Bethel moves forward with investigator

BETHEL— The Bethel City Council has approved spending $40,000 to hire a private investigator to look at both how city contracts are awarded and into personnel matters.

The council late Tuesday evening approved the investigation after holding an executive session, KYUK reported.

“The council has got some very serious concerns about a number of issues that are delineated in this motion. We believe it is in the best interest the city and the best interest of the council that we have an independent, qualified third party examine this,” Councilman Mark Springer said.

The probe would look at employee complaints about possible inappropriate intimidation of employees by management. Council members also are seeking a legal analysis of the recently proposed city ordinance loosening nepotism rules and if there are any current violations of hiring relatives.

Investigators also will be asked to look at specific city contracts, such as the demolition of the Bethel Police Station, and all contracts made with the city’s former finance director, Bobby Sutton, both before he left city employment and later after he became a consultant.

They also will ask investigators to look for any agreements, or lack thereof, for use of city property by private individuals. Another area that will be probed is the accounting of leave hours taken by salaried employees who are not covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

The council earlier this week proposed loosening city rules on hiring relatives, arguing that the practice is almost necessary in a town that has a small labor pool

Councilwoman Heather Pike said that if the investigator finds the current practice is unlawful, she will be among the first to abide by the decision.

“I will be the first one to formally step up and resign as an example to the city if the recommendation comes back from the attorney that that is nepotism,” said Pike, whose significant other is employed by the city.

The investigator’s report will be considered privileged because it’s an attorney-client communication, but the council could decide to make it public.

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