A federal jury heard opening statements and initial testimony Tuesday in a case pitting a former West Bountiful employee against the city.
Former public works employee Jeff Iverson alleges working conditions became unbearable after he blew the whistle on improprieties in city government. Iverson is suing the city and City Administrator Wendell Wild to get his job back; he is also seeking monetary damages and back pay. He resigned two years ago.
Iverson says he quit after city staff denied him promotions, benefits and made his working environment miserable. He says those negative working conditions came after Iverson complained that Wild and former public works director Joel Cahoon used city equipment for personal gain.
West Bountiful's attorney, David Church, told jurors that the suit is sour grapes from a bitter ex-employee. He said that Iverson's complaints were taken seriously and that Wild's improper use of city property has been curbed. Cahoon is no longer with the city.
Church also noted that Iverson wasn't fired, he quit.
Iverson left the city, Church said, to take a $22,000-a-year job with Brigham City.
Iverson's attorney, Budge Call, argued that his client took the Brigham City job only after conditions in West Bountiful became unbearable. Iverson, Call said, wouldn't have happily taken the Brigham City position since it paid more than $7,000 less than he was making and required a long daily commute from Iverson's West Bountiful home.
Call told jurors he would detail West Bountiful's "good old boy" network that gave promotions and perks to well-connected city employees, most of whom belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For instance, Wild was made city administrator and public works director in the early '90s after a stint on the City Council.
Similarly, Cahoon, the son of a West Bountiful councilman, was promoted ahead of Iverson even though the latter had years more experience.
With Wild and Cahoon as the only other employees in the three-man public works department, Iverson was outside the loop, Call said.
Conditions worsened, Call said, after Iverson informed city leaders that Wild conducted church business from the city offices and used his city-bought SUV and gas card for personal reasons. Iverson also told city leaders that Cahoon used city equipment to make improvements on his farm and fish pond, Call said.
After Iverson pointed the finger, Wild, then Iverson's boss, began to take revenge by degrading Iverson's work — forcing the resignation, Call said.
The trial is scheduled to continue until Thursday.