Sunday, September 25, 2005

Stuart Reid -- SLC Reject -- Back in the Spotlight Once Again

Although I took a day off from blogging yesterday, I can't fail to belatedly offer a little something about a couple of articles that popped up over the past two days in the local print media, while I was away from the computer.

The Salt Lake Tribune's Kristen Moulton filed this informative story on Friday; and John Wright's story made the Standard-Examiner's front page yesterday morning.

Once again, public attention focuses on Stuart Reid, who's been re-hired under his new Limited Liability Company (LLC) "alter ego," to manage Ogden's Business Depot Ogden (BDO) business park.

As you'll recall, Mr. Reid first arrived on the Ogden scene in 2000, upon being hired by Mayor Godfrey to serve as Ogden city's economic development director. He'd headed north to Ogden, fresh from a failed Salt Lake City mayoral election run, where he'd been soundly trounced, in a come-from-behind finish, by Ogden home-boy Rocky Anderson. Never being a man to accept defeat gracefully, he took the Ogden economic development reins firmly in his fists, and then proceeded to wreak revenge on the citizens of Anderson's boyhood home town for the next 5-1/2 years. During this time he concocted many grand plans and schemes, among them the "Wal-mart Superstore Landgrab," the "Union Square Taj Mahal on 25th Street Bankruptcy," and my own personal favorite, the "Downtown Toxic Theme Park and Recreation Center." As goes the old axiom though, all good things must come to an end. And so it seemed with Mr. Reid's tenure in Ogden, as he "retired" as Ogden City's economic development Department CEO on July 15 of this year. Mr. Reid had served his mission in Ogden, he said. It was time to follow the private sector's siren song, and find a job more suitable to his prodigious talents. There were private jobs available "out there" at three times his meager $100,000+ annual Ogden salary, he explained; and the time had come for him to land one of those.

Mr. Reid's departure was not entirely without incident however, for there were murmurings of "improproprieties" even as Mr. Reid voluntarily walked out the City Hall door. Mr. Reid, it was reported, had departed Ogden city with a little bon voyage present -- in the form of a $43,000 severance package, we learned, under circumstances that might not be entirely "kosher" under the City Code. Although there was plenty of grumbling from some townsfolk at the time, discussion of this little possible indiscretion never caught the media's attention, and soon faded into silence.

It might have remained that way too, except for what I'll gently label "retirement remorse." Once out in the private sector job market, it somehow became clear to Mr. Reid that he hadn't "given" enough of himself to Ogden city. Within a month of his departure, he was right back on the public dole again, with a freshly-inked $78,000/yr pact, putting him in charge of the Ogden BDO.

This of course breathed new life into the issue of Mr. Reid's "questionable" severance package; and at some point, the city council finally got around to formally asking the mayor's office "What the heck is up?"

We got part of that answer last week -- maybe. "Somebody" from the mayor's office delivered a hand-written response to the city council's query last week, adopting the legal position that Mr. Reid's July departure had actually been involuntary -- Mr Reid had been asked to resign. Both Mayor Godfrey and Mr. Reid were quick to refute this, though; both of them even now maintain that Mr. Reid left entirely of his own volition. In this connection, Mr. Godfrey takes the further position that the granting of Mr. Reid's severence bonus was entirely right and proper -- that he has the legal power to grant such rewards for voluntarily departing department heads, presumably with authority originating somewhere in the Ogden city code.

Just out of curiosity, I located the Ogden Ordinance defining the Mayor's authority for the granting of severance benefits. It doesn't seem all that complicated to me. I certainly see no support in the ordinance for the Mayor's position. It's pretty obvious, in fact, that the applicable ordinance has been drafted to generally permit the negotiation of severance benefits only in cases of involuntary termination.

In this connection, Paragraph F of the ordinance provides: "Severance pay will not be made to otherwise eligible employees who:... 3. Voluntarily terminate employment with the city." In the same connection, the next sub-paragraph specifies that a "...requested resignation shall not be considered a voluntary resignation and will entitle the eligible employee to severance pay benefits..."

There is another paragraph in the ordinance that "grandfathers" severance agreements made prior to the enactment Of Ogden City Code Section 2-6-9: "If prior to the effective date hereof, employment agreements exist with different severance terms, then the eligible employee will be entitled to the benefit of the more advantageous terms." Perhaps this is the provision upon which Mayor Godfrey "hangs his hat." Section 2-6-9 has been revised at least four times since Mr. Reid's originally hiring in the year 2000.

What's also interesting, is that Mr. Reid's asserted "severance bonus" is predicated upon an alleged earlier "verbal agreement" with Mayor Godfrey. There seems to be nothing in writing, thus raising an obvious "statute of frauds" problem. Neither Mr. Reid nor Mayor Godfrey however deny the existence of such a purported agreement, and it's doubtful, under the circumstances, that Mayor Godfrey would or could assert the Utah statute against Mr. Reid defensively, especially now that Mr. Reid has already received his entire compensation.

Another unanswered question is whether any written employment agreement that did exist between Mr. Reid and Ogden city contained an "integration clause", declaring it to be the complete and final agreement between the parties. The presence of such a clause would negate the argument that Mr Reid's employment arrangement was founded in part on prior oral agreements.

I'm also going to note in passing that there appears to be a whole separate plot-twist involved in the "handwritten response to the council" situation. As to that, here's an interesting tidbit from Kristen Knowlton's story:
In a handwritten answer to the council under the heading "Administration's Response" this week, Mark Johnson, the city's management services director, said Reid had been asked to resign.
"After discussion with the mayor about his leaving, the mayor, as required and appropriate, asked Stuart for his resignation," was the administration's response.
Godfrey said Friday afternoon that he did not authorize that answer to the council's question and that it is not true.
Johnson did not return telephone calls seeking comment. However, he told the executive director of the council, Bill Cook, that he had not written the answer that appeared above his name, Cook said Friday night.
The answer, Johnson told Cook, was written by Godfrey's right-hand man, chief administrative officer John Patterson, after Johnson had signed the paper. Patterson did not return a call Friday night.
Perhaps I'll be writing a bit more on this odd element as this interesting story evolves. Was it all a "big mistake," or were Mr. Johnson and Mr. Patterson merely trying to "cover for the boss?" And I will further remark how truly odd it seems that a high-level Ogden city employee such as Mr. Johnson would deem it appropriate to affix his signature upon a blank page, without first having at least dictated his intended comments. One would hope that this doesn't reflect the normal customs and practices in our beloved Ogden city government.

So many questions...; so few answers. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll surely be sitting on the edge of my seat, awaiting the opinion of the Ogden Council's newly-retained and hopefully learned independent lawyer.

For those who'd like to apply their own legal brainpower to the problem, here's a link to the applicable Ogden city code section, which I've copied to the WCF archives. And for the truly diligent among us, I'm linking an online version of the entire Ogden city code right here.

And what about our gentle readers? Comments, anyone?

19 comments:

Bonnie Lee said...

Arrogance, n. pride, haughtiness, self importance, presumptuousness, insolence, hubris, Godfrey, Reid, Patterson, Johnson, Jorgensen, Burdett, Larsen.

Arrogant, adj. Full of or due to unwarranted pride.

Arrogate, v.t. To claim or sieze without right.

Incompetence, n. inability, inefficiency, impotence, unfitness, incapability, incapacity, unskillfulness, Godfrey, Reid, Patterson, Johnson, Jorgensen, Burdett, Larsen. Also see Insanity.

Incompetent, adj. Without adequate ability, knowledge, fitness, etc.

dian said...

Well, this should be easy to figure out.

Obtain a copy of Reid's original agreement with Ogden City and see if the severance agreement is there.

Research when the clause dealing with prior agreements was revised. (Also take a look at what motivated the revisions, and what those revisions consisted of to see if perhaps these revisions were made under questionable circumstances.)

If the severance agreement is in Reid's original, written agreement with the city, and this agreement was written before the latest revision of the ordinance, he probably is all right in keeping it, unless the circumstances surrounding the revision are deemed questionable.

If no mention of the severance is in Reid's original written hiring agreement, then, under terms of leaving voluntarily, obviously he should not have severance.

If, as I have heard, Reid and Godfrey are claiming this is a verbal agreement, in my opinion, this does not hold weight, although verbal agreements are sometimes looked upon as valid in the private sector.

But in this case, where it is public money that is being used, and the principals are local government officials who are bound by the Ogden City Code as to what they can and cannot do, I think there is probably nowhere in the Ogden City Code where it says that the Mayor of Ogden City is empowered to make private, unwritten, verbal side deals which use Ogden City tax dollars as payment for those side deals.

This habit of the Mayor's of using Ogden City tax dollars at his sole discretion, without even informing the other side of our "equally powered" Mayor/Council form of government makes the whole concept of the two sides being equally powered ludicrous. It not only undercuts the balance that is built in to this form of government, but destroys it completely.

It makes the Ogden City Council a figurehead organization with no powers at all. If, as has been said, the Council is unaware of these actions, how is it supposed to exercise its powers on issues of which it is unaware? These actions of the Mayor's make a mockery of the entire system.

This is too much power to be vested in one local government official, and to be honest, I do not think that power is officially vested in the Mayor. I think these actions are outside of the bounds of his legal powers, especially if, as has been hinted at, they are in direct conflict with the Ogden City Code.

Thanks for linking it and doing that research, Rudi.

Enthused Citizen said...

It's quite obvious that this whole sordid affair is a scam. Once again, Godfrey puts the good of his cronies above the good of the citizens. This is fraught with inuendos, conjecture, some little white lies, and stinks of a Watergate type cover-up.

Mark Johnson, whom I've had serious questions about since he headed up the Good Landlord program and then cooborated while watching his actions at City Council meetings, lacks the substance to be a city department head. Now, with this revelation, it appears that he's scrambling and offering excuses and has, in fact, participated in this payola scheme of Godfrey's.

Patterson, another SLC reject who was hired by the City, then quite for greener pastures, then came back, ala Stuart Reid, seems to be in this thing up to his eyeballs.

And driving the show is our Mayor, sworn to allegiance, ethics, all the principals of fiduciary relationship between a leader and the people. The voters have put their trust in this individual and he has returned that trust with arogance, back room dealing, below the belt approach, huge debt, and now this. He has no shame, he violates the doctrine of the Church he celebrates, and he's both ruthless in his politics, in order to serve his own needs, and positions himself above all to further his politcal aspirations.

We have a very questionable and weak leadership running our city. Therefore, with this yet another example of method and motive, it's really no mystery why our town is in this state of decline and why we will not progress until these type of people have been vacated from their position.

RudiZink said...

Thanks for your comments, Bonnie Lee, Dian and Enthused citizen.

Please take note that I've added some comment and links to my lead article, in connection with the "verbal agreement problem."

I'd originally intended to mention it, but just flat forgot.

dian said...

Well, then. The following in bold type is from the Utah Statute about agreements, verbal and written, that Rudi referenced in his post. This part of the Statute lists different kinds of agreements which are void unless put in writing. The very first one, (a.,) I find applicable to this situation:

(1) The following agreements are void unless the agreement, or some note or memorandum of the agreement, is in writing, signed by the party to be charged with the agreement:
     (a) every agreement that by its terms is not to be performed within one year from the making of the agreement;


I would think (a) would immediately void the severance agreement because the severance agreement was for a period of years, in other words, "not ... performed within one year."

This severance agreement was a certain amount of dollars for every year worked. Reid's accumulation of years is in excess of one. The very terms of the severance "for every year worked" makes it understood that this agreement goes on for more than one year.

According to my interpretation of this statute, which is that a verbal agreement is fine if performed within one year, but void if performance exceeds one year, this 5 year severance had to be in writing to be valid.

Unless they want to split hairs and say that the severance is separate from the years worked, (which it is not--it is contingent upon them,) and even then, the severance would have to have been paid "within one year." Wouldn't it?

My vote is Void.

Agree? Disagree?

Busted said...

Somebody got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

RudiZink said...

Thanks, Dian. I think the whole issue of "oral agreements" is moot, unless some prior version of Ogden City Code Section 2-6-9 (or some other code provision) in effect during Mr. Reid's tenure authorized Mayor Godfrey to award severance bonuses to voluntarily terminated employees.

Although I haven't the resources here to check the legislative history of this ordinance, I have spoken to several people close to city hall, and am informed that no such authority has ever existed under the Ogden city code.

To say that this creates a problem for Mayor Godfrey and Mr. Reid under these circumstances is an understatement, as I read the ordinance.

Keisha said...

Question: How is a new mayor selected if the old one is forced to resign?

Non-Native said...

Any further information on this:
--murmurings of "improproprieties"--
Rumors are fine.

dian said...

I agree that verbal vs. written agreements are a moot point, Rudi, except for the fact that we have heard of several instances of the Mayor's using public funds at his sole discretion. Bizarre as it may be, this might be argued to be perfectly fine because it is an established practice.

I would also agree that from my reading of the cited portions of the Ogden Code this severance action exceeds administrative powers, and therefore that yes, it is a problem for them.

WCF Lurker said...

I've never commentend on anything here before, but I just needed to say this.

This is the most important article that you've EVER posted on this blog, Rudi.

I hope everyone will e-mail a copy of it to all their friends.

Anyone with any sense of morality must bristle at something like this.

Keep up the good work, Rudi, and thank you very much for your good work.

RudiZink said...

I think you're missing the point,"Non-Native,." It's beyond rumor now; and even People's Deputy Safsten smells something fishy.

The Ogden city council has begun an investigation per Ogden City Code Section 2-7-9, which says, in pertinent part, C. Violation By Mayor: Complaints alleging violations of this Chapter by the Mayor shall be filed with and investigated by the City Council.

Here's the ordinance.

Wake up and turn on your brain.

We're beyond the rumor stage now.

When normally compliant Chairman Safsten finally speaks out and initiates the legal process... you know there's trouble in River City.

This is the beginning of the disciplinary process, you poor dope.

Ernie the Attorney said...

Government corruption information!

Don't get hosed!

kearleeq said...

Finally, while I don't live in Ogden, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Ogden.
I've watched and read and out of all the statements that raise my ire, reids comment about people not appreciating what he's done for them.
It would seem Reid and Godfrey have not only forgotten they were to "serve" the citizens of Ogden, but they've fooled themselves into believe the Ogden Citizens are there to serve them, provide them a living, and extras.
A public servant-or anyone for that matter should never use their power for personal gain. They are so far into this, they appear blind. Godfrey- no surprises, he's been irresponsible all the way along, I am stunned he was re-elected. He should be investigate on every level, every transaction, even to the point of all his rental properties he used to own.
It seems impropriety is his specialty.

angler said...

Even if some of you lurkers like Godfrey for other things, he's way over his head on this one! He has back pedeled and played CYA far too often. This is where the line should be drawn. We shouldn't let him get away with playing these sort of games with the public trust.

OzBoy said...

I highly recommend that every one read the piece ernie the attorney submitted about government corruption. I take the liberty of extracting a small part herein:

Government corruption that involves fraud can include any act that is intended to deceive another party (including the public) in order to achieve personal gain. Nepotism is government corruption whereby family and close kin are favored in some political dealing. Embezzlement is government corruption involving taking or using government money for personal use.

I think this deal between Godfrey and Reid fits all three of the above definitions.

woodward said...

IMPEACH THE CHUMP! He running wild and totally abusing the public trust and the oath he was sworn to.

Anyone know how to begin a recall or impeachment?

Sonny B. said...

Does any one know if Stuart Reid is taken? I think he is kinda cute and I would like his number. He reminds me of a very significant relationship I had for a few years with a cell mate at the Point.

I would really like to hook up with Stu for some fun and I know I could help him out with some people I know when he gets down to Draper. Depending on how good he is, I might even be able to hook him up with Ron Lafferty. I know that after Ron breaks him in they will have lots to talk about with the religion thing and all. It is pretty important to have stuff to talk about after the lovin is done, especially in lock down.

Also think I could arrange for Matt Godfrey to bunk up with Mark Hoffman after he gets processed in. Mark's kind of a little punk himself and I think they will hit it off real good.

Kenny said...

Sonny B: Hysterical! Thanks for the humor.

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