Review of city department heads urged following reportTwo La Center city councilors are leading the charge for an in-depth performance audit of department heads following the release two weeks ago of an internal report critical of how the city has handled personnel policies.
The report, written last spring by the city's former interim police chief Erin Nolan, details complaints from current city employees and a former employee about two department heads.
City Attorney Dan Kearns had declined to release the report, later leaked, citing attorney-client privilege and the potential that employees named in it would be considered whistle blowers under federal law. It will be the subject of a closed executive session at the end of Wednesday's city council meeting.
But Councilors Elizabeth Cerveny and Greg Thornton have said they don't want the discussion to remain behind closed doors. They plan to address the report directly during the council's open session.
"I would hope the general public would be interested in this," Cerveny said.
Wednesday's meeting is expected to take place in front of a full chamber of spectators. Former La Center City Councilor Bob Smith and the city's cardroom spokesman John Bockmier said they plan to attend.
They expressed surprise that the report had been kept under wraps for months and that, once released, Mayor Jim Irish had said he didn't plan to address the issues mentioned in it.
Nolan's report alleges that two department heads, Finance Director Suzanne Levis and Public Works Director Jeff Sarvis, created a hostile workplace and that Irish didn't act to curb it. The report alleges that the city is rife with cronyism and nepotism and questions the professionalism of Levis and Sarvis, who according to the report are involved in an "intimate relationship."
After it was leaked, Levis said the report was a work of fiction, adding that neither she nor Sarvis were interviewed by Nolan.
"The untrue, unkind and unfair comments will only lead to tension and morale issues at work," Levis wrote in an email to The Columbian. "The bulk of the comments come from two current and one very disgruntled ex-employee."
Nolan, the chief civil deputy for the Clark County Sheriff's Office, handed the report to Kearns in May, after she'd completed her tenure as La Center's interim police chief.