MT. PLEASANT—Two high-profile Mt. Pleasant City employees who have been fired in the past month will both be able to appeal their terminations, the city attorney said Monday.
Kevin Daniels said Jack Widdison, former manager of ConToy Arena, was a part-time, at-will employee and as such wasn’t entitled to a hearing.
But “in the interest of good governance, the mayor is going to grant him a hearing,” Daniels said. “It has always been his intention to give him an appeal hearing before the city council.”
For his part, Widdison maintains that in about a decade as manager of the arena, he always understood his position to be full-time.
Widdison said he is obtaining letters from two previous mayors stating his employment was never considered to be part-time during their tenures. And he said the city never notified him of any change in that status.
Based on Widdison’s description, his termination was fairly abrupt. Widdison wanted to convert a double-swinging door to a rollup, garage door. Widdison said the swinging of the doors was frightening horses as the horses were being led through them. That was causing the horses to bolt and posing a danger to both horses and the people leading them.
Besides installing a large garage-type door, Widdison proposed to install a standard door next to the rollup door as a replacement exit for people.
According to Widdison, Mayor Mike Olsen told him to look into whether the change would meet fire safety requirements. Widdeson checked with Sam Draper, the city fire chief, who told him he liked the plan.
So Widdison changed out the doors. The problem was that he didn’t get back to the mayor with a report on what the fire chief had said or get the mayor’s explicit approval to change the doors.
When the mayor saw that the conversion had been made without his authorization, he immediately confronted Widdison and fired him for insubordination.
An ironic aspect of the Widdison firing is that Widdison’s wife, Gaylynne, has been co-manager of ConToy with Jack Widdison. She is still employed, and according to city sources, has hired her husband back as a general laborer to help run the arena.
The other case involves Lynn Beesley, a full-time employee of the Public Works Department, who is also a member of the city council.
At a city council meeting within the past couple of months, Beesley publicly excoriated his boss, Colter Allen, public works director. Beesley accused Allen of allowing employees to slack off on the job and being inefficient in the way he assigned crews to jobs.
Based on comments by City Attorney Daniels, moves to fire Beesley have been in process for some time.
“All the pre-termination steps were followed,” Daniels said.
The city attorney said a pre-termination hearing was held at which all concerns about Beesley’s job performance were presented to him and he was given an opportunity to respond.
“The mayor, in conjunction with the department head (Allen) and city personnel manager and city recorder Jeanne Tejada, determined termination was the right action,” Daniels said.
Daniels said there are two conflicting laws talking about how termination appeals should be handled. A Mt. Pleasant City ordinance says the appeal panel should consist of three employees and two city council members.
But a Utah state statute says a city council can sit as the appeal panel in the case of someone terminated by a city government. The hearing can be open or closed at the discretion of the terminated employee.
Daniels said Mt. Pleasant gave Beesley a choice between the two types of panels. He chose the city council and said he wants the hearing to be open.