The Town of Parker has received the report on the investigation of possible human resources abuses Mayor Karen Bonds asked for. While the report found allegations of Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer creating a hostile work environment towards former Senior Center Director Darla Tilley were unfounded, the report found problems with how the Town handles human resources issues. The report stated a lack of separation between the Town Manager and the Human Resources Manager puts the Town at a disadvantage when it came to dealing with HR issues.
The report was prepared by Lori Lindseth of Revolutionary HR Consulting. It came about after Tilley resigned her position on April 9. Tilley said she was resigning under duress due to a meeting with Wedemeyer and Police Chief Michael Bailey April 7 concerning unspecified allegations of bullying by Tilley.
After several residents spoke on Tilley’s behalf at the next Town Council meeting, Bonds gave direction for an independent investigation into this and other HR matters.
In the report, Lindseth said she interviewed nine people. With the exceptions of Wedemeyer and Tilley, the names of the others who were interviewed were redacted in the copy obtained by the Pioneer through a public records request.
Tilley claimed she had been bullied by Wedemeyer since November 2020. Among the issues that led Tilley to this conclusion were conflicts over how to handle the situation when a senior center employee was tested positive for the coronavirus. She said she and Wedemeyer had a good working relationship for 21 years prior to this.
Wedemeyer denied creating a hostile work environment or retaliating against Tilley. The report said she referenced a history of “problematic” interactions Tilley had with the staff and well as complaints about Tilley’s behavior. These included formal letters of complaint regarding Tilley’s behavior that four employees submitted April 2, 2021.
This led to the April 7 meeting between Tilley and Wedemeyer with Bailey present. Tilley was informed of the complaints against her, and was asked to create a “succession plan.” She was also told some of her duties were going to be reassigned to others.
The report stated Tilley understood she was being asked to submit an “exit plan,” and that Wedemeyer effectively told her she was to resign voluntarily or be terminated.
Wedemeyer said she never referred to an “exit plan.”
While one of those interviewed described conduct from Wedemeyer that he perceived as hostile, the others reported they saw no behavior from Wedemeyer they would consider hostile, negative or retaliatory. However, those interviewed described Tilley’s behavior as problematic. As a result, one stated he refused to meet with Tilley behind closed doors while another refused to interact with her unless it was in writing, recorded or witnessed.
The report stated: “The allegation that Darla Tilley was forced to resign from her position with the Town of Parker under duress following an April 7, 2021 meeting with Lori Wedemeyer and that she has been subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation by Wedemeyer is unfounded.”
In findings indirectly related to the Tilley-Wedemeyer matter, Lindseth criticized the Town for not separating the duties of Town Manager and Human Resources Director. Wedemeyer currently handles both.
“The lack of a clear separation of duties between the Town Manager role and the HR Manager role does a disservice to both Town Employees and the Manager,” Lindseth’s report states. “Both should be properly supported with the professional HR expertise critical to most effectively address and resolve issues that will undoubtedly arise.”
Lindseth also criticized the manner in which employees communicate with and interact among themselves and the Town Council.
“Specifically, yelling, screaming and the use of profanity was described regularly as a typical or routine form of communication within the Town,” she said. “This style of communication has reportedly led to distrust and morale issues among Town employees and Town Council members.”