In a letter dated March 21, Police Chief Gordon Gartner wrote Payson mayoral candidate Bob Edwards expressing his concern over comments the candidate reportedly made during his campaign. Edwards allegedly accused the town and police department of showing hiring preference to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Gartner wrote, "This week, an employee advised me that while you were meeting with him and his co-workers during their lunch break you stated something to the effect of, that when you were elected mayor you would address the LDS hiring preferences imposed by the town."
Edwards has denied making the comments.
However, town crew leader Albert Hunt is among those who remember Edwards making such a statement.
"He said something like, ‘I need to look into why you have to be LDS to get a job at the town'," Hunt said.
In his letter, Gartner recounted a visit he had received from Edwards during the candidate's door-to-door campaigning.
"Approximately four to six weeks ago while campaigning in my neighborhood you came to my house, and while at my house you stated that you had heard that an individual wishing to be hired by the Payson Police Department had to be LDS ... At the time, I didn't take your comment as seriously as I should have ...
"As you travel in our community campaigning for the office of mayor, you are making statements to the public that are not only false but are inflammatory towards a specific religious group."
Gartner defended the department's hiring practices, writing, "I do not and would not tolerate discrimination of any type within the setting of the Payson Police Department."
Edwards said he remembers the conversation with Gartner and was simply discussing rumors.
"That's not the kind of thing I would say," Edwards said. "Anyone who knows me knows I don't discriminate in any manner."
Edwards said he simply asked about the rumors of hiring discrimination as a potential town leader.
The letter Gartner sent to Edwards was copied to Payson town manager Fred Carpenter, town attorney Sam Streichman, town human resources director Bob Smith, Mayor Barbara Brewer and members of the town council.
The letter is public record and was obtained by the Payson Roundup through a request to Town Hall.
Edwards believes the matter could have been dealt with in a more private fashion.
"It should have been handled in a business-like manner by calling me and asking and not throwing it into the political arena," Edwards said.
A majority of the letter from Chief Gartner is published below:
Dear Mr. Edwards,
This week a (town) employee advised me that while you were meeting with him and his co-workers during their lunch break that you stated something to the effect of, that when you were elected Mayor that you would address the LDS hiring preferences imposed by the Town. Three weeks ago a friend reported to me that she had an opportunity to attend one of your campaign functions and that you made a comment about "Mormons" running Town Hall and that you were going to do something to address that issue ... I have been a police officer for over thirty-two years and a Town employee for twenty-six years. I have been Chief of Police for almost fourteen years for the Town of Payson. I do not and would not tolerate discrimination of any type within the setting of the Payson Police Department. In fact, the Town of Payson has an outstanding Human Resources Department that oversees the hiring and promotion processes for the Town to ensure that there are no discriminatory employment practices ... You have not contacted me or made an effort to determine (our) hiring practices ... Your comments regarding employees of the Town of Payson who happen to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, many of which have served this community well for several years, are unwarranted.
I would be more than happy to sit down and discuss this concern with you at your convenience.
Gordon H. Gartner,
Chief of Police,
Payson Police Department