Nonprofit shakeup has former employee crying foul
One of the non-profit organization’s former directors claims the Park City Community Outreach Center (PCCOC) terminated his contract a few weeks ago because of "innocuous" comments he made in the media about a controversial, area "Most Wanted" list, recently posted on the Park City Police Department’s Web site.
The list, which consisted entirely of Latino suspects, garnered significant media attention. "My comments said only this, ‘& I am curious why 100 percent of the Top Ten is made up of a population that is only 20 percent of Park City’s population,’" former PCCOC program director Lee Martinez said about remarks he made to a Salt Lake Tribune reporter. "I questioned why 20 percent of the population, that makes maybe 25 percent of the crime, is 100 percent of the Top Ten."
Because his comments upset his supervisor, PCCOC Executive Director Shelley Weiss, his six-month contract to oversee the organization was not renewed a few weeks ago, Martinez said during an interview Thursday. "Shelley has said the same thing in quotes of her own to the media," he said, adding that he was never told not to speak to reporters. "I didn’t go looking for the media, it came to me & all of this seemed like an over-reaction."
But his comments also upset Park City police Chief Lloyd Evans, which resulted in his termination, Martinez said.
"This is a personnel matter that I’m not entirely comfortable talking about," said Evans, who is also a PCCOC board member. "This is a small county. A lot of folks are involved with folks who are on boards." However, Martinez said, Weiss’ close relationship with the police department was the principal concern. "And the fact that the chief is on our board of directors & How is it that some our funding comes from the police and the chief is on the board of directors and signing the checks?" he added. PCCOC attempts to serve as a liaison for struggling immigrants in Summit County. But Weiss’ association with the police department has muddied the organization’s relationship with the Latino community, Martinez said, adding that clients often asked him if he worked for the police. "At one point, Shelley did tell me that part of my function was to work for the police," he said, adding that he was asked to provide law enforcement with information about people he served. "I’m kind of uncomfortable with that & I just thought that was really awkward."
Weiss denied she asked Martinez to tip off the police.
"[Martinez] should take responsibility for not doing such a great job," Weiss said. But Martinez also blasted Weiss’ managerial skills and blamed her for why it once took six weeks for him to receive a paycheck, when he was to be paid every two weeks. One of PCCOC’s primary missions is to help immigrants resolve labor disputes, but he was "getting the same damn behavior" from the organization, Martinez said. "People need to know that the public funds are not accounted for and there seems to be an apparent conflict of interest with regard to my previously doing such a fantastic job, up until the time I was quoted in the paper," he added.
According to Weiss, "there are a bunch of different things [Martinez] didn’t get done."
"He violated his contract," she added.
But she praised him last summer after he had taken the organization’s reins. "I really want people to know that we’ve got a person who’s bilingual, who’s got all of the right stuff. He’s worked for everybody from Mike Leavitt to Rocky Anderson," Weiss said, describing Martinez to The Park Record last summer. "He’s extremely qualified for what he’s doing."
PCCOC board member Riley Risto has a different perspective than Weiss on Martinez’s job performance in Park City.
"I think [Martinez] was doing a wonderful job," Risto said, adding that the quality of Martinez’s work had nothing to do with his dismissal. "He had a six-month contract and the contract ran out."
"[Risto] also knew that we were not renewing [Martinez’s] contract and Riley did not protest that non-renewal," Weiss countered.
Park City has given PCCOC about $19,000 to help the organization operate for two years, but Martinez claimed he didn’t see any financial statements for the organization while overseeing the office at Aspen Villas apartments.
"I really was concerned," he said about the lack of fiscal oversight.
Weiss hopes the Summit County Commission will grant PCCOC money during its current budget talks.
"Our books and all of our financial records are open to anybody who wants to take a look at it," she said.
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