Calling it quits: Staff resigns due to conflict with Lyons councilor Mark Orr

May, 2014 Posted in News

By Mary Owen

In the wake of city staff resignations, citizens spoke out at the last Lyons City Council meeting, asking for Councilor Mark Orr to step down.

“I was voted in by the people of Lyons, so if they wish to vote me out, I will go out,” Orr told constituents at the meeting April 22, adding he was not planning to step down otherwise.

“I came in and made a statement I’m here for the people,” he added. “I wasn’t going to go in the back room. They weren’t going to tell me how to vote. I do what’s best for the people. So if they want to vote me out, that’s fine.”

In response to a questions asked by an audience member, the consensus of the council, including the mayor, was that Orr should step down to allow the city to get back on track.

“The past is gone, we have to move forward,” said Councilor Gary Alkire, whose job, he said, had been made tougher by Councilor Orr’s “personal agenda. He cannot get out of the past, and it’s affecting my job.”

The city lost City Manager Mary Mitchell, Assistant City Manager Audrey McNerney and Doug Miller in Public Works when the three submitted letters of resignation dated March 17, citing a hostile work environment caused by Orr’s actions making it impossible to work.

Mayor Burroughs, Mitchell and Orr did not return Our Town’s calls by press time.

Another office worker, Tami Owen, resigned in September 2012, citing similar allegations against “certain citizens and a Council member.”

“My morale as an employee has greatly diminished due to all the disrespect,” she wrote in a letter to city officials.

Doug Miller wrote in his letter resigning from his public works position, “Continued employment has become impossible due to the hostile, stressful work environment created by Councilor Mark Orr.”

Mitchell wrote the perceived toxicity was keeping her from performing her duties, “to accomplish even the smallest task, or make progress in any matter.”

“Myself and my previous and current staff have been victimized by being lied to, lied about, publically humiliated, falsely accused, disrespected and harassed,” Mitchell wrote.

McNerney said Orr’s actions had “disheartened the entire city staff.” She told Our Town Orr’s actions were “not good for the city, not good for us. There was only so much we could take.”

But at the meeting, Orr said asking tough questions was his right as a councilor. “I am moving forward in the best interest of the people,” he said.

People spoke on both sides of the issue, citing the possibility of a recall and anticipating potential lawsuits from the rift.

“Think seriously about the recall, since it will cost the city money,” said George Geddes, chair of the Lyons-Mehama Water Board.

A failed recall attempt of the water board in 2011 cost the city approximately $12,500, he said. “Because every move we made, we had to consult our lawyer to make sure we were doing the right thing,” he said, adding, “There are always two sides to the story.”

Former Councilor Troy Donahue told the audience that when he was on the council, he had asked questions that went unanswered.

“Please be open-minded,” he said of the current situation. “Get all of the information. There’s a little more than what’s been in the paper.”

A temporary staff person has been hired to keep the city hall open part-time. No decisions have been made at this time to keep or fill the positions with new hires, according to the council.

Despite promises made to staff in November that the situation would be resolved, McNerney doubted Orr would change his actions, more the bone of contention than his asking questions of city leaders.

“The only way we would come back is if he were gone,” she said.

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