AUDIO: Resigning South Weber employees lay it on the line

Saturday , May 10, 2014 - 9:43 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

SOUTH WEBER – City staff has had enough. The two staff members who resigned Tuesday were so frustrated they let council members hear every word of it – on the public record.

“I have anxiety attacks because all of the (expletive) that goes on here. I’m done! Completely done!” Deputy City Recorder Emily Thomas yelled in frustration.

The work meeting, discussing the proposed budget, went as planned, but right before someone could second the motion to close the work meeting, it took an awfully painful turn.

Thomas interrupted to tell the council she and City Recorder Erika Ahlstrom would be quitting on Friday and the only reason they were waiting until the end of the week is to help tie up loose ends for the planning commission. Thomas said it has been so bad for her she was quitting without even having another job lined up.

“It has been hell for the fourth months that you have been here,” Thomas said toward Mayor Tammy Long and two new council members. “(For) four months … it has been a toxic environment.”

There were several seconds of silence.

“And you people don’t know how screwed you are,” said one unidentified voice who broke the painful silence. “You have run off every administrative staff you have. There is nobody to do anything now."

After a long pause, Long broke the silence by saying, “I don’t think it is my place to continue running this part of the meeting – this took a different turn, so – I don’t know if you guys want to end this or what you want to do.”

One council member said he was perplexed that the two women chose to resign over a budget issue. Thomas and Ahlstrom corrected him by saying they planned to wait until the end of the meeting all along.

Thomas was the most vocal of the two resigning employees during the recorded city meeting that discussed a possible utility tax hike on the proposed budget. She went on to say, “This has been some time coming and I’ve had my fill and I am done.”

Thomas said she had countless sleepless nights since council members Scott Casas and Marlene Poore came into office in January along with Mayor Long.

“I’m pissed off that the residents elected you! What does that say about our city?” Thomas said, letting loose on the council again. “What does that say about our city? You ran a campaign based on lies and people bought it.”

The silence ran deep.

“Well I don’t think we are going to accomplish anything else,” said one councilman, who moved to adjorn the meeting.

“No. No we are not!” another bewildered council member said while nervously chuckling.

Just before trying to close the meeting again, an unidentified individual got emotional and began crying while trying to express appreciation for the work the women did and said they will be difficult to replace. The council agreed and noted how many long hours the two women spent and how much information they were able to garner for the city.

One voice heard in the audio recording chewed out the council for not making an attempt to retain what fleeing employees it had.

“Why are you sitting on your asses?” asked a person identifying themselves as a citizen. “Every one of you just automatically accepted their resignation. You aren’t sitting here fighting for them to stay here. They are leaving because of what you three have done. I’m a citizen right here and I can’t stand it in here.”

After that comment Councilman Casas asked if there was anything that could be done to keep Thomas and Ahlstrom. Thomas replied with an emphatic “no.”

“I have other reasons, but I’m echoing what Emily is saying as well,” Ahlstrom quietly said, adding that when Long came in as mayor she and Thomas “poured out our souls” to Long about the problems that went on with previous staff and their upcoming concerns. Ahlstrom said Long “barely said a word” to them.

“It’s taken its toll on both of us in many ways,” Ahlstrom said adding that the lack of a decision on the city manager vacancy and how the council was conducting public business was the final straw.

Other city staff in public works also echoed concern about keeping their employees with the city because of all the recent issues and lack of raises or pay.

“We are the sherpas climbing Mount Everest," Thomas said. "We know how to get to the top of Mount Everest and you don’t give a crap. You’ve helicoptered onto the top of the mountain and you are enjoying the view and think everything is better because you’re here."

Thomas made it clear that her frustration did not lie with the entire city council, but only with Mayor Long, and council members Casas and Poore.

“We don’t have one council, we have two councils,“ Thomas said. “I cannot work under these circumstances any longer.”

South Weber City has posted job openings for city recorder, deputy city recorder and city manager on its website.

The next city council meeting will continue where it left off discussing the upcoming budget on Tuesday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m.

Contact reporter Cimaron Neugebauer 801-625-4231 or Follow him on Twitter at @CimaronNews

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