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DISPUTE PITS RECREATION DIRECTOR, BOARD

A feud is brewing over the future of Kaysville's recreation program and its longtime director - a battle that has gone public with petitions and appeals for support.

A recreation board special meeting was canceled abruptly Thursday night, bringing the disagreement between department director Marianne Gardner and the five-member supervisory board to a head.Gardner maintains the board is trying to force her out with trumped up charges.

Recreation board chairwoman Helena Handsaker says that's not true, that the board simply wants to improve the program's weak points. And, she said, Gardner is not cooperating with the board's effort.

Nearly 100 people showed up for Thursday's special board meeting, which was canceled because an official meeting notice was not posted 24 hours in advance, a state legal requirement.

The notice was not posted, Handsaker said, because Gardner failed to do it. Gardner said she posts notices for the board's regularly scheduled sessions but wasn't told to post this one.

The board scheduled a one-hour closed session for 8 p.m, then planned to open the meeting to discuss the issues with Gardner.

Handsaker said after Thursday's cancellation, no new meeting is scheduled and the issue may go directly to the City Council.

The five-member recreation board was set up by the City Council, a year ago to supervise the city's program, which currently serves about 2,400 youngsters annually.

Gardner is the program's director and only employee, a job she's had for eight years. She said a board member came to her several weeks ago suggesting that she resign. He cited "confidential allegations," Gardner said, but indicated they involve her competency, relations with the public and some other issues.

"I chose not to resign," Gardner said. "The things that were said are not true. I feel they're trying to force me out."

She also charges board members have already approached some other persons about applying for her job.

More than 80 people signed petitions Thursday night supporting the program, Gardner said, adding not all the signers like her personally but do support the way the program is being operated.

Posters appeared in store windows earlier in the week, appealing to the public to attend Thursday's special board meeting to save Gardner's job and the city's program.

Handsaker would not discuss specific allegations against Gardner, saying the board has chosen not to do that.

"We've had some concerns about the program, about its weak points, and how it's operating," Handsaker said. "We want to work with Marianne. We just wanted to discuss some things with her Thursday night.

"There are a lot of problems with the program that haven't been solved yet," Handsaker said. "As far as charges about the director's competence, it's inappropriate to discuss it publicly," she said.

"It's being blown out of proportion," Handsaker said.