Two former Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center officials won't be back on the job if the center's authority board has its way, despite a ruling by the Utah County Career Service Council that the employees be reinstated.
Authority board members on Tuesday voted to appeal a Career Service Council decision and have filed a complaint in 4th District Court, asking that the matter be heard in civil court or at least reviewed judicially.The complaint claims that "the findings of the Career Service Council are wholly inadequate to address all of the issues in question, do not comport with the law in this area and are not based upon substantial evidence presented at the time of the hearing."
The service council ruled Dec. 8 that former center employees Jim Schwartz and Allen Fife be reinstated. The council ruled that Timp Mental Health "failed to adhere to the state provision of personnel management rules, and disciplinary action was not applied in a consistent manner for all merit employees of the center who also received contract pay."
In addition, the council claimed that neither employee was given an opportunity to respond, before being suspended last spring, to allegations regarding their involvement in the center's misuse of $3.5 million in public money between 1984 and 1987.
The authority board claims that the termination of Schwartz and Fife was proper because their "participation and/or acquiescence in the financial improprieties of the top managers and directors of the organization allowed said improprieties to continue."
Former center director Glen Brown, specialty programs director Carl V. Smith, administrative services director Craig W. Stephens and accounting technician Deanna Westwood were indicted in October on a total of 117 felony counts. The authority board has filed civil suits against Schwartz and Fife for reimbursement of money the board says they received improperly while working at the center.
The board's petition claims the men "accepted compensation which (they) did not earn" and that they "knew or should have known that receiving contract payments for more than double (their) merit salary was a breach of (their) fiduciary duty and a misuse of public funds." In addition, the complaint claims that compensation from contracts above their regular merit pay "are void and against public policy."
According to a legislative audit, in 1987 Schwartz had a $33,966 base salary and earned an additional $50,631 in personal contracts awarded by the center. Fife had a base salary of $41,572, received another $52,732 in contract earnings and a $5,122 car allowance.
The authority board complaint claims "Fife accepted reimbursement for travel expenses which were never justified and which he knew to be greatly in excess of their reasonable value."
The board also voted to proceed with a possible out-of-court settlement of a civil suit filed against Brown for back payment of money acquired through deceptively awarded contracts and misuse of credit cards.
In other action, Utah County Commission Chairman Malcolm Beck was elected new authority board chairman, succeeding Commissioner Gary Anderson. The authority board comprises all nine commissioners from Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties.