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Park Director's Sudden Dismissal Raises Questions

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Telegraph Herald (Dubuque, IA)

 

Asbury Park and Recreation Director Jason Thieme was fired Wednesday morning, and members of the city's Park and Recreation Board are questioning the decision.

"I couldn't be more satisfied (with Thieme's work)," said Board Member Ken Resch on Friday. "Everyone of us (on the board) is just shocked. This was out of nowhere."

Resch penned a letter to Mayor Jim Adams and Asbury City Council members Thursday expressing his surprise and frustration.

"The email I received (Wednesday) from (City Clerk) Sara Burke is beyond my ability to draw any other rational conclusion other than a well-orchestrated vendetta has occurred and Jason was summarily fired," Resch wrote. "Obviously, none of us on the Park Board saw this coming, but all of us deserve at least a rudimentary explanation. I dislike the 'Our city policy is not to discuss personnel issues' line in Sara's email - merely a slick way to avoid unpleasant discussion. Will we learn the truth behind this sudden and abrupt departure, term- ination, split, disagreement, disengagement, ouster, abandonment or firing? Are we to remain totally stupefied about Jason's departure?"

Reached Friday, Adams confirmed that Thieme was fired Wednesday after about two years in the position. But neither Adams nor City Administrator Beth Bonz would comment on why Thieme was let go.

"It's a personnel matter, and that's confidential," Bonz said Friday.

Thieme did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment for this story. By Friday morning, his information already had been deleted from the "city staff" page on the city's website.

But Resch, who said he is the longest-serving member of the city's Park and Recreation Board, continues to speak highly of the University of Iowa graduate. Resch said Thieme was the city's first park and recreation director, a part-time position.

"More has been done with Jason as our director - even in a part-time capacity - than over the past decade of our efforts," Resch wrote in his letter. "Yes, the City of Asbury Council is to be commended for their willingness to envision our city's future, but I believe this is so because Jason painted a positive picture of that future. More than this, Jason knew how to help the board translate its vision into a reality. The decision to terminate Jason was not wisely considered."

Bonz was out of the office Friday and said she did not immediately know Thieme's salary. A legal notice published in the Telegraph Herald in January stated that Thieme made $14,251.78 in 2015.

Resch said he and other park board members received an email Wednesday written by Bonz, who said Thieme's employment was "discontinued."

In response to several email inquiries and comments from board members, Burke responded via email saying it was against city policy to discuss personnel issues.

Board Chairman Ryan Fennel and Board Member Luke Hartmann shared Resch's disappointment that Thieme was fired.

"Jason has done nothing but good for the park board," Hartmann said Friday.

Hartmann, who has been on the board for about two years, said Thieme pushed to complete a lot of good projects that might otherwise not have been done.

Fennel agreed that Thieme has done valuable work in his time with the city, and he said he had been urging the city to make Thieme a full-time employee.

"It seemed like everyone on the (Park and Recreation) Board agreed we want Jason to move on as full time," Fennel said. "The fact that he was terminated was a huge shock."

Resch said he suspected there was a "personality clash" that led to Thieme's firing, rather than his performance.

"I highly doubt that it has anything to do with his work ethic and responsibilities with the park," Resch said.

In his letter, Resch asked that Thieme be reinstated immediately.

Hartmann and Fennel agreed Thieme should be rehired, and Fennel said he also will write a letter to city leaders asking to take that step.

Bonz said the decision to terminate Thieme was made by herself, Adams and the city's personnel committee. The decision does not have to be approved by the City Council.

According to Bonz, the city intends to advertise to fill the park and recreation director position. In the interim, she said, Thieme's former supervisor Burke will take over the job duties.

"There will be no impact on projects," Bonz said.

She acknowledged she has heard from park board members about reinstating Thieme, but she said, "At this point, we're looking to regroup and move forward."

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November 28, 2016
 
 
 

 

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