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The Gloves Come Off in Battle Between Selma's Mayor and City Manager
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 week ago on
June 4, 2024

Allegations fly between Selma City Manager Francisco Santillan (left) and Mayor Scott Robertson leading to an investigation and a proposed settlement in Santillan's favor. (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)

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Harassment allegations between Selma Mayor Scott Robertson and the city manager led to a city council apology and a potential settlement.

Robertson filed a harassment and intimidation complaint against city manager Fernando Santillan last year. A third-party investigation did not support Robertson.

In turn, Santillan filed a labor complaint against the city. In a May 20 closed session, the city council voted 3-2 to settle with Santillan and extend his contract.

However, the city council delayed a vote to extend the contract at its meeting Monday night.

The published agenda included what Santillan — city manager since December 2021 — would earn in his final five years of the extended contract, but did not include the current contract or any context about the settlement.

The proposed settlement offered Santillan centered on a five-year extension for years 2027 through 2032. Santillan’s contract already calls for a 5% annual raise. If the extension is approved, he will earn a base salary of $342,063 starting in 2031.

The 3-2 vote to delay the contract’s approval fell along the same lines as the settlement approval. Beverly Cho, Blanca Mendoza-Navarro, and John Trujillo voted in favor; Robertson and Sarah Guerra voted against.

Investigation Findings

City attorney Megan Crouch then read findings from third-party investigation firm Hanson Bridgett of San Francisco.

The investigation found Santillan did not violate the city’s discrimination policies.

“The preponderance of the evidence did not establish that Mr. Santillan engaged in harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior that could constitute workplace violence. 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,” Crouch said, reading the report.

Robertson alleged Santillan engaged in harassing and retaliatory behavior, creating “threats of intimidation that interfered with his ability to perform his duties as mayor.”

One example the report cited was Santillan failing to address Robertson as “mayor” in an email.

The report said Robertson’s frustrations were because he was not in the majority city council block of Cho, Trujillo and Mendoza-Navarro. It also criticized Robertson and Guerra for being disruptive during city council meetings.

GV Wire is awaiting copies of the reports from the city of Selma.

Mayor, City Manager Respond

Robertson criticized the investigation. He said the city council did not afford him an attorney, as they have done to other councilmembers in the past.

The investigation did not include Robertson or Guerra, the mayor said.

“Much of the input is factually untrue and is based upon communications the investigator did not even witness,” Robertson said.

“It’s obvious these three do not want to hear the truth. 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,” Robertson said.

After a lengthy public comment, Santillan spoke.

“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.

Santillan highlighted several accomplishments in the city. He proceeded to thank Cho, Trujillo and Mendoza-Navarro.

“You are a 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.

Councilmembers Guerra, Mendoza-Navarro, and Trujillo also offered their views. The latter two talked about harassment they face as public servants.

Trujillo requested that the city send its information about the situation to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

City Council Issues Apology to City Manager

Despite a delay on the contract vote, the city council did issue a statement about the settlement, read by Mendoza-Navarro from the dais.

“We, as Selma City Council, would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to our City Manager, Fernando Santiago, for the harassment, attempts at intimidation and retaliation, which have been subject by two members of this council (Robertson and Guerra),” the statement started.

One sticking point in the Robertson complaint was Santillan’s refusal to cancel a February 6, 2023, city council meeting. It fell on the same date as a vigil service for fallen police officer Gonzalo Carrasco. The city council statement said Santillan could not legally cancel the meeting.

“The third-party review found that Mr. Santillan has truthfully engaged in his role as a city manager, and has appropriately served the community and has not engaged in any unlawful, improper or otherwise unbecoming behavior. On the other hand, the investigator reviewed substantial video footage from multiple city council meetings and found that Mayor Robertson and Councilmember Guerra’s conduct was disruptive and supported this council’s view that the mayor engaged in retaliatory and aggressive behavior towards the city manager,” Mendoza-Navarro said.

Full House, Full of Frustration

A packed Selma chamber saw several residents upset over the contract, and the conduct of the council.

“This is a joke, right?” said one member of the public, criticizing the city manager and council majority. “Get your (stuff) together.”

The speaker used several expletives. Robertson noted the language is protected speech, but could be offensive.

“This is embarrassing,” said another speaker.

Louis Franco, the former mayor whom Robertson beat in the 2020 election, also spoke. He said the squabbling is a waste of money.

Robertson, Cho and Mendoza-Navarro are up for re-election in November.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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