by Gordon Metcalf and Don Crowley, Citizens for Better Payson Government Committee
We find the accusations leveled by Police Chief Gordon Gartner against Mayor Murphy to be shocking. If the statements and actions attributed to Mayor Ken Murphy are true and supportable, they are clear evidence of the demoralizing impact the mayor has had on the people who work for our town.
As importantly, the charges would appear to create the basis for a variety of legal claims and suits against the town of Payson which could dwarf any existing litigation that Murphy and Councilman Robert Henley have been harping about.
It is imperative that the town manager and the council take firm and immediate action to have these matters independently investigated and to remedy these working condition issues.
We also strongly believe that Murphy should recuse himself from any council actions involving the Payson Police Department, including efforts to bring about audits, investigations or the like. Indeed, it is arguable that he should temporarily step down, turning his powers over to Vice Mayor Barbara Brewer, while these charges are investigated.
While Town Manager Carpenter is clearly being squeezed between the Murphy/Henley pressures and those council people who oppose their tactics, his apparent unwillingness to face up to these issues is also touched on in Gartner's memo. Gartner states, "When you indicated to me on May 14, 2003 in your office that I should simply ignore the mayor's comments in reference to police officers being charged with crimes, I can't and will not do that..."
Such a response by Carpenter to these serious personnel matters is clearly unacceptable. Carpenter has been delegated substantial authority and responsibility by the council, and one would hope that he has the backbone to deal appropriately with these matters.
While we don't know whether the appropriate investigative effort should involve the federal EEOC, the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the Gila County Attorney or more than one jurisdiction, we know town officials are too conflicted and divided to handle this thoroughly and credibly on an internal basis.
The situation has been allowed to fester, and the infection requires much more aggressive treatment.
These allegations clearly raise the most profound questions yet about Murphy's suitability to remain in office. Only the most complete response to these allegations, including permanent solutions to any such problems in the Payson (municipal) working environment, should be acceptable to the council and the citizens of Payson.
The full text of the Gartner memo has been reproduced on our website, betterpayson.org.