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West Jordan city manager resigns abruptly amid lawsuit

Published August 13, 2014 2:17 pm

Accusations • Exit comes in wake of a lawsuit and questions about moonlighting.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Jordan City Manager Richard Davis resigned abruptly Tuesday without explanation.

His departure comes in the wake of a lawsuit accusing city officials of civil-rights abuses and questions by one city council member about Davis' outside work as a senior executive in a government consulting firm.

The city issued a news release Tuesday evening quoting Mayor Kim Rolfe saying the resignation was effective immediately in a decision "mutually agreeable to Rick and the Council. We have appreciated the service and vision that Rick has provided to the city during the past three years, and we wish him and his family the best."

A prepared statement from Davis said he is "pursuing other opportunities that will give me more time with my family."

An item added Tuesday afternoon to the City Council's agenda for Wednesday seeks approval of a severance agreement with Davis, who ran the day-to-day affairs of West Jordan in the city's council-manager form of government. No details of the severance were provided.

Asked if Davis' departure is related to the lawsuit or his outside consulting work, city spokeswoman Kim Wells said, "I don't know. I don't think so."

Bryce Haderlie, assistant city manager, will assume duties as interim city manager.

Davis has a salary in excess of $145,000, plus benefits that bring his total compensation to close to $200,000, according to city records. But at the same time, he has served as senior associate for Municipal Solutions LLC, an Arizona-based company that offers professional consulting services to public-sector organizations.

The company website says Davis has been with the company more than eight years and credits him with having "improved dozens of local governments" through his consulting, including the cities of Daytona Beach, Fla.; Clearfield, Utah; Sitka, Alaska; and Kabul, Afghanistan.

Councilman Jeff Haaga, a proponent of changing West Jordan from a council-manager to a strong mayor form of government, had assembled information about these "moonlighting" activities and recently met with Davis.

Haaga would not discuss the conversation.

West Jordan's website bio on Davis makes no mention of his affiliation with Municipal Solutions.

Davis, along with City Attorney Jeffrey Robinson and city prosecutor Stuart Williams are named as defendants in a civil-rights lawsuit filed last month by West Jordan justice court clerk supervisor Shelly Thomas.

Thomas accuses city officials — primarily the city attorneys — of sexual harassment, threats, intimidation and lying to her in the attempt to obtain documents in a now-dismissed criminal case against Justice Court Judge Ronald Kunz. She seeks $500,000 in compensation and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

Kunz had previously filed a notice he would also sue but recently settled under an agreement in which the city paid him $10,000 in legal expenses on top of $32,000 previously paid for his attorney costs in the criminal case. Kunz also has demanded an hour-long closed-door meeting with council members to discuss personnel issues.

Davis' proposed severance package is listed on the council agenda as a "consent item," meaning it would be up for a vote without public discussion or debate. Another item on the consent agenda is the hiring of an outside attorney to represent the council.

The meeting is to begin with a closed-door executive session — a regular occurrence in West Jordan City Hall these days.

The council held a special meeting Saturday to discuss personnel issues and litigation, but then excluded from the closed-door session all attorneys after a dispute over who represented the council and who represented the administration.

dharrie@sltrib.com