by Becky GINOS
KAYSVILLE—Newly sworn in mayor Katie Witt got off to a rocky start in her first city council meeting last week as a packed crowd became raucous, calling her a dictator and accusing the council of being unethical.
The council voted unanimously to pass a resolution censuring Council member Dave Adams and respectfully asking for his resignation in light of a recent investigation involving extortion allegations.
Witt excused Adams before the vote citing conflict of interest and Adams left the room. The council proceeded to take a vote with little discussion and did not allow any public comment before the decision was made.
People in the audience started shouting out and Witt had to use the gavel multiple times to quiet the crowd.
“Is it ethical of the council members to go behind another council member’s back?” asked one woman during a brief public comment period. “Are you a dictator? We didn’t get to weigh in on it.” The crowd erupted in applause for the woman.
Witt reprimanded her and reminded her that she could only comment on the agenda item being discussed – not the censure. She asked the resident to please sit down.
“There is no clapping allowed,” said Witt as she hammered the gavel again to try and bring order. “It makes it uncomfortable for people on the other side (of the issue).”
After the woman took her seat the meeting continued with regular city business but there was obvious tension in the room and on the council as Witt and Adams traded a few barbs. At one point, Witt asked Adams to put away his cell phone.
“I’m using it to look at the agenda,” Adams replied. “Is there a rule against using my phone for the agenda?”
When the final public comment period came up at the end of the meeting, 11 residents stepped forward to voice their opinions, most in favor of Adams.
The censure is not a legal action and therefore could not force Adams out of office. In spite of the resolution passing, Adams said he would not resign. His term ends in 2020.
“At this point we’ve done as much as current code will allow us to do,” said Witt the following day. “We’re looking at options for ways to get Dave to do the right thing.”
Witt said she received lots of feedback from the community praising her for taking control of the meeting. “Dave’s friends and family came out but there are a lot more people in the community than just Dave’s friends and family,” she said. “This has been a long time coming. It’s a pattern of behavior and the current council wants to see it end. That’s why we were unanimous in support of the resolution.”
This is not the first controversy Adams has been involved in. Last year, state auditors determined he had inappropriately used city funds for repairs on his personal fire truck. Adams paid back the nearly $6,000 he allegedly used. Recently, Adams filed a $10,000 lawsuit against his neighbor over plowing his driveway, claiming the man damaged it. The suit has since been dismissed.
Several residents accused Witt of going behind Adams’ back but Witt said that is not the case. “I contacted Dave before any council members and gave him the opportunity to weigh in on how he wanted this to go,” she said. “It was quite a shock to me that before this I had talked to Dave for three hours and not once did he bring this up. As mayor, I would expect him to at least give me a heads up, ‘oh by the way, I’m under investigation.’ He was genuinely surprised that this was something I’d be concerned about and he was contentious.”
Although the council meeting was slightly hostile, she’s optimistic about leading the city. “It shows the council is united and we will stand for what is right. It hasn’t cast a shadow at all,” said Witt. “There is further action we are looking at it all depends on how Dave handles this. He’s not going to resign but we expect him to start throwing unfounded allegations against other (council) members – that’s his mode of operation. If that happens we’ll look at addition steps.”