Brigham City mayor is determined to keep job amid affair scandal
Amid swirling rumors and opinions that he should resign or remain in office, Dennis Fife reaffirmed his resolve Wednesday to continue in his role as Brigham City's mayor.
During previous service as a Mormon bishop, Fife counseled a woman with whom he later had an extramarital affair. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated him for those indiscretions, Fife said, adding that such action was appropriate because those in ecclesiastical positions are held to a higher standard.
"It takes a minimum of a year to get back in," Fife said, "and I'm working through that."
Fife, 67, spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force and 16 years employed by ATK. He also earned a doctorate in chemistry, a master's in business administration and a law degree. According to utahsright.com, as mayor, Fife was among the lowest-paid employees in the city, pulling down a total of $20,824 in wages and benefits last year.
Earlier this week, Fife revealed the affair to his constituents in a letter, saying he was seven months into a repentance process and asking for their forgiveness and understanding.
Last Friday, City Council members met in closed session to discuss his situation and some felt he should resign.
"There has been a lot of support and a lot of opposition," Fife said of the feedback he's received, "but I'm resolved that I want to finish my term. It would be too hard of a transition for the city, going through the process of getting a new mayor."
Questions of fairness • Similarities between Fife's situation and a Brigham City police officer's termination have raised questions about fairness.
Earlier this year, former Brigham City police officer Ronnie Aldridge sued the city in 1st District Court for wrongful termination over what some perceived as an extramarital affair he allegedly had with an officer he was helping to train.
Aldridge, who was in the midst of divorcing his wife, had exchanged several texts with the trainee, and was once found at her house after hours, conversing with her sister. That brought a two-day suspension in August 2011.
In December 2011, Aldridge was charged with trespassing at his estranged wife's sister's home in Perry. Aldridge apparently had a verbal altercation with his soon to be ex-wife over child custody issues.
The trespassing charge was later dropped, but on Jan. 10 Aldridge received a letter from Rick Bosworth, Brigham City's human resource coordinator, saying his behavior demonstrated poor judgement that created disruption and distrust within the police department.
By Jan. 18 Aldridge was told he'd been terminated and that the firing would be framed as a resignation.
Ogden attorney Phillip Patterson is representing Aldridge in his legal action against the city, which also names Fife, Bosworth and Police Chief Paul Tittensor as key players in his termination.
Patterson said that nothing within Aldridge's behavior that the city deemed unacceptable involved sexual misconduct.
"There was no allegation of intimate relations and it was never presented to him that way," Patterson said, adding the Aldridge is also emphatic that no sexual misconduct occurred.
Tittensor notified Utah's Peace Officer Standards and Training about Aldridge's termination and POST investigated Aldridge for criminal trespass and custodial interference. In May, POST notified Aldridge that there was not sufficient evidence to show he violated Utah law and they would not pursue suspension or revocation of his peace officer certification.
As with Fife and the loyalty he holds for his job, Aldridge hopes to be reinstated to police work in Brigham City, Patterson said.
The off-the-cuff reaction to the Aldridge-Fife circumstances, Patterson said, is to ask "is this even-handed treatment?"
However, Patterson said that any reference to Fife's affair will not be mentioned in arguments on Aldridge's behalf.
"The mayor identifies the offending conduct as an indiscretion, and yet just like Ron Aldridge, what was the exact conduct? It wasn't published," Patterson said.
Patterson called Fife "well-credentailed" and said there will be some who think his infidelity has no bearing on his service as mayor, and others who prefer their elected officials to be unblemished.
"It may be a pink elephant in the [court] room." Patterson said of Fife's confessed indiscretions. "But it won't come up with [Aldridge's] jury trial. This would be on the list of things we would not talk about."
P The Brigham City Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. at 20 N. Main St., Brigham City. During the public comments period that starts at 7:30 p.m., supporters and naysayers are expected to voice opinions on whether Mayor Dennis Fife should stay or go.