Four suspended officials from Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center have requested hearings in the wake of the decision to offer a contract to the center's suspended clinical director.
Derek Timms, Allen Fife, Jim Schwartz and Deannna Westwood - suspended along with four other center administrators - plan to give their side of the story this week to the agency's board with hopes of returning to work at Timp Mental Health.Clinical Director Richard Spencer, the center's only pyschiatrist, was offered a contract to work for 40 hours a week at $40 an hour by the Timp Mental Health Authority Board last week. Spencer was dismissed as a merit employee and asked to pay back any personal charges made on the center credit card given to him.
The eight center officials were suspended following allegations they mismanaged more than $3.5 million in funds at the center. Eight civil court actions were filed against former director Glen Brown, Youth Program Director Carl Smith and Finance Director Craig Stephens, the only three administrators to tender their resignations. (See related story on B1.)
"I'm glad Dr. Spencer is able to go back on an hourly basis," Timms said. "I feel confident that he will be fully reinstated to merit status after the investigation. I only hope for a similar fair hearing to the one he got."
Timms, criticized by legislative auditors for inflating rent on houses he leased back to the center, said, "I'm hoping to be able to tell my side of the story and the things that should have been in the audit report so that I will be allowed to go back to work myself."
Timms said he has worked with people who have emotional problems for 15 years, has enjoyed working at Timp, and would like to return.
"I feel like I've earned what I got and the center benefited as a result of my obtaining those residential facilities. If the board feels there was a conflict, I'm sure we can work it out."
In addition to an annual base salary of $50,000, auditors said Timms was paid $2,400 for a car allowance, $80,000 in contract earnings and $14,000 for a credit card allowance, totaling almost $147,000.
Fife said he is "encouraged" by Spencer's outcome. "I'm hoping to be reinstated because I would like to continue working with patients."
Spencer has not formally accepted the contract offer made to him by the board, but "the indication is that he will," said Dave Lambert, acting attorney for Timp Mental Health.
The clinical director was offered the contract after a second vote by the tri-county board made up of commissioners from Utah, Wasatch and Summit counties. Utah County commissioners Malcolm Beck, Brent Morris and Gary Anderson initially voted to permanently terminate Spencer in a 3-2 decision. Wasatch County commissoners Larry Duke and Loren Allred voted to rehire Spencer. After several questions, Anderson decided to change his vote in Spencer's favor to offer him the contract.
"I don't think we have enough evidence from our reports and ongoing investigations to make a decision," Beck said. "I still think that he (Spencer) has not done the job he was hired to do. Until the investigation is complete, I don't think he should be working there."
Wednesday's hearing pointed out that he had misused credit card privileges, Beck said. "That is enough reason not to hire him back."
Morris said, "I was adamantly opposed that they hire him." Morris felt that several points shouldn't have entered into the outcome of the hearing, including politics, the amount of money Spencer should have received in comparison with other psychiatrists, and the fact that without Spencer the entire operation of Timp Mental Health would collapse.
"That is unsound. You have to look at the merits of the the case and what happened during the time that Spencer was an administrator," he said.
"He was a director and one of four managers. If he didn't agree on the way the center was managed, he should have asserted himself more to make a change or gone somewhere else to work. For him to use a credit card, accept contracts, and disagree with the way the center was managed but to stay on is not acceptable."
Morris said his decision wasn't political because Spencer lives in his neighborhood and "the easy way would have been to reinstate him."