Stevensville Town Clerk Monica Hoffman has submitted a letter of resignation claiming harassment and an unhealthy working environment which she says was created by Council President Bob Michalson and his “friends and family.”
Hoffman wrote, “While I tried very hard to weather the storm of negativity and hostility, I simply do not have the energy or strength to continue to listen to more lies, defend myself and subject myself to the existing working conditions at Town Hall. Further, I cannot work for an organization where certain members of the legislative branch outwardly and vocally do not support staff or the Mayor.”
One of her concerns, she states, is that she is now the third clerk in about two and half years to resign due to the bad behavior and rude treatment of staff. “Because of this, I am providing several examples that would not normally be included in a resignation letter, in hopes that the next Clerk is not subject to the same rude, insulting and unbearable working conditions,” she wrote.
Hoffman said that she and other staff have been harassed for months by a small handful of citizens involved in facilitating the mayor’s recall effort and she names some of them. Among them is Leanna Rodabaugh who submitted the recall petition. She alleges that Rodabaugh “constantly posts on Facebook comments that are half-truths, twisted facts, outright lies, and cruel in nature against my supervisor, Mayor Brandon Dewey and staff.”
“The final straw happened on June 30th,” wrote Hoffman, “when Council member Bob Michalson hand delivered to me a letter filed against me by citizen Jim Crews. Ironically, Mr. Crews is well known at Town Hall for constantly harassing staff for years. Mr. Crews usually calls requesting information, complaining about everything and sending employees on wild goose chases. They usually are for little things such as, I received an advertisement in the mail, can you check to see if they have a business license or there are flyers on the light poles on Main St, remove them or sharing another situation that he feels is against code or something staff or the Mayor did that he feels is against the law. While these situations described are legitimate, the tone and agenda behind these calls are not acceptable. No one should have to be constantly yelled at and belittled, as Town Hall employees are by Mr. Crews. Mr. Crews and his friends have this belief that we, as staff are supposed to drop what we are doing to attend to his/their wants and needs, every other day.”
“In summary,” she wrote, “I can no longer work in unhealthy working conditions created by the Council President and his family and friends. I believe you, as the Mayor, have tried to help, but understand that you have no control over what Council President Bob Michalson or certain citizens say or do.”
Hoffman’s resignation is effective on July 15, 2020.
The letter from Crews that Hoffman is referring to is basically a complaint against the Clerk for the way in which she responded to an email from Crews. The email was sent to the clerk, the mayor, council members and the town’s attorney and complains that a motion made by councilor Vick at the last meeting was in violation of council rules regarding the limitation on the length of public comment and council rules governing suspension of council rules. He states that the suspension of rules must concern a matter that is not of significant public interest. He claims the item being considered was of significant public interest. He asked that it be corrected and signed the email “Jim Crews, Private American Citizen.”
Hoffman responded: “Dear Private American Citizen Jim Crews, We, the administration appreciates all citizen’s concerns about how meeting rules are followed and behaviors of all participants. At this time, we will consider your concern, along with many, many others. The behavior of many citizens and our own council could be considered disrespectful to many and unlawful. Have a good weekend.”
In his letter of complaint Crews says the clerk “responded in a manner that that I consider obnoxious, conceited, autocratic and imperious in manner.” He found the introduction “Dear Private American Citizen Jim Crews” to be “condescending in nature.” He said “it simply means that I am acting as a Private American Citizen and nothing more,” he wrote.
“Her response, ‘We, the administration…’ clearly signifies an imperious or autocratic attitude that is unsuitable for the position of Town Clerk,” he wrote. As for her comment that “many citizens and some council members could be disrespectful to many and unlawful,” he states he has not seen Chief Marble charge anyone for any crime committed at any council meeting, “so I have to ask the clerk what aspect of citizen behavior and that of the council are unlawful?”
Crews states that the clerk’s actions violate the Personnel Policy manual and amount to insubordination. He asked that she be charged with those violations, as well as for violations of the Professionalism Policy.
Council President Bob Michalson said that he did not really have a comment about the resignation letter.
“Unless she files a formal complaint against me it’s just a PSA [public service announcement], just talk,” said Michalson. “Unless she goes through the proper channels other than just saying I harassed her or whoever harassed her, I really have nothing to say on it. If she filed a formal complaint I would respond to it, otherwise that’s all I can tell you.”
Former councilman and mayor Jim Crews denied that he has ever harassed the clerk or anyone else. He said he had been to town hall only one time to pay his water bill and attended two council meetings.
“Anytime I called town hall it was simply for business,” said Crews. “I didn’t yell at anybody. I talk loud sometimes. To be honest with you I believe Mrs. Hoffman is full of crap. Even in her resignation letter she said that my complaints were legitimate. So I don’t know what the big deal is. I didn’t harass anyone.” He said that he was himself being harassed and even threatened on the internet. He said a woman on the Moving Stevensville Forward website was calling on others to get together and go to his house. He said they didn’t come, but he was going to take some action on that.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know what to say. I only went to town hall on business, but when the clerk responds to you on email making snide remarks or a very condescending attitude, I take offense to that and I said something about it. I followed the code of conduct. I reported the misbehavior and I did it in the way that was proper through the council so the council could talk to the mayor about it.”
Crews said that the whole thing started when they had an agenda item that was not complete, and he was trying to get the clerk to include the information in the agenda and “I got stonewalled on it. They basically denied the right of the public to see what was going to be discussed. They never did publish it for the public.” He said it was about a change order for HDR Engineering that never was approved by the council and he wanted to get that out to the public.
A lawsuit filed against the town by previous town clerk Audrey Tribbensee is still winding its way through the court. Tribbensee is seeking up to $500,000 in fees, costs, and damages from the town for harassment and “intolerable” working conditions. She, too, points a finger at Council President Bob Michalson.