MT. PLEASANT— Just when Councilman Lynn Beesley’s appeal of his termination from city employment appeared to be over, the case took a new turn when a group of Mt. Pleasant citizens filed an ethics complaint with the Utah Political Subdivisions Ethics Commission, a panel based in the Utah State Auditor’s Office.
In July, after a lot of deliberation within city hall, Mayor Mike Olsen fired Beesley, a member of the city council who at the time was also a full-time employee of the Mt. Pleasant Public Works Department.
An appeal hearing, open to the public, was held before the Mt. Pleasant City Council on Aug. 23. An overflow crowd filled every seat in the chamber.
Kevin Daniels, Mt. Pleasant City attorney, acted as legal adviser for the proceed- ing. Daniels advised the city council that Beesley had a conflict of interest, because if he chose to vote, he would be voting on his own firing.
At the hearing, Daniels explained state law doesn’t say whether a municipal official who has a conflict of interest can vote on the issue where he or she has the conflict.
But the law clearly requires such an official to disclose the conflict prior to the vote, which Beesley did verbally prior to any testimony being taken at the hearing. Danielsalsotold the council voting had to be by secret ballot within 15 days after the hearing.
At the conclusion of the hearing, council members agreed to place their ballots in sealed envelopes, which were to be opened, and the results announced by the city recorder, the following Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Jeannie Tajada, city recorder, says five sealed envelopes were submitted to her, indicating all five council members, including Beesley, had voted.
But the envelopes were not opened, nor were the results announced Aug. 30. Trajada says Daniels directed her not to open the envelopes until the implications of the appeal to the ethics commission became clearer.
Sources told the Messenger the ballots might be opened during a regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday of this week (after press time).
Meanwhile, Daniels confirmed that the Political Subdivisions Ethics Commission had received a number of complaints that dealt with the ethics of Mt Pleasant municipal operations and at least one was a formal written complaint. (The commission does not act on verbal complaints.)
The job of the commission is to investigate and make recommendations on ethics complaints affecting public officials and employees of the state’s political subdivisions (cities, county’s, etc.)
Sources told the newspaper the complaint related to Mt. Pleasant is over conflict of interest. While Beesley did disclose his conflict in the firing case, there was an earlier incident when he allegedly did not disclose a conflict.
That was when a pay increase for city employees came before the council. According to sources, Beesley did not disclose his conflict and did vote on the raise. According to the sources, Beesley’s failure to disclose in that instance is being considered as part of the complaint before the commission.
The ethics commission has six members, none of whom are currently involved in government. The chairman is Paul Warner, executive director of the Freedom Festival in Provo. He served on the Provo City Council from 1997 to 2005.
Others are Myron Bateman, a former Tooele County commissioner; Roger Carter, a former city manager in Washington City and Santaquin, who is now a faculty member at Southern Utah University; Joseph Jenkins, vice president for finance and administrative services at Utah State University; Sheila McCleve, a former judge; Michelle Schmidt, who was a policy adviser to Ben McAdams during McAdams’ terms as Salt Lake County mayor as well as during his term in Congress; and Jan M. Zogmaister, a former Weber County commissioner.
There is one alternate com- missioner, J. Simón Cantarero, who chairs the Utah Supreme Court Advisory Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct and is an adjunct professor at the BYU law school teaching ethics.
According to Daniels, the commission can recommend anything from no action to criminal referrals.