Alderman Wiza Sends Formal Request for Investigation on Streets Employee Firing
The following is a letter Alderman Mike Wiza sent to Alderman Jerry Moore, Chairman of the Stevens Point Personnel Committee, dated February 21:
Re: Request of formal investigation into Mayoral abuse of power in directing the termination of City Employee Kelly Reith
I hereby request the City Personnel Committee to conduct an investigation into the above matter. Based on information obtained by me, I feel there is strong evidence that Mayor Halverson directed the termination of a qualified, albeit probationary, employee solely because Mr. Reith sent an email questioning the fairness of the HAS wellness contributions made by the City to a single adult parent on the Family plan.
The information I received via an Open Records request leads me to that conclusion. I’ve included copies for your convenience.
- The Performance Evaluation dated 1/9/2013, conducted by Dennis Laidlaw, shows a rating of “Fully Competent” in all categories, and “Consistently meets established standards”. Notes state: “Kelly has demonstrated full competence in this very brief period”. There were no instances of any negative comments or disciplinary actions that I found.
- Mr. Reith composed and sent an email to Mayor Halverson on Thursday, January 17th 2013 late afternoon (approx. 3:42pm) Subject Line: Wellness Program Activity List”. This email expresses concerns about the fairness of the HAS contributions “point system” for single parents that are enrolled in the Family plan.
- The Mayor sent an email to Dennis Laidlaw and Scott Schatschneider late that evening directing Dennis and Scott to: “Lets meet in my office at 0900”
- A letter signed by Scott Schatschneider, dated the day of that meeting (1/19/2013) to Mr. Reith, states “after thorough consideration”, he was being terminated as of 12:00pm (noon) that day.
- Director Schatschneider sent an email to Streets Superintendant Laidlaw the following Monday asking how it went. Presumably, how the news of the termination of Reith was affecting the other city employees. Laidlaw replied: “Morale has dropped” “Kind of a grey cloud hanging” “He messed up. We lost a qualified person”, etc.
- Because of the rapid, unexpected termination, there were issues with his last check and some of the open records refer to that. That is of no consequence, I believe, to the larger issue at hand, but emails between the City Attorney and Human Resources Manager use some interesting phrases that seem to corroborate my case.
- Email dated 1/25/2013 about 9:17am, from HR Manager to City Attorney, Cc: Scott Shcatschneider, Becky Kalata: “He has filed for UC. Because his termination wasn’t for “gross misconduct”; just want to verify that we won’t contest.”
- Email dated 1/24/2013 about 10:39am from HR Manager to City Attorney, Cc: Mayor Halverson, Comptroller, Director Schaschneider and Becky Kalata: “Well, LJ his “hanging offense” if you will occurred on late Thursday afternoon.” This appears to be a reference to the email Mr. Reith sent, and that was the reason he was terminated.
I understand he was a probationary employee. My concern is the blatant abuse of authority to terminate a “fully competent” employee simply because he sent an email expressing his concern over what he saw as an unfair treatment of single parents. This unwarranted display has sent a rippling shockwave through the city ranks. Employees are terrified to speak up about anything for fear of repercussions, including termination.
I think it is imperative that an investigation be initiated as soon as possible to determine the validity of my findings and, if found valid, that all appropriate action(s) be taken to ensure this will never happen again. I would ask for your findings to be presented at your committee meeting, when the investigation is completed, to assure city employees and the general public that this matter is taken seriously and conducted as transparent as possible.
Thank you for your prompt attention in this serious matter. Should you have any questions, please let me know.
4th District Alderman, City of Stevens Point