Facing what may be the first employee grievance ever to advance all the way to the City Council, city officials are scrambling to set up a procedure for handling the complaint.
The grievance was filed May 28 against Assistant City Manager Penny Atkinson by fleet manager Gordon Ryan and amended July 1.In the initial grievance, Ryan charges Atkinson violated city policy by telling him to mislead the council on matters involving West Jordan's fleet fund reserve and threatening his job when he refused to follow her directions.
The amendment to the grievance alleges that Ryan and another city employee were subjected to retaliation and a hostile work environment after the fleet manager submitted the initial complaint.
Atkinson has been given council permission to talk to the press about Ryan's charges, but says she will not discuss the matter publicly on the advice of her attorney.
When Ryan's grievance was rejected after an informal review by Ryan's supervisor and an internal investigation by city manager Dan Dahlgren, the fleet manager appealed his case to the council.
The entire process is outlined in the city's personnel policy, but an employee grievance has never been taken all the way to the council level in recent memory.
And council members found themselves scratching their collective head Tuesday night, trying to come up with a procedure for dealing with this one.
But it may be a procedure that will only be used once, if City Attorney Greg Curtis can help it.
Curtis said it doesn't make any sense for an employee to take a grievance to the council level when neither the complaining party nor the subject of the grievance have been fired or subjected to any kind of disciplinary action.
As the policy now stands, he said, it "tells 300 subordinate employees . . . they get to set the process" whenever they have a beef with their supervisors.
When Ryan's grievance is concluded, Curtis said he likely will bring the portion of the policy that allows appeals to the council back for reconsideration "and say it shouldn't be there."
Ryan has asked for a public hearing, but most council members are inclined to hear the complaint in closed session.
The council roughed out a basic procedure Tuesday that includes:
- Reading transcripts of taped interviews already completed by Dahlgren and Curtis.
- Listening to the interview tapes if necessary.
- Calling witnesses individually before the council if more information is necessary to answer questions or to clarify comments.
Council members agreed to extend the time limits for the grievance process while the procedure is set up. They probably will schedule the closed hearing for some time in September.