The firing of Paula Bell as executive director of the Cache County Chamber of Commerce has outraged many northern Utahns who contend she was singled out simply because she is a woman.
Jay Spencer, president of the chamber, announced on June 24 that Bell had been dismissed because of "a problem with relationships inside the chamber and with the entities it deals with, such as Logan, Cache County and Utah State University."However, Bell said Wednesday she had received many calls from supporters dismayed by the action.
"I even had a call from Senator Orrin Hatch's office expressing shock and disappointment about what happened," she said.
While Spencer's announcement praised Bell for her long hours, hard work and progressive ideas, she said the dismissal was "a setback for women in this county who want to make a difference."
Bell was hired in May 1986 after serving in a similar position in Roosevelt for 13 years, and she also served two terms on the Utah Travel Council.
During her tenure, the chamber's membership more than doubled and Bell said that while the organization was running at a deficit 1986, she "left (it) with a substantial amount of money in the bank."
Spencer said the decision to terminate her employment was made by the chamber's three-man executive committee and that all board members were contacted by telephone and "all of them said they would support our action."
But Russell Fjeldsted and Doug Jensen, who co-chair of the chamber's USU relations committee, both said they felt the firing was unjustified.
"She is a very forthright, executive kind of woman, and when a man questions her motives, he may not be willing to back down and accept her ideas," Fjeldsted said.
Jensen contends that Spencer "has trouble working with women" and said several board members had told him they are not comfortable with the decision.
Spencer, however, denied Jensen's allegation.
"Many women have worked for me for many years - one for 25 years," he said.
Jeri Housley, president of the chamber's Women In Business and Education committee said Bell had "brought the chamber out of the dinosaur age."
And Jean Halverson, immediate past president of the same committee, said she firmly believes "the fact that Paula was a woman had something to do with this."
Meanwhile, the Logan Business and Professional Women organization has issued a statement to the effect that it probably will not renew membership in the chamber "due to this unjustified firing."
Spencer said 48 people had applied for the executive director's job since the dismissal.