Settlement for St. George city manager forced out after drag show will cost taxpayers $625,000

According to the settlement agreement, Adam Lenhard believed he had a valid legal claim against the city for wrongfully terminating him.

(City of St. George) Adam Lenhard is resigning as St. George city manager after being forced out by the City Council.

St. George is paying outgoing City Manager Adam Lenhard $625,000 as part of a confidential settlement agreement obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune through an open-records request. Lenhard resigned because of the controversy surrounding a drag show held on public property in June.

In May, the HBO program “We’re Here” filmed an episode in St. George, culminating with a drag show at Town Square downtown. Lenhard and his staff approved permits for the program to film in and around the city at the end of May and early June.

[Related: St. George city manager resigned after pressure over drag show on public property. He is leaving with a six-figure settlement.]

The backlash from the public prompted St. George City Council members to demand that Lenhard revoke an already-granted permit for the show. That didn’t happen, and Lenhard argued it was likely a violation of the First Amendment and would land the city in a costly lawsuit from the show’s producers.

The city is still shelling out big bucks, but the check is going to Lenhard, not the show’s producers.

The settlement reveals City Council members told Lenhard he was being removed from his job on July 14, 2022. That confirms an earlier report by The Tribune that a majority of the City Council voted during a closed-door meeting to end Lehnard’s employment.

According to the settlement agreement, Lenhard believed he had a valid legal claim against the city for wrongfully terminating him. Sources with knowledge told The Tribune an outside mediator was brought in to conduct an investigation and help craft the settlement agreement.

According to invoices obtained by The Tribune through a separate open records request, the city paid an outside law firm $4,275 to investigate Lenhard’s claims, including conducting interviews with City Council members.

The City Council approved the settlement during the Sep. 1 meeting without any discussion. The vote was 4-1, with only Councilmember Michelle Tanner voting against the agreement.

The $625,000 settlement payment to Lenhard includes $25,000 from the Utah Local Governments Trust, which provides insurance for public entities in the state. The entire payment will be made to Lenhard on Jan. 13, 2023.

Lenhard made $254,981 in wages and benefits last year and was scheduled to make $275,284 this year.

In September, the St. George City Council voted to cut $4.3 million in spending from the 2023 budget instead of a property tax hike to partially pay for hiring more public safety personnel. The city’s budget for the next fiscal year is $500 million.

In addition to the hefty payment, the settlement calls for Lenhard to resign from the job no later than Nov. 1, which he has said would be his last day on the job. In exchange, Lenhard agreed to waive any future claim against the city.

The confidential settlement also barred Lenhard and the city from making disparaging comments in public. If either party violates that agreement, it carries a $50,000 penalty.