NewsCovering Kern County


Docs: Former McFarland city manager, John Wooner, faced allegations of sexual misconduct prior to his death

Posted at 11:28 AM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 19:18:25-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Court documents detailing the days following the disappearance of McFarland city manager John Wooner show that he faced allegations of sexual misconduct and asked to be fired due to an ongoing issue with a city council member.

According to his wife's statement to the Bakersfield Police Department, Wooner knew of sexual misconduct allegations as recently as May 9.

The former McFarland manger was last seen May 14 before his body was recovered from a city vehicle in the Kern River in July.

In documents obtained by 23ABC, Jennifer Wooner, John Wooner's wife, told BPD that the sexual misconduct allegations brought against him "put a lot of stress and depression" on her husband.

On May 14, Wooner asked his wife where his father was buried. Jennifer Wooner told him his father was buried at Hillcrest Cemetery. John Wooner then asked specifically where he was buried at Hillcrest. Jennifer Wooner said she believed that was odd, considering John Wooner's father died of suicide 16 years ago and he had never gone to visit him at Hillcrest.

Hillcrest is the same cemetery officials said Wooner was last seen alive.

Documents also state that in an interview, the Mayor of McFarland, Manuel Cantu, said he last spoke to Wooner four days before he went missing. Cantu reportedly told BPD that Wooner was upset and requested to be fired because the McFarland city budget was going to be "approximately $180,000 short" and he didn't need anymore "negative attention" from city council member Rafael Melendez.

Cantu reportedly told police Wooner requested Cantu to stop the investigation against him, and he was upset when Cantu told him he could not stop the investigation. Documents said that the sexual misconduct allegation was alleged by a female employee of Wooner's.

Cantu said Wooner was planning to sue the city of McFarland regarding a "hostile work place" with Melendez. Cantu stated he feared the pressure became too great on Wooner and he would possibly harm himself due to stress.

The coroner's office has yet to release Wooner's official cause of death.