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‘Dysfunction’ between city council, administration: Council members concerned about communication after staff resignations

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In public comments at the Moab City Council meeting on Sept. 14, council members expressed alarm at how the circumstance of recent resignations of city staff had been communicated both to the council and to the public.

“There is dysfunction on this council,” said council member Karen Guzman-Newton.

City Manager Joel Linares announced his resignation publicly at a staff meeting on his last day in office on Sept. 7. [see “Shake-up in the city,” Sept. 9 edition. -ed.]

While city officials said that Linares had tendered his resignation two weeks before, during the week of August 23, city council members said they were not informed.

City council member Rani Derasary said that she was informed of Linares’ departure in an email at 3:23 p.m. on Sept. 7 — less than two hours before the end of his final day.

“There may be reasons that a city council...does not find out about that individual leaving until an hour and a half before they leave,” said Derasary, “however, I do understand that’s highly unusual.”

“I would not be saying this in public if I did not feel like I was at my wit’s end,” Derasary said. “At some point, you’re just tired of asking [for better communication]. The public has a right to know.”

Linares’ resignation was the latest in a wave of city resignations: Emily Sukiennik, former director of the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center, and Laurie Simonson, former city attorney, also resigned this summer.

Derasary and Guzman-Newton both expressed concern about reports of bullying, favoritism, and lack of communication within city administration.

“I personally do feel it’s incumbent on this body sitting up here to have a meeting soon, as soon as possible, to address some of that,” Derasary said. “If you hear one or two people talking about that, you might be able to write it off, but there has been enough raised that I think we all need to have an open conversation about this with the community.”

Guzman-Newton said she believed it was clear that the city has had issues and complaints with leadership and communication, and how Linares’s resignation was communicated was an example of that.

“We have an opportunity right now to do something really positive for the next mayor and the next council,” said Guzman-Newton. “I really hope we don’t brush these issues that have been brought forward under the rug … I really want stability for staff because we haven't had that for quite a while.”

Carly Castle became the acting city manager on Sept. 8, and assured the council and public that “these departures will have no impact on the provision of basic city services.”

Castle said that she doesn’t foresee the departures as having substantial impacts on any projects that Linares was directly involved in.

“Thank you for stepping up,” Emily Niehaus, the mayor, said to Castle. “It’s a heavy lift, so thank you.”