The Jordan City Council chamber was tense last Monday after Councilman Jeff Will accused Mayor Tanya Velishek of spreading misinformation about his conduct.
During the council comments section of the July 15 city council meeting, Will asked Velishek to correct a statement she made at an April 1 meeting, where she said more than six complaints of “harassment or sexual harassment” had been lodged against Will.
On April 1, the council voted to remove Will from the city personnel committee and prohibit him from one-on-one contact with city staff for the remainder of 2019. The disciplinary measures were in response to a March 5 complaint against the councilman.
The Jordan Independent filed a records request for the complaint and city attorneys released information regarding the number of staffers who contributed to the complaint, the date of the initial incident and when the complaint was filed. They said they were not able to release the complete document, however, because “it contains a great deal of private personnel data,” and that such data is “inextricably intertwined so as to leave the document meaningless if we try to redact the private data.”
But that didn’t stop Velishek from implying the nature of the complaint during the April 1 city council meeting.
“I want to note that the personnel committee reviewed all alleged allegations against Councilman Will; there were more than six employees that had concerns for harassment or sexual harassment,” Velishek said.
At the Monday, July 15 meeting, Will claimed that statement was false.
“Since that time I’ve confirmed with the (city attorney) that there were zero complaints of harassment or sexual harassment against me,” Will said.
Will told the council he’s made several attempts to have a conversation with Velishek about the issue, detailing a failed attempt after a recent city council meeting.
“The chief of police interrupted me and said quote: ‘She does not have to talk to you,’” Will said.
Will then asked Velishek if she planned to correct her statement.
“I wouldn’t bring that up in public,” Velishek said.
“I intended to have a meeting and you and didn’t want to talk to me,” Will responded. “I’m sorry, this was your decision, not mine.”
Councilman Bill Heimkes asked City Attorney Brian Wisdorf if the council meeting was the appropriate venue to discuss the issue.
“Mr. Will, you had asked and she had said no. If she doesn’t want to meet with you, you can’t require her to meet with you,” Wisdorf said.
Velishek told Will the council should move on from the discussion in order to respect the confidentiality of the complaint.
“I do not want to push any further and have any kind of embarrassment because our community deserves more than that,” Velishek said. “So I’d like to just move forward.”
“I agree with you wholeheartedly, but I just wanted you to correct the false statement because that was a false statement,” Will said.
“I can’t, because it isn’t false,” Velishek said.
Velishek reiterated that the council needed to move on out of ethical concerns and Councilman Terry Stier promptly made a motion to adjourn the meeting.
The fracas is the latest in a series of spats between Will and Velishek that have taken place at public meetings and on the editorial page of the Jordan Independent. Last December, Will lectured the mayor about how to be successful and ethical, while making the unorthodox move of addressing the city council from the podium during the public comment section of the meeting.
Since then, the tense interactions have been noted by other city council members.
“I believe in the last few months there have been events transpired that have been very clear to the community, to council and to our employees that there has been no love lost between Jeff and Tanya,” Councilman Robert Whipps said at an April meeting.