Bountiful's mayor called the idea that he intentionally kept secret the resignation of a council member the "poppiest of poppycock" and chided the press about reporting the affair at a City Council meeting Wednesday night.
Mayor Dean S. Stahle read a prepared statement before the City Council decided to take no action on the resignation submitted by Councilwoman Phyllis Southwick. The resignation letter had been given to the mayor March 8.The council instead decided to arrange a public meeting with Southwick to ask her preference about a replacement. Some council members also supported a suggestion made by Councilman Harold Shafter that Southwick be asked to stay on the council until January even if she doesn't attend meetings.
"I don't want to degrade her. Because of the way the press has played this, why don't we let people go to the polls and choose her replacement in November?" Shafter said.
Stahle said that press reports about the resignation, particularly one that appeared in the Deseret News, were filled with rumors and were unnecessary searches for unreal "demons" hiding in the corners of city hall.
"I think most of it was unnecessary," Stahle said. "The idea that I was hiding the resignation is the poppiest of poppycock."
He called a Deseret News report that quoted people saying that he was using secrecy to help turn the selection process in his favor and named two of his choices for the post as "the best example of yellow journalism I have seen in a long time."
He said there is a separation of power that would prevent manipulation. While the mayor recommends names, the council has the final vote, he said.
He defended not telling the public about the resignation, saying that a resignation does not become official until the City Council accepts it. Because there was no meeting last Wednesday, he felt Wednesday night's council meeting would have been the appropriate time to make the announcement.
Stahle apologized to Councilwoman Barbara Holt for not informing her of the announcement sooner. She learned of it while making queries after the press contacted her Monday. He had attempted to call her seven times before she found out about the information, he said.
Stahle contacted two of the council members the day after he received the letter and a trip to Washington delayed him from calling the remaining two. Councilman Robert Gramoll was told Sunday evening, Stahle said.
He said it was "triple poppycock" that he could somehow control the selection of names for the council post and said that a suggestion Holt made at the meeting that there had been "prior politicking" was untrue. He also said that a rumor that the resignation had been motivated by an argument between him and Southwick was ridiculous and absurd.
"I don't think the press should be held responsible," Holt said. "If people are not informed it looks improper. There is an appearance of impropriety."
Gramoll asked that before South-wick's resignation be accepted that she be asked for her suggestion on who should take her post. Shafter then suggested that Southwick be left on the council even if she didn't attend meetings. Southwick said she wanted to resign to spend more time with her family.
"This has really been a witch hunt. I move we not accept the resignation," Shafter said. "Four people can do the job. I think this is best thing to do because of the bad taste in people's minds because of the press."