If you’ve ever worked in a public or government job, you know how difficult it can be to discipline, let alone fire an employee. Public employee unions and contracts make a normal employer/employee relationship nearly impossible. In New York, for instance, teachers who commit a variety of infractions, but can’t be fired due to the crushing bureaucracy, are held in “rubber rooms” all day, every day. Sometimes for years.
In Utah, they handle things a little differently.
Hyde Park Public Works Director Mike Grunig called a meeting one day last November and then pulled a gun on some of his employees.
Grunig reportedly called the meeting at about 3 p.m., which was not out of the ordinary, according to (Kolby) Christiansen and (Justin) Bodrero. They reportedly discussed city business, briefly, but when Grunig suggested Bodrero would look good with a green dot on him, the tone of the meeting changed quickly.
“Mike pulled a 9 mm SW Shied out of concealment and opened the slide and turned on the laser and pointed at Justin and it got super quiet,” Christiansen wrote in a statement to Chief Steve Milne, interim chief of the North Park Police Department.
It isn’t clear what concept Grunig was trying to drive home with the improvised laser pointer.
Mark Johnson was in the room as well, although he chose not to speak publicly about what took place.
“As we were sitting there, I heard Mike say ‘wouldn’t Justin look good with a green dot on him’ then I heard the a slide of a gun,” he wrote in his statement to Milne. He “looked up to see Mike holding a gun that had its slide back, Mike then pointed the gun at Justin’s chest then at his private body parts, then pointed the gun at Kolby’s chest then he pointed it at my chest making me feel very uncomfortable. Mike then put the gun back together and left the shop and we looked at each other and couldn’t believe what just happened.”
The employees keep the incident to themselves until January, apparently out of fear for their jobs. But when Mayor Sharidean Flint heard what happened, she didn’t fire Grunig and didn’t call the police. Instead, she reprimanded Grunig (a 30-year employee), demoted him, cut his salary and put him on administrative leave.
It didn’t end there.
When the matter was ultimately heard by the city council they came to a different determination.
…according to the notice, the council determined instead that “there is sufficient evidence of offensive conduct towards other city officers or employees while on the job and that such conduct merits discipline, albeit different from the discipline imposed by the mayor.”
With that determination, the City Council restored Grunig to his position as the public works director, his wages were restored to $33.38 per hour, with back pay to cover the loss of wages resulting from the mayor’s disciplinary action. The council also suspended Grunig for six consecutive work days, without pay, between the dates of March 1 to 8. These actions also came with a formal reprimand which is supposed to be included in his personnel file.
Police Chief Steve Milne decided, somehow, that Grunig’s actions weren’t sufficient to file criminal charges. We’re not familiar with Hyde Park city ordinances, but you’d think there’d be one that covers, maybe, brandishing a firearm. Just a thought.
Anyway, Christiansen and Bodrero decided that they’d rather not work for someone who would point a firearm at them and they’ve quit their jobs.
“We’re taking that as constructive termination,” Kolby Christiansen said last week by way of explaining his decision to resign.
He and Justin Bodrero, two of the men who found a handgun pointed directly at them during the November staff meeting, say their personal safety means more to them than a job.
That’s about the only reasonable reaction anyone in this story seems to have had to what Grunig reportedly did.