once refusing to comply with a California Public Records Act request and signing off on a press release that included an unsubstantiated accusation that a local landlord had traded lodging for sexual favors.

Day-Wilson started her career with the city in 2011 after specializing in environmental law for the firm Best, Best & Krieger LLP in San Diego. According to her LinkedIn profile, she obtained her doctorate from the University of Idaho in 1986, going on to earn an advanced law degree from George Washington University in 1996. During her tenure, the city saw numerous legal challenges, including the precedent-setting police dash cam video case, which ended up changing state disclosure caselaw and costing taxpayers around $90,000 in legal fees, as well as litigation brought by former inhabitants of the PalCo Marsh, which was cleared of an entrenched homeless camp in 2016, that remains pending.

She also proposed and oversaw the transition of Eureka's elections to a "true ward" system and changed the city's public records act request policy, dictating that all requests come through her office.

Under the terms of Day-Wilson's employment agreement with the city, she answered directly to the city council, which could opt to terminate her employment at any time, with or without cause. If fired without cause, Day-Wilson would have been owed under the agreement a lump sum cash severance equal to six months of salary and benefits, as well as any accrued vacation, holiday or executive leave time. According to the database of public employee salaries www.transparentcalifornia.com, Day-Wilson's total compensation in 2016, the last year for which data is available, was $218,678, meaning her severance pay would have fallen somewhere in the neighborhood of $110,000.

To fire Day-Wilson with cause under the employment agreement, the council would have had to show she willfully breached the terms of the agreement, habitually neglected her duties, committed a crime, willfully violated city policies of a "serious nature" or committed an act of "dishonesty, fraud or other acts of moral turpitude." The agreement further provides that the council would have had to notify Day-Wilson in advance of its intent to fire her with cause and given her the opportunity to argue against the action during a public hearing.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as they become available.
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Linda Stansberry

Linda Stansberry

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Linda Stansberry was a staff writer of the North Coast Journal from 2015 to 2018.

Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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