WEST JORDAN -- Not so long ago, and in a city not so far away, there was the Phantom Pennist:
An anonymous and mysterious author of numerous "poison pen" letters, who apparently delights in lecturing recalcitrant West Jordan officials and other folks who fail to support city management in the way the writer deems proper.A faceless foe who some West Jordanites believe "strikes back" at the stronghold of Norm Riggs, rebel leader of a local watchdog group called Citizens for Integrity in Government (CIG), by having unwanted magazine subscriptions targeted on his home.
But this time, Mayor Donna Evans told council members Tuesday night, the writer has gone too far.
Reading from the latest addition to her anonymous letter collection, dated May 27, she said the Phantom Pennist now is falsely accusing her of trying to sell insurance policies to city employees.
Evans, an insurance agent who deals only in medical coverage, said the allegation is silly because city employees are already covered by a medical plan.
"It would be stupid of me to solicit health insurance from someone who already has health insurance," she told the council.
The implication of the letter is that such actions would violate state ethics laws and conflict of interest statutes.
Evans was seething about the latest mailing and advised the council she may commission an investigator with her own money to track down the writer so she can file a defamation suit. "It's sad and pathetic," she said.
In a related statement, Councilman Brian Pitts said he has been unjustly accused of writing anonymous letters and wants to make it clear he considers such acts unconscionable and cowardly.
"People think I wrote one to Norm Riggs," Pitts said. "I just want to go on record saying I did not do that."
Evans said Wednesday she does not believe Pitts had anything to do with the letters but suspects it may be a city employee because of the content, tone and timing of the sharp-tongued epistles.
The mayor noted she's received other poison pen letters -- likely from the same author -- during her turbulent 17 months in office and has "ignored them, feeling they did not deserve response.
"However, when I'm now being accused of using my position in a possible illegal or unethical way, that is where I draw the line," she said. "Even when I asked to have the city's health insurance rebid, I was careful not to contact any of the insurance carriers myself. The city's staff controlled the bidding process completely.".
There have been other letters and other writers, she said.
In one case, a different letter writer who used only a partial name, sent out an e-mail last November indicating the mayor is uneducated, irresponsible and lacks a high school degree.
The mayor quickly fired off a response, noting she graduated from Lamar High School in Houston two trimesters early in November 1974 and attended two years of college with a grade-point average ranging from 3.85 to 3.9.
The latest letter was not the only example of the attack on her ethics, the mayor said.
In a recent closed session, Evans related, a member of city management claimed to have "proof" she was somehow benefitting from efforts to seek new bids for West Jordan's health insurance coverage.
No such proof was ever presented to the council, she said.
The mayor said concerned residents had requested the health insurance be rebid "to lay to rest the controversy surrounding the placement of our coverage."
The latest letter reiterated earlier demands for the mayor's resignation, accusing her of enjoying "the negative energy you create."
Common themes of eight or nine letters sent to both Evans and Riggs have characterized city workers as imperfect but caring professionals who make mistakes and shouldn't be judged harshly.
Similar letters also have been sent to Councilman David Plouzek and a city department head.