Employee exodus concerns North Ogden councilman

Feb 8 2013 - 6:56pm

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NORTH OGDEN -- A discussion about the number of employees leaving the city ignited anger and accusations among city council members at a recent council meeting and through email.

Name-calling and raised voices were heard during the meeting, to the point that the mayor had to silence some council members at times.

Councilman Brent Taylor asked to have the subject of employees leaving put on the agenda for discussion. Even before the meeting, however, Taylor and Councilman Wade Bigler exchanged emails about the issue. Taylor sent a copy of the emails to the Standard-Examiner.

Bigler told Taylor, Mayor Richard Harris and City Manager Ron Chandler that if the item wasn't pulled from the agenda he would also bring up employee conduct and point out specific details of some employees' conduct in the public meeting. He told the three that he felt Taylor's discussion should be held in a private meeting.

The mayor and city manager decided not to pull the topic from the agenda. Bigler, during the course of the meeting, did go into some detail about employee conduct and why some employees had left. Taylor said he wanted to have the discussion in the council meeting because he wanted to talk about incentives and why employees left in high numbers.

Twenty percent of the city's employees took other employment, were terminated or retired in 2012.

"At the end of the day, this does impact the residents," Taylor said regarding training and strained human resources issues affecting the city.

Taylor said he would like to look at ways to offer a better package to employees and would also like to make employees feel valued.

All the council members stated at some point, either during the meeting or in emails, that they like the city employees and hold them in high regard.

After Taylor's remarks, all council members spoke to the issue, but didn't agree with Taylor.

"It is premature to say we may or may not have a problem," Councilman Justin Fawson said.

He and other council members said attrition isn't necessarily a bad thing. He also is waiting to hear what an employee compensation committee has to say in a report expected this month.

"The city council has nothing but respect for employees," Councilman Kent Bailey said.

Bailey accused Taylor of bringing up the issue over and over again because he wants to "keep his name in the newspaper." He also accused Taylor of working too closely with the media.

Bigler then listed by name many of the employees who left and exactly why they left, stating that it had nothing to do with the council. Bigler also said he had asked for an employee compensation committee three times since 2010 and it hadn't been granted, so the first time he had the chance with a new council in 2012, he took the opportunity to get a committee going.

Taylor said he didn't want to go over everything point by point with the council, but they were "very loose with the facts."

Resident Brian Russell said he has followed the issue closely and spoke directly to Fawson, Bailey and Bigler.

"I'm dismayed, but not surprised, by the attitude of you three," Russell said.

He told the council there is a sense among employees that there is an "assault" on them.

"The fact that you would not even consider it is disappointing," Russell said.

Mayor Richard Harris asked the council to stop their behavior.

"We need to move on," Harris said. "We have a great city, and we need to pull together."

But emails have continued between council members and to the newspaper about the issue. Some of the emails stemmed from the newspaper asking for closing statements on the issue, but many others have followed, personally attacking each other's views on many subjects, not just the employees. Those emails have also been sent to the newspaper.

Some council members reiterated their reasons for not rushing to worry over the number of employees leaving, while others spoke of their frustration with Taylor for bringing the issue up and for his blaming the council for the issues.

Bigler said employees have come to him with concerns in the past and he has addressed them. Taylor said more than two dozen employees have contacted him with concerns and that some of those concerns did relate to the council.

The employee compensation committee will give a full report to the council on its findings later this month.

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