GRANTSVILLE — Shauna Kertamus, former Grantsville planning and zoning administrator, had worked for the city for two decades before she said she couldn't take it anymore.
For former Grantsville City Recorder Rachel Wright, it was six years.
They left for mainly the same reason: Mayor Brent Marshall, who they said has fostered a demeaning and intimidating work environment, alleging both physical and verbal outbursts.
While both women said they endured years of uncomfortable interactions with Marshall, they both have stories of specific incidents that, even years later, still leave them unsettled.
For Wright, she had enough in 2012, when she alleges the mayor — after "screaming" at her "red-faced" in a dispute over the way he handled a contract negotiation — grabbed her by the shoulder and shoved her into a chair to stop her from walking out of his office.
"He said, 'You're going to sit and you're going to listen to me,'" Wright said. "Then he continued to yell."
Kertamus resigned in 2014 about a year after Marshall allegedly '"handcuffed" her wrists with zip ties as a joke and made her follow him from her office to his, she said.
"He was laughing while I waited for him to remove them," Kertamus said. "He thought that was really funny."
But Kertamus didn't find it funny at all.
"It was frightening," she said.
Kertamus and Wright are two former city employees who agreed to share their experiences after the Deseret News received an anonymous tip asking to investigate Marshall's alleged behavior. The tipster, who signed the letter as "Granstville resident," wrote he or she was "shaking" while writing the tip, "but I can't be silent any longer. Please help."
Five others — including a current city employee — who have worked with Marshall in and outside of City Hall say Marshall is known to intimidate and use inappropriate physical contact.
Marshall addressed the allegations against him in a written statement emailed by City Attorney Brett Coombs. The mayor did not return requests for additional comment Monday.
"I am sorry for any miscommunication in the past that may have caused hurt feelings," Marshall said in the statement. "I have never intentionally belittled anyone and my door is always open for civil and respectful dialogue. At times as mayor, conflict may occur but I will always work to serve and protect the citizens and community of Grantsville City."
'He was my boss'
Wright alleges she experienced "continuous harassment" after the chair incident.
"Every day I would just be shaking," she said. "He would come in, stand above me red-faced, giving me lots of problems."
Wright lasted two more weeks before quitting.
"I’m not a weak soul," Wright said, noting that she served in the Air Force. "I can take (yelling), but it was beyond that. It's like he takes pride in making you miserable. … He knew there was nothing I could do."
In a separate incident, Kertamus said the mayor called her into his office to listen to a resident complaining about her on speaker phone using "foul language and a lot of expletives."
"Brent just let her go on and on," Kertamus said, adding that she was uncomfortable because it was obvious the resident had no clue she was in the room listening. "After being there for a minute or two, I got up to leave."
But that's when Marshall grabbed her wrist and pointed to the chair as if ordering her to sit down, Kertamus alleges.
"I stayed," Kertamus said. "You know, he was my boss."
Kertamus said at that point she had already decided that if Marshall got re-elected, she wasn't going to stay.
"I loved my job. I did it well. But the disrespect I was shown was just too much," she said.
Now, Kertamus, who still lives in Grantsville, said she fears retaliation against her and her family for speaking out against Marshall.
"It was just heartbreaking to me he won a third term," she said.
In November, Marshall was re-elected by 37 votes.
A current city employee — who only agreed to talk to the Deseret News Monday on an anonymous basis for fear of losing employment — said employees still deal with "aggressive," "in-your-face" behavior, but are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out.
"The demeaning, aggressive attitude has been consistent since I've been an employee under his direction," the city worker said. "It's not a good environment to be in."
The worker noted that employees turn the other way or keep quiet when others are treated poorly to protect their jobs or maintain a good relationship with the mayor.
"It's kind of sad that one person in a position of authority has made it so stressful to work at Grantsville," the employee said.
One city employee contacted Monday, current City Recorder Christine Webb, said she hasn't experienced any mistreatment by Marshall. She declined to comment further.
None of Marshall's accusers have filed any formal complaints. However, Wright notes she tried to lodge a complaint before she left, but she was advised by human resources staff that if she filed a grievance, the mayor would be the one to handle it.
"I was told my only recourse was to get an attorney and sue," Wright said, adding she felt she was in no financial position to hire an attorney. "I didn't know what to do."
After allegations against Marshall surfaced, the Grantsville City Council issued a statement Monday saying the council is "taking appropriate action," though council members are mum on exactly what that action is.
"The City Council takes this matter seriously, and values our employees and citizens," the statement said.
The statement comes after the council held a closed meeting Saturday, according to Councilwoman Krista Sparks. She declined to discuss specifics about the council's next steps or answer whether the city is investigating any incidents between Marshall and current city employees.
"We never comment on personnel issues," Sparks said. "We just want the public to know that we are taking appropriate steps. We're looking into it, and what we find will dictate what happens down the road."
Others speak out
Councilman Neil Critchlow said he, too, has experienced physical aggression from Marshall. Critchlow alleges Marshall in 2014 grabbed him by the shoulders and came close to his face in a dispute over a judge appointment.
"He told me, 'You're going to vote for this,'" Critchlow said. "I said, 'Get your hands off of me. Don't you ever tell me how to vote.'"
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne also said he has experienced "in-your-face" behavior from Marshall.
"There have been a number of times … where his style is far less than diplomatic," he said. "Sometimes treating every problem like it's a nail and you're a hammer is not the most conducive for a solution."
Laurie Hurst and Susan Johnsen, Grantsville residents who worked together in a nonprofit group that fought the city on a proposal to turn part of the J. Reuben Clark Historic Farm into a cemetery, also described uncomfortable encounters with Marshall.
In 2013, the two women said they met Marshall at the cemetery to explain their ideas.
It was there, Hurst alleges, that Marshall "slammed his forearms on my shoulders as he leaned over me and yelled within inches of my face."
Johnsen said she was shocked and could tell her business partner was "really uncomfortable," but the two women didn't know what to do because "if we did anything that made him mad, negotiations would have been shut down."11 comments on this story
Hurst said she told other city and county officials about the incident, but no action was taken. She said she "let it go" for the benefit of Clark Farm, "even though the experience still haunts me."
"But letting it go does not excuse Mayor Marshall from his actions," Hurst said, adding that hearing of other people's allegations "makes me see that it's a pattern of behavior that needs to be stopped."
Johnsen said she doesn't think the mayor is a "bad person," but she worries he's ignorant to how uncomfortable his actions have made people feel.
"I think he's done some good things for Grantsville," she said, "but I don't want to work with him."