Three Payson City Council members have forced the city administrator to resign.
Councilmen Stephen Hanson and Mike Rogers and Councilwoman Jo Ellen Whitelock refused to comment on why they forced administrator Rod Watkins' resignation at Wednesday night's City Council meeting, but others had plenty to say on the issue."Rod is the best administrator I have ever worked with," Councilman Kent Fuellenbach said. "I would put him up against any administrator of a town this size across the nation. The entire situation boils down to a power struggle between Steve (Hanson) and Rod."
Fuellenbach said any administrator "will make a few enemies. It's their job to tell some people `no,' and people can't always handle being told no."
He had asked Hanson several times for evidence Watkins was doing a poor job, but Hanson never produced any, Fuellenbach said. Councilman Mez Stewart, in a separate interview, also said he had asked for proof of wrongdoing but "had never been shown a scrap." Hanson, Whitelock and Rogers would not discuss their views on Watkins with the press.
Fuellenbach said Hanson had never gotten along with administrator Watkins but had no power to oust him until the last City Council election, when Whitelock and Rogers joined the council.
"We were lucky to keep Rod as long as we did after the election, 16 months ago," Fuellenbach said. "Payson City eats administrators alive."
Mayor Curtis Arrington agreed, saying that Payson has had five administrators over the past 11 years, and Watkins has served for six of those years.
"That he lasted six years in this city should tell you something about the quality of Rod's work."
The position of city administrator is often a "volatile job with a high turnover," Arrington said.
The mayor credited Watkins with getting "warring" city departments to work together and improving the city's finances to the point that Payson has surplus funds. "His abilities in budgeting have made us prosper."
Councilman Hanson accused Mayor Arrington of trying to postpone Watkins' dismissal last fall when the mayor took Rogers to court in an attempt to get him off the City Council. Removing Rogers' negative vote on Watkins would tie the council 2-2, and the mayor would cast the deciding vote to retain Watkins, Hanson said.
Arrington claimed that Rogers had not lived in Payson for at least the past 60 days, so, according to Utah Code, he had legally vacated his post.
Rogers said he had separated from his wife and a court order prevented him from living in the family home but said he was still a Payson resident. Rogers later moved back home with his wife and the mayor's court case was dropped.
After Watkins' resignation, which several council members confirmed was forced, the mayor refused to let any of the approximately 150 residents present speak. He said he knew many had come to support Watkins and many to oppose him, but turning the City Council meeting into "a fierce battle" would accomplish nothing. Audience members stayed in the room talking about the evening's developments for 50 minutes after the meeting was over. A few residents left in tears, and one woman said "we came, we saw and we were conquered."
Watkins left the meeting immediately after his resignation and was unavailable for comment. He will continue as city administrator until April 1. He is being considered for several administrator positions outside the state, Arrington said.
Payson officials hope to hire a new administrator after re-evaluating how much power the administrator should be given.