Selma’s Mayor leveled big allegations at it’s City Manager. It backfired in a big way.

Mayoral claims of harassment and intimidation against Selma City Manager Fernando Santillan came back largely unfounded. Now, he’s set for a hefty payday.

Selma City Manager Fernando Santillan is on track to receive a five-year extension to his contract as part of a settlement over harassment allegations stemming from a high-profile city lawmaker. 

Monday’s marathon Selma City Council meeting featured harsh public comment over unproven harassment claims made by Selma Mayor Scott Robertson. 


The backstory: Last year, Robertson filed a complaint against Santillan alleging harassment and intimidation, but a third-party investigation returned poorly for Robertson. 

  • Robertson responded with a labor complaint against the city, and the Selma City Council voted 3-2 in closed session last month to settle the complaint and extend Santillan’s contract. 

Inside Robertson’s Complaint: After delaying the extension, City Attorney Megan Crouch read the findings from the third-party investigation, which was conducted by San Francisco law firm Hanson Bridgett.  According to a copy of the investigative report obtained by The Sun, Selma’s Mayor filed his initial claim in February 2023.

  • The overarching claims investigated by outside investigators included whether Santillan engaged in workplace harassment or retaliation against Robertson, whether his conduct violated City rules or governing laws, and whether he engaged in harassment intimidation, or other disruptive behavior in violation of a city workplace violence policy.
  • In his complaint, Robertson claimed that an email from Santillan referring to Robertson and his colleagues as “Members of the Selma City Council” rather than “Mayor and Members of Selma City Council,” was an example of a threat or attempt at intimidation” designed to of intimidation, designed to “subtly disrespect [Selma’s Mayor]” and was indicative of Santillan’s “continued attempts to target him.”
  • “The preponderance of the evidence did not establish that Mr. Santillan engaged in harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that could constitute workplace violence,” the report reads “Rather, the evidence establish that the conduct alleged by Mayor Robertson was the result of Mr. Santillan stepping into his role as city manager, without seeking approval of Mayor Robertson for personnel decisions within his role.” 
  • The report also criticized Robertson and Councilmember Sarah Guerra for being disruptive during meetings. 

Robertson’s failed demands: Embedded in the aborted complaint were a list of demands from Selma’s Mayor.

  • Per the investigative report, Robertson demanded that communications cease between him and Santillan except for City Council open and closed session meetings. Any other communications would have to be routed through the City Attorney.
  • Robertson additionally demanded that the City owe him $5,000 to the charity of his choice if Santillan engaged in “unwanted direct contact.”
  • Most glaringly, Robertson also demanded that the city pay his and his wife’s health insurance benefits until he reached the age of 65.
  • Failure of Selma to agree to the demands embedded in his complaint, Robertson claimed, would result in legal action against the city.
  • Slightly less than two months after filing the government claim against Santillan, and two weeks after Selma City Councilmembers rejected the claim, Robertson withdrew his complaint, investigators note.

A historical issue for Robertson: It’s not the first time Robertson has found himself on the wrong side of an internal investigation into conduct of city leadership.

  • Robertson’s testy relationship with former City Manager Ken Grey necessitated a legal settlement agreement between the City and Grey in 2016 which barred Robertson from interacting with Grey.
  • The terms of the settlement, obtained by The Sun, mandated that failure by Robertson to abide by the terms of the no-contact settlement with Grey would result in the City paying the balance of the former City Manager’s salary upon his immediate exit from the post.

The big picture: While the council had the contract in place to extend on Monday, the council decided to delay the vote in order to make some revisions to the contract. 

  • Councilmembers Beverly Cho, Blanca Mendoza-Navarro and John Trujillo voted to delay the contract approval to another meeting. That trio had voted last month to settle the complaint and set up the contract extension. 
  • Per the city council’s agenda, Santillan will have his contract extended from 2027 to 2032 and earn a base salary of $342,063 starting in 2031. 
  • The council also made a formal apology to Santillan for harassment, intimidation, and retaliation. 

The other side: Robertson fired back during the meeting that the city did not provide an attorney for him and that the investigation did not interview everyone it should have. 

  • “It’s obvious these three do not want to hear the truth,” Robertson said, referring to the trio who supported Santillan. “And I call on the city council to open a truly fair evaluation of my claim with a neutral investigator and a legal representative that I have a part in selecting who will appropriately represent my interests, not just the interests of the three council members.” 

Santillan responds: Santillan read a prepared statement of his own after the public called on the city officials to stop wasting time and get their act together. 

  • “The culture in the city of Selma is changing for the better. And with that change and progress comes pushback, sometimes from those who wish to maintain the status quo because the status quo serves a personal agenda better. Whatever the agenda is, I am a firm believer that the truth will always prevail,” Santillan said.
  • After saying that Selma is changing for the better and making progress – which results in pushback from those who want to maintain the status quo – Santillan praised the trio who supported him. 
  • “You are true public servants who really want what is best for the community, and you stand firm in your convictions for the betterment of this city, even in the face of personal attacks, insults, and false narratives,” Santillan said.
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