Accusations that a City Council member may have leaked an embarrassing internal document to a Salt Lake area newspaper set off a brief burst of post-Fourth of July fireworks between the mayor and a councilman Tuesday night.
The document was a formal employee grievance filed against assistant city manager Penny Atkinson on May 28 by the city's fleet manager, Gordon Ryan.And Councilman Gordon Haight was clearly upset that a portion of the grievance was reprinted in last week's edition of City Weekly, a local paper that ran a profile on West Jordan Mayor Donna Evans.
Speaking near the close of the council meeting Tuesday, Haight complained that the grievance was "confidential" and should never have found its way to the press.
He decried the leak as a breach of the council oath of office and suggested whoever released it may have violated city law.
In the grievance, Ryan says Atkinson tried to coerce him and other city staff into manipulating information that was to be presented to council members last April about a discrepancy in the city's fleet fund balance.
The document also contends Atkinson attempted to intimidate staff by threatening their jobs if they did not agree publicly with her account of where the fleet money - about $1.6 million - had gone.
West Jordan's administrative code and personnel policies manual strictly prohibit city officers from attempting to restrict open communication with the City Council and from intimidating or threatening employees who are asked to provide information.
The code also provides penalties for such acts, ranging from suspension to job termination.
Atkinson was in meetings Wednesday morning and not available for comment.
Haight, who remained unquestioningly loyal to Atkinson and the city's administration throughout the fleet fund debate, initiated the discussion about the leak during the portion of the council agenda set aside for open discussion."I have a feeling it was one of the two council members quoted in the article" who gave the City Weekly reporter a copy of the grievance, Haight said.
During a discourse on discharging council duties "with fidelity," he said it's important council members "use good judgment and not act in a reckless manner."
Since Evans and Councilman David Plouzek were the only two council members to be quoted, it was obvious where Haight's comments were aimed.
That triggered an icy rebuttal from the mayor, who told Haight she was "angry and outraged you would point fingers at two members of the council" and presume to question their integrity based only on his suppositions.
Evans, who noted copies of the grievance had been circulated to all council members and were accessible to other city staff, said she found it "unbelievable" Haight would make accusations without asking her about it first.
Haight retorted it's "unbelievable" anyone would leak such information to reporters. He also indicated he was dismayed Ryan confirmed to a reporter the grievance had even been filed.
But Ryan, who was contacted after the council meeting Tuesday night, said the reporter who called him already had a copy of the grievance carrying his signature.
The fleet manager said it would have been dishonest to deny he had filed a grievance and pointless to be evasive when the reporter already had the document.
Ryan declined to discuss his grievance, however, saying the matter is internal and currently under investigation by City Manager Dan Dahlgren in accordance with city personnel policy.
Following the meeting, Haight stressed that his comments should not be misconstrued as making charges or allegations against other council members.
"I didn't charge anybody," he said. "I just said it's my belief" that other council members leaked the document.
Ryan's grievance notes a press release issued by the city in mid-May, following an internal review of the fleet fund by staff and the council, correctly explains how the $1.6 million was spent.
That explanation, the grievance said, agrees with Ryan's original position and reflects facts on expenditures "that Ms. Atkinson was so adamant I not reveal to the City Council and the public."
The document said threatening an employee's job "as a result of an attempt to reveal . . . information to the governing body constitutes illegal and inappropriate action by a management-level employee."