Human communication

The conflict at the town hall continues over the general manager

The conflict continues to revolve around the actions of Parker Town manager Lori Wedemeyer, with some board members supporting her and others wanting her. A resignation involving a recent employee resignation and, now, Wedemeyer’s contract, continue to divide the board.

Parker Town Hall is a peaceful place most of the time. As you would expect in a small town of about 3,000 people contained mostly in a single square mile, the atmosphere is relaxed; people call each other by their first names, know their children, pass each other at the grocery store.

But the alleged “Involuntary” “retirement” in April of a prominent city employee denounced some friction at the town hall. General Manager Lori Wedemeyer, who has always been friendly and responsive to Parker live when we asked him questions, to his detractors even within the city. Chief among them could be City Councilor Randy Hartless. He maintains that Wedemeyer runs the town without effective accountability from his fellow council members, who he says appear to have “limitless loyalty” to him and have paid him a salary of over $ 160,000 a year.

A outstanding example arose in 2018, when Wedemeyer’s distribution of more than $ 40,000 in taxpayer-funded gift cards garnered the attention of the press across the state (the city admitted wrongdoing but said these were “honest mistakes”). More recently, Hartless has criticized the way Wedemeyer has treated the aforementioned eminent employee, Darla Tilley, who for many years was the person who ran the Parker Senior Center and its programs to feed the region’s seniors. The way she was treated by Wedemeyer became the subject of at least one particularly heated public council meeting, with residents showing up to let council hear their feelings about it.

Following Tilley’s resignation, a consultant was asked to conduct a survey on how the city is handling human resource issues. The result was a report by Lori Lindseth of Revolutionary HR Consulting, which was just released.

The report largely exonerates Wedemeyer of wrongdoing against Tilley. “The allegation that Darla Tilley was forced to resign her post in the town of Parker under duress […] and that she has been subjected to a hostile work environment and that Lori Wedemeyer’s retaliation is unfounded, ”writes Lindseth, noting among other things that Tilley was not asked to leave her job.

Regarding the hostile work environment charge, the report notes that while Wedemeyer’s interactions were “at times abrupt or reactionary,” they did not amount to harassment. At the same time, Tilley’s behavior was described by some of the employees interviewed for the report as “frequently shouting, humiliating and berating others and using profusely profuse profanity”, as well as being short and sarcastic with others and at times sensing. alcohol at council meetings. Lindseth said Wedemeyer acted appropriately in addressing Tilley’s conduct, but Wedemeyer did not follow the city’s own human resources policies and procedures.

With Wedemeyer operating as both managing director and director of human resources, the city does not have a “clear segregation of duties,” according to the report, which “does a disservice to city employees and the manager. “.

Lindseth also noted communication problems at Town Hall, saying, “Specifically, yelling, shouting and the use of profanity has been described regularly as a typical or routine form of communication within the town. This style of communication has reportedly led to mistrust and morale problems among city employees and members of city council.

While it’s hard to take stock of all of this, one thing remains certain: Wedemeyer continues to divide as CEO. Hartless offered to fire her at a council meeting in May, saying he didn’t trust her gut or the way she ran the city. The motion died for lack of a second, but unexpectedly, Councilor Jerry Hooper spoke up.

“I am proposing an extension of the CEO’s contract for a term of five years,” he said, causing Hartless to laugh and confusion in the room.

“She doesn’t have a contract,” replied Hartless.

“Oh yeah, she does,” Hooper replied, confidently.

Three of the seven board members supported Hooper’s motion and the other four, including Hartless, opposed it. The case was filed until Lindseth’s report could be seen by council.

So, does Wedemeyer have a contract or not? Hartless says he asked Mayor Karen Bonds after the meeting, who also had no recollection of council approving one. But, after a few inquiries, one emerged, dated September 11, 2019. She confirmed Wedemeyer’s salary of $ 161,000 and said the contract would be in effect for three years. It was signed by former Mayor Dan Beaver and City Attorney Justin Pierce, as well as Wedemeyer.

“The board held an executive meeting on September 10, 2019 to discuss his performance,” said Hartless. Parker live. “The minutes of the ordinary session held after the executive session show no action taken. So how did Lori get a three-year contract the next day? So many questions, but at this point it looks like someone concocted a contract without board approval.

Indeed, the minutes of the September 10, 2019 meeting contain no record of a board decision to approve a three-year contract for Wedemeyer.

Parker live contacted Pierce in May to ask him about it.

“To be clear, the minutes do not show that the Council decided not to take any action,” Pierce replied. “The action report reads“ Action ”, which shows that an action has been taken. The full report is then supposed to describe the action. This is probably where the confusion arises in this case. Full minutes are empty in this section, which might naturally cause someone to wonder why action minutes reflect action, but full minutes don’t explain what it was. However, it appears, based on my review, that the description was inadvertently included in the confidential electronic session minutes (which cannot be disclosed) instead of the open meeting minutes where it was meant to be included. We are currently evaluating the appropriate method of moving these minutes to the open meeting minutes so that the open meeting minutes (instead of the confidential electronic session minutes) describe the “action” from the action report. In any case, once the transposition of these minutes has been fixed, it will become clear that the contract was indeed adopted during the public council meeting of September 10, 2019. “

Since then, as of July 12, the meeting minutes available on the Town of Parker website have not changed and there is still no record of council action approving a contract for Wedemeyer. But at a recent board meeting, the board was asked to approve an amendment to the minutes of that meeting which states that the board has approved a contract and, moreover, that Hartless himself has proposed its approval!

“Imagine my surprise when they found the ‘transposed minutes’ which not only revealed that the motion had been made to give Lori a lucrative contract, but that I had made the motion!” Hartless said. “This is absurd. I have worked with exceptional directors over the years and I would never consider giving one of them such a contract. It is just not good business practice.

The motion to approve the amendment to the minutes was approved by all board members other than Hartless.

Ultimately, there are always more generous and less generous interpretations of the statements and actions of public officials. The town of Parker has had its fair share of internal friction and strife lately, although nothing comes close to the town level of Quartzsite over the years. In small towns, the fact that people know each other so well can be both a blessing and a curse; loyalties can be used to eliminate unwanted things, but also, everyone has the opportunity to contribute to their community and relationships can be created and maintained based on personal warmth.

More heat at Parker’s Town Hall.

Read the full HR report HERE.

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