SALT LAKE CITY — Officials from the Cache County city of Hyde Park spoke out Tuesday about the incident that prompted two employees to quit and file a grievance after their boss pointed a gun at them during a meeting.
"We want to assure our residents and those that do business with Hyde Park that they are safe. We feel confident this was an isolated incident," the City Council and Mayor Sharidean Flint said in a prepared statement.
"We feel the comments and statements being circulated through social media have not always been accurate and are counter-productive. We hope that as residents we can move forward and come together to address the issues facing the city."
While Flint has spoken about the controversy before, Tuesday's statement was the first time the City Council had spoken publicly about the incident.
Mike Grunig, Hyde Park's public works director, called a regular meeting in his office on Nov. 14. But that meeting took a strange turn when employees say he stated, "Don't you think Justin would look better with a green dot on his forehead?"
"Mike then pulled a 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun out of his pocket that had not been in a holster, open(ed) the slide, turn(ed) on the green laser and pointed it" at employee Justin Bodrero, a North Park police memo states.
Employees said Grunig then pointed the gun's laser at Bodrero's crotch before moving the laser onto the chests of two other employees.
The men eventually reported the November incident to the mayor in January. Flint demoted Grunig after reviewing the incident but he appealed that decision and the City Council — including Grunig's own son-in-law, Councilman Mark Hurd — chose to reinstate him as director.
Bodrero and fellow employee Kolby Christiansen then quit, saying they were scared to return to work under Grunig. Their attorneys filed a grievance with the city last week on their behalf. According to the grievance, the employees were not asked to tell their sides of the story to the council, were not granted due process and were "constructively terminated."
"The City Council was well informed of the facts and complaints," the council's statement says. "Based on the facts, policies and laws involved, we determined that suspension was a more appropriate discipline than demotion. Our actions are not to undermine or downplay the serious nature of Mr. Grunig’s actions. The City Council had a narrow scope of issues to consider, and could not consider issues beyond that scope."
Flint told KSL that city officials were following due process laws that govern the treatment of public employees.
All of us do things that are impulsive and unwise throughout our lives, and most of us are lucky enough that our actions don't make the newspaper.
–Mayor Sharidean Flint
"There have been years and years of due process laws and statutes laid down by the federal government and by the state that dictate how public employees have to be treated, and they have an actual property right to their job that you cannot infringe on without following the layers of due process that are called for," Flint said.
The allegations against Grunig were given "serious consideration," she said, but officials did all they felt they could do legally.
She said the city is now working to modify city policies to align with state law. The city policies were "older and perhaps not adequate for the circumstances that we find ourselves in now."
The grievance alleged that former Mayor Bob Christensen, a friend of Grunig, was allowed to be a part of his appeal hearing in front of the City Council, even though he was not a witness to the incident.
But city officials sad Tuesday he "was not part of the appeal."
The grievance also stated that council members with potential conflicts of interest, including Hurd, did not recuse themselves from the decision to reinstate him. The statement from the city does not address that claim.
"As it regards the former employees who have made comments regarding the city’s actions, we would like to state that the city has heard the grievance. The city strongly disagrees that their rights were violated. However, we recognize and appreciate the work they have performed for the city and wished that they would have chosen to stay with the city," the statement says.
As for the men, the city says it "continues to offer them employment."
Mayor: No reason to be scared
The mayor says the former employees don't have a reason to be scared.
"All of us do things that are impulsive and unwise throughout our lives, and most of us are lucky enough that our actions don't make the newspaper. But unfortunately, this one did, and there has been a great outcry and a lot of grief and suffering," Flint said.
"And I feel really bad about that, and I would like to think that going forward, things will be better and our employees have all expressed their emotions and how they feel about things, and they've been hurt … and we have taken their concerns into consideration. And our city is safe. We would never act to knowingly place our citizens or our employees and staff in danger."
Contributing: Todd Fooks