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Biskupski calls for resignations of nearly all Salt Lake City department heads

FILE — Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski speaks to the media after mayoral election results were announced by the Board of Canvassers comprising the Salt Lake City Council Members and the Mayor in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Mayor-elect Jackie Bisku
FILE — Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski speaks to the media after mayoral election results were announced by the Board of Canvassers comprising the Salt Lake City Council Members and the Mayor in Salt Lake City Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski on Monday asked for resignation letters from nearly all Salt Lake City department heads and all employees in the mayor's office.
Jeffrey D. Allred,

SALT LAKE CITY — Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski on Monday asked for resignation letters from nearly all Salt Lake City department heads and all employees in the mayor's office.

Only Interim Police Chief Mike Brown and Fire Chief Brian Dale were spared as Biskupski transitions into office, "due to the importance of public safety," the mayor-elect said.

It's a move Tim Chambless, a University of Utah political science professor affiliated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics, said was unusual in Salt Lake City government.

With each mayoral transition, all department directors go through some form of review process, but Chambless said he's never seen such a "precipitous" request for resignations in Salt Lake City.

"I don't remember on a city level such a comprehensive call for department heads to submit their resignations prior to a new mayor taking office," Chambless said.

Biskupski, who was unavailable Monday for further comment, said in a news release that it's a mayor's "responsibility to review all appointed positions … to ensure the wishes of voters are reflected throughout city government."

Matthew Rojas, Biskupski's transition team spokesman, said the approach to request preliminary resignations is part of the mayor-elect's effort to make the process "transparent, fair and respectful" for city employees.

"There's no transition handbook, but we felt like this was best," Rojas said. "Transitions are unique to every mayor. … This gives everybody time to make adjustments."

The mayor-elect made her request in an email sent to all city employees Monday morning. In the email, obtained by the Deseret News, she included a resignation letter template and a deadline of Jan. 4.

"Each of these resignations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and as soon as possible, I will determine whether to accept individual letters of resignation," Biskupski said.

While it's a unique approach in Utah's capital city, U. political science professor Matthew Burbank said upfront resignations are typical in other municipalities.

"What it does is it allows for the mayor to make changes in a fairly easy fashion," Burbank said.

The mayor-elect said she has asked all employees submitting resignation letters to remain in their current positions until the effective date of any resignations she accepts.

Overall, Biskupski said she has identified 34 appointed positions that will be part of her "first round of review," and between now and Jan. 4, she will begin the recruiting process for the appointed positions.

"I have already met with many of these individuals, and in the next several days, I will have met with every department head," Biskupski said. "Members of my transition team will also meet with department heads and mayoral staff."

According to Biskupski's email to city employees, appointed positions not constituting department heads or mayoral staff will be evaluated early next year.

The mayor has the power to appoint more than 100 employees in Salt Lake City.

David Everitt, Mayor Ralph Becker's chief of staff, declined to comment on the resignation requests.

Chambless said due to the irregular nature of the resignations requests, he "suspects" Biskupski may replace all of the positions from which she's requesting resignations.

"I suspect the decision has been made," Chambless said. "In context, we had a very close, contentious mayor's race. … (Biskupski) is calling for a significant change in Salt Lake's government."

But Burbank said it's too early to know which employees Biskupski will let go.

"It may very well be the case that she may decide these people are doing a good job and leave them there," he said.

According to the email, the mayor-elect has requested resignation letters from:

Department head

• Airport executive director

• Information Management director/chief information officer

• City attorney

• Community and Economic Development director

• Emergency Management Program director

• Finance director

• Human Resources director

• Justice Courts director

• Public Services director

• Public Utilities director

• Redevelopment Agency executive director

NOTE: The 911 Dispatch Bureau director was excluded from the list, but the Deseret News confirmed with city staff that he did get a request for resignation later Monday.

Mayoral staff

• Administrative assistant in the Mayor’s Office Special Projects

• Administrative assistant in the Office of the Mayor

• Assistant to the mayor

• Chief operating officer/chief of staff

• Communications and content manager

• Communications director

• Deputy director of communications

• Community Affairs/ADA analyst

• Community liaison for Districts 1-4

• Community liaison for Districts 4-7

• Community relations director

• Constituent services specialist

• Coordinator for human rights/diversity

• Deputy chief of staff

• Executive office assistant

• Education partnership coordinator

• Office manager in the mayor’s office

• Project and policy manager

• Refugee community liaison

• Senior adviser for intergovernmental relations

• Senior adviser for arts and culture

• Volunteer services coordinator

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Twitter: KatieMcKellar1