Camp Verde Twon Manager John Roberts
Two separate items that would have asked for the termination of Roberts' and Finance Director Dane Bullard's employment were pulled from the town council agenda late last week. Instead, an item seeking action on his "employment status" was placed onto the agenda late Tuesday, allowing the council to reinstate him by a 4-3 vote on Wednesday night.
Speaking from his office at Town Hall on Thursday morning, Roberts commented, "There's some catching up I need to do. I plan to start a program meeting with employees. Clearly, there are a number of employee concerns here."
Roberts continued, "I want to try to address these concerns and make the town a model place to work. We're just going to keep moving along."
Those concerns were stated in a petition signed by 25 staff members, submitted to the council last month. Some Town Hall staff members aired grievances and turned over to the town council a petition expressing "no confidence" in Roberts.
Bullard handed over to the council in August a list of concerns regarding Roberts that contained complaints such as abusive and foul language and personal attacks. The petition stated that some Town Hall staff did not support Roberts as manager. "He called into question our integrity and job performance," Bullard said of Roberts.
The petition contained 25 signatures of support, including those of Bullard and Parks and Recreation Department head Bill Lee. Both Bullard and Lee were named in an initial complaint by Roberts' wife, Nancy, who later called the staff petition "a bunch of smoke."
Staff members were given another voice when Franc Kahn, the town's public information officer, spoke on their behalf. Kahn said a majority of town workers he talked to told him of an "abusive, dictatorial, and non-inclusive" administrative branch of Camp Verde government that operated by "fear motivation."
Roberts was on sick leave until Thursday, his planned return to office. He previously withdrew his resignation as Camp Verde Town Manager, which would have taken effect in November.
The council never voted to accept his resignation, and Robert's explanation for attempting to come back to work was complicated. Roberts wrote that his decision to return was partially in reaction to "an organized effort by some members of the town council and the town staff to pressure me into resigning."
Regarding the concept of firing Roberts, the mayor stated earlier this week "About five years ago the council fired the marshal while he was on family leave. We got burned."
Council members Jackie Baker and Mitch Dickinson requested the item that Roberts be fired, according to an earlier draft of the agenda. Council member Leroy Hunter then requested the termination of Bullard also be listed for review.
Mayor Brenda Hauser said an attempt by a previous council to terminate Marshal John Wischmeyer backfired, costing the town some $50,000 for its hasty mistake. Wischmeyer was fired by the Camp Verde Town Council on Aug. 20, 1997. After his termination, he was eventually rehired as the town's top law enforcement officer.
Said council member Leroy Hunter on Wednesday night, "I'm real leery of terminating Mr. Roberts, based on what happened five years ago. Mr. Roberts has done an excellent job in his time here. We can all work together."
Council member Baker disagreed. "It's comparing apples and oranges," she said. "My motion was to terminate him tomorrow. If you don't know that I believe in my heart and soul that this is the correct thing to do, you don't know me." Baker was on the verge of tears as she spoke.
Hauser stated in support of Roberts: "We have a man who is a good manager. He has my backing to try to get work done. Please give us a chance to try."