Casper Mayor Defends Decision to Release Police Survey
Casper Mayor Kenyne Humphrey is trying to clear up questions about her decision to make public the results of a scathing police survey after nearly two weeks which saw the resignation of a city council member, the announcement of City Manager V.H. McDonald's retirement and a "divided" department according to Chief of Police Jim Wetzel.
Councilman Shawn Johnson on Wednesday released an email to select members of the news media in which he sharply criticized Humphrey's handling of the survey results and disputed Wetzel's previous claim that he was never given a copy of the survey.
"All members of Council were made aware of the survey and received a copy of the results before the beginning of the meeting last Tuesday," the release reads. "City Manager McDonald and Chief Wetzel were unavailable at City Hall to receive their copies."
Tanya Johnson, the public information officer listed as the contact regarding the press release, clarified over the phone Friday that some members of Casper City Council were given results of the survey before pre-session, which preceded last Tuesday's council meeting.
Other council members, who could not be reached or were otherwise unavailable before pre-session, only saw the survey results in pre-session, immediately before the meeting.
"Some of the council members I was able to reach to get them to pick theirs up early," Humphrey said Friday on the K2 Radio Morning Show. "The one for the city manager and the chief, I took over to City Hall, but unfortunately those gentlemen weren't at the meeting when we distributed those."
McDonald was not at the meeting. Liz Becher, who was named interim city manager after McDonald unceremoniously announced his resignation in a meeting last week, sat in for him at Tuesday's council meeting.
Wetzel did attend, but Humphrey said he showed up at about 6:30 p.m. -- half an hour after the meeting started, and an hour after the beginning of pre-session.
Wetzel previously said he was not provided a copy prior to the meeting and only found out about it a few minutes before Tuesday's meeting began.
"There were two of us distributing the surveys we received pretty late the night before," Humphrey said on Friday's show. "I contacted people to try to come get theirs, but we all have full-time jobs and not everybody can pick them up or drop what they're doing to get them."
"So, unfortunately, they got their survey as soon as we got to the meeting," Humphrey said.
The Fraternal Order of Police did not want the survey to be made public before all council members had a chance to review it, according to Johnson's email.
"The reason I chose to release it was because the reporter working on it had enough information that having or not having the survey... she had a great story, and she might as well have had all the information to do the great story and just get it done so the community doesn't have to hear this over and over," Humphrey told K2 Radio.
When asked why the matter was made public rather than being handled in executive session, Humphrey said police officers had already taken their concerns about the department -- specifically, Wetzel's leadership -- to each level of the chain of command without resolution.
"I think that affords them the opportunity to then come to council," Humphrey said. "I attempted to do an executive session, but it didn't qualify for those purposes."
"That leads me to the statement that sometimes I worry that our form of government doesn't work," Humphrey continued. "Because how do you have an unhappy department with a pretty significant number of people speaking out with concerns, and not be able to really help them?"
"It's a tough situation to be in," Humphrey emphasized.
The survey's cover letter says officers went to the city human resources department before police command staff met with McDonald over a year ago to voice their concerns.
Since then, the FOP says, there has been no effort made to address the officers' concerns, much less any resolution.
When asked on Friday's morning show whether McDonald brought those concerns to council, Humphrey said she thought McDonald tried to manage the situation himself.
"With it being personnel, I think V.H. tried to do a really good job of managing it himself, but unfortunately with this group it didn't work," Humphrey said.
"Everybody has a different management style. V.H. is kind of a quiet, reserved person, and he expects people to be able to really work through problems maybe a little bit more in an independent fashion," Humphrey continued. "I think that strategy, which is a fine strategy, maybe just didn't work for this group."
Humphrey also said the issue to be made public so it could be addressed head-on.
"It's funny, because everybody wants transparency from their government. And so, when you give them transparency, it may not be exactly what they were hoping for," Humphrey said. "In this situation, I think that it's been percolating for quite a long time."
"I'm not the kind of person that wants to just bury my head in the sand when there's an issue. I think everything's out on the table now, and it's time to start working through it," Humphrey said.
"So now, as a team -- as a city management team, as a police team -- now we can address these things and move forward," Humphrey added. "And I think everyone will be stronger for it in the end."