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The City Journals

Sandy city dysfunction takes center stage during city council meeting

Feb 27, 2019 01:28PM ● By Justin Adams

From left to right: Councilwoman Maren Barker, Mayor Kurt Bradburn, Council Office Director Mike Applegarth. (Justin Adams/The City Journals)

By Justin Adams | justin.a@thecityjournals.com

It took nearly two and a half hours on Tuesday night for the Sandy City Council to work through two issues previously reported on by the Sandy Journal: a concern about city council office employees being removed from an email list and a concern about recent hires in the mayor’s office.

Emails

If you thought that the minutiae of government emails was only a controversy in the federal government, think again.

Mayor Kurt Bradburn quickly apologized on Tuesday night for the removal of city council office employees from the city’s staff-wide email list, calling it an accident. In fact, before the meeting had even started, the employees and the city council had been placed back on the list.

“This feels like something that could have been easily handled with a phone call, rather than an agenda item,” said Bradburn.

City council member Maren Barker also questioned the city council office employees’ decision to raise the issue through the forum of a city council meeting, rather than going to the city’s Human Resources department are by going to the administration directly.

“This could have been fixed with a simple phone call,” she said.

City council office director Mike Applegarth said that he and other city council office employees are “taking everything public” because previous attempts to work through the city’s HR department have “failed miserably.”

Councilman Steve Fairbanks questioned whether the removal of city council employees was even a mistake.

“I think it’s part of a larger plan to marginalize the city council,” he said. “This administration has a history of telling us as little as possible.”

Deputy Mayor Evelyn Everton told the Sandy Journal on Monday the decision to remove city council members from the email list was done in order to “not clog up inboxes.” However, Bradburn seemed to suggest that the withholding of information could have also been a retaliation.

“You’ll forgive me if I’m a little tentative about what information I give you after you leaked sensitive personnel information to KSL,” he said, specifically referring to news reports about public works director Tom Ward’s leave of absence that occurred before Bradburn’s press conference last week.

Coleman-Nicholl told the Sandy Journal that she only confirmed to the media what was already public information.

Mayor’s office hires

The city council’s discussion surrounding the recent hiring of two new positions within the mayor’s office focused on the discrepancy between the budget for the two positions (they’re being paid from the Chief Administrative Office budget) and the positions’ place within the administration’s organizational chart (they report to the mayor).

Multiple motions were put forward by city council members to reconcile the issue but most were either met with legal questions by either the city attorney or the city council’s attorney. Multiple motions were voted down by the council. Eventually, and after a five minute recess to discuss the issue, the council decided to postpone their decision to a later date, and directed both their legal counsel and the city attorney to provide them with possible courses of action.

An illegal meeting?

During council member business, Councilwoman Barker told the audience she felt like she had to speak out about what she saw as an illegal council meeting that took place on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Barker said she was informed of the meeting the preceding Friday when she was notified by a notice issued by Council Chair Nicholl.

“The order was given under the state code that allows the chair to order a special meeting. The problem is, the state code says that two council members must order a special meeting, not one,” said Barker.

Barker said she tried to alert Applegarth, the city council director, about the problem on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “I received no responses from him all weekend,” she said.

When Applegarth interjected to defend himself, Barker resisted, saying, “I am speaking and I would like to finish.”

“Not right now you’re not,” he said. Applegarth went on to explain that he didn’t respond to Barker’s messages because he was with his family.

“If I’m going to be accused of doing something naughty because on the weekend I don’t want to be bothered then I need to look for another job,” he said.

Coleman-Nicholl told the Sandy Journal that the emergency meeting was called in order to answer council members’ questions about GRAMA requests (Government Record Access Management Act) related to the water crisis, for which they had a Monday deadline. The meeting also included a closed-door session to discuss pending or imminent litigation.  

The sequence highlighted that tension not only exists between the city administration and the city council, but within the city council itself.

Reaction

Councilwoman Linda Martinez-Saville mourned the lack of communication within the city.

“There’s no communication going on,” she said. “We never used to be in the newspaper or on the news. None of this would be happening if we would just communicate.”

Amidst the proceedings, Councilman Zach Robinson tweeted, “This is simply amazing.”

Multiple residents also voiced their displeasure with the current state of the city government.

“Over the past year it seems like council meetings have been geared as a non-stop attack from council at administration,” said Dea Theodore, who ran against Coleman-Nicholl for her seat in 2017. “It makes our city look bad. Really bad. You were not elected to make it look that way.”

Jim Edwards, who has also run for city council in the past, spoke about how the council has fought Bradburn “tooth and nail” about everything from improving the council’s live streaming capabilities to his appointments.

“Ever since the mayor got in I’ve seen conflict about stuff that doesn’t need to be there,” he said. “Let’s get down from the cliff and work together more agreeably.”

Multiple residents throughout the meeting could be heard saying that the meeting was an “embarrassment” to the city.

The question many residents must be asking, and which the Sandy Journal will be working to answer is whether the current Sandy city government is capable of working together to serve the needs of Sandy’s residents?”