The Parker Town Council got an earful from town residents during Call to the Public at the April 20 council meeting. They were there to express their dismay over the resignation of former Community/Senior Center Director Darla Tilley.
The Call to the Public portion of the meeting ended with Mayor Karen Bonds saying she would recommended hiring an outside agency to investigate the personnel situation at the Town.
Tilley resigned effective April 12. In her resignation letter, she said she was doing so under duress. She was informed April 7 by Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer that unspecified allegations of bullying had been made against her. Tilley said Wedemeyer asked her for her “exit plan.”
Tilley had been a town employee for 21 years and had never been disciplined.
Wedemeyer said she cannot discuss the specifics of the case as it is a personnel matter and she is legally limited as to what she can say.
Many of those who spoke at the April 20 meeting said they really wanted to address their comments to Wedemeyer, who was not present at the meeting.
Former Parker Library Ruthie Davis said Tilley had been an employee for 21 years, and that she was not given a chance to defend herself when these allegations came up.
“I’m very sad to think this is happening to a wonderful person,” Davis said.
Jose Moreno asked what the chain-of-command was and who was in charge of the center. He said Lee Ann Anderson of the Community Health Outreach Program had been taking care of some matters with the center, but added she has her own program to run.
“We don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “Who do employees go to? You need to figure this out before it causes issues.”
Rick Silva said he’s heard wonderful things about Tilley, and also noted she was a town employee for 21 years.
“Who’s the next one to be thrown under the bus?” Silva asked. “I don’t like where this is going. You need to do a reset on this. I don’t like what certain people are doing to others in this town.”
Kerry Norris said he’d lived in Parker his whole life, and he’d never seen anyone work harder or give more of herself than Tilley.
“I thought all the issues with the Senior Center had been resolved,” he said.
La Paz County Fiduciary Vivian Hartless said she understood the Senior Center can’t meet all the needs for services for seniors. She praised Tilley for her efforts at providing the services she could.
“Darla would not give ‘no’ as an answer,” Hartless said. “She didn’t turn anyone away. She did what she could to help everyone.”
Hartless said the Senior Center is more than just a building.
“You have done a disservice to seniors,” she said. “No one was more valuable than Darla. She gave a damn.”
Hartless said that, despite Wedemeyer’s assurances, the center is not operating smoothly. She said they were late with meals one day last week, and they were closed for another.
“Do the job we elected you to do and terminate the real problem,” she said to the council.
Hartless is a former council member and is married to current Council Member Randy Hartless. She stated later she was not acting in her official capacity as fiduciary or representing the county. She stated her title and her background as a way of establishing she understood issues involving seniors.
Dennis Crawford noted the Town changed the locks at the Senior Center after Tilley’s resignation.
“You acted like she’s a criminal,” he said. “She’s taken care of a lot of people.”
Crawford said his friend, the late Fred Seibert, had a saying, “right is right.”
“I hope you’ll do what’s right,” he said to the council.
Former Town Clerk Candy Cockrell said it was three years ago that she was placed on administrative leave and barred from Town Hall before being dismissed.
“No one asked my side,” she said.
As for Tilley, Cockrell addressed her comments to Bonds: “Karen, you know she got things done.”
“There is a pattern here,” Cockrell said. “Something needs to be done. Get it done. If not, shame on you!”
When there were no more people who asked to speak, Bonds reminded the audience that state law prohibited the council from responding to comments or discussing what was said. She said the council will take into consideration the comments made that evening.
“Taking into consideration the comments brought to us during Call to the Public tonight, it will be my recommendation that the Town needs to authorize an investigation from an outside agency reading the current personnel situation,” Bonds said.
Bonds also said the town staff needed to research outsourcing the service for Human Resources.