Darla Tilley is no longer running the Parker Senior Center after a dust-up at Town Hall led to her resignation “under duress.” Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer says there were valid complaints against Tilley, but Councilman Randy Hartless says Tilley was doing “an incredible job” and thinks it’s Wedemeyer who should be fired.
Tilley’s last day at the Senior Center, which is operated by the Town of Parker, where Tilley was an employee, was last Monday. She told Parker Live she wrote her resignation letter under duress.
“I’ve been a hard-working, dedicated employee for 21 years,” she said. “I never had a single write-up or verbal warning, no disciplinary actions in all that time. I defended someone else from what I saw as bad treatment from [Town Hall] and from that point on, that animosity was directed at me.”
In a letter addressed to Wedemeyer and the Town Council on April 9th, Tilley wrote, “I am doing this under duress. My plan was to retire when I turned 65. At this time, I am not financially prepared or medically prepared to retire.”
She went on to say that at a meeting on April 7th, Wedemeyer had called her into her office and informed her that there had been complaints that Tilley had “bullied people.” After asking Wedemeyer to give her details, Tilley says she wasn’t given anything specific, but was asked for her “exit plan” and later forced to resign.
She told Parker Live that she feels the demand for her resignation was nothing more than retaliation from people at Town Hall who didn’t like her, rather than any specific allegations about her work or her conduct in her job.
“These complaints were never substantiated. There was no investigation. And it’s important that people realize, everything is wonderful at the Senior Center. In fact, my staff is very, very upset and horrified at this. Everyone decided to quit along with me, to walk out, and I told them I know they’re trying to be loyal but they wouldn’t be doing me any favors by abandoning all our clients who really need our services.”
Wedemeyer confirmed that Tilley had not had any formal disciplinary actions “as that term is used in employment”, meaning that there is no record of her being suspended, demoted or terminated at any previous time. But she said that there is “no truth whatsoever” to Tilley’s claim of retaliation.
“In order to protect the privacy of other Town employees, I am not able to provide additional information on the bullying complaints other than to say that the complaints are not limited to just one employee,” Wedemeyer told Parker Live. “Thank you for reaching out. I am trying to be as honest and open as I can be in this situation.”
Tilley said that the complaints are dubious in origin.
“If there was a complaint, it wasn’t handled properly,” she said. “This is a pattern. And I know there haven’t been any complaints about the operations of the Senior Center, which was my job.”
Councilman Randy Hartless defended Tilley, saying, “Darla is a valuable part of the community and she does an amazing job with our elderly population at the Senior Center. Yes, she has her faults – like we all do – but they are far outweighed by her dedication and service to this community.”
He went on to say, “Although it has been clear to me for many months that Darla Tilley was being heavily scrutinized, I had no idea the level of micromanagement that was happening. Frankly, I find it unprofessional and unacceptable. However, I am only one of seven council members.”
Hartless said he believes the real issue lies with the Human Resources Department, which is currently handled by Wedemeyer herself in addition to her main duties as Town Manager.
“If an employee has a problem with Lori Wedemeyer, they have to go to… Lori Wedemeyer,” Hartless said. “So it’s easy to see where the problem lies. The council thought we addressed this issue in February when we decided that we wanted to hire an outside Human Resources person, but apparently we were ignored and another employee at the Town of Parker is being trained in HR.”
Wedemeyer told Parker Live she is satisfied with the system in place to deal with Human Resources issues.
“It is not uncommon for a Town our size to have the structure that it does, and I have full confidence that, with rare exception, it is an efficient structure that satisfies the needs of the Town, its employees, and the citizens who pay for the Town’s services,” she said.
Hartless said he thinks it is “in the best interest of the Town” to fire Wedemeyer as Town Manager.
“Too many things are wrong at the Town regarding the Council / Town Manager relationship and it’s time the Council address the root of the problem – the Town Manager,” he said. “I’m certain that idea is completely objectionable to the Council members that are really running this Town through Lori Wedemeyer, because firing her means putting the Council / Town Manager relationship back where it should be: the Town Manager answering to the seven duly-elected Council members equitably and impartially. Since I don’t believe there are enough votes among the Council to remove the Town Manager, I would urge the voters to take matters into their own hands. Use your constitutional right to vote out or otherwise remove the Town Council members who are allowing this broken system to continue.”
In her letter, Tilley said she is proud of the work she has accomplished and the programs she built.
“I live in a great community with some of the most amazing, giving and talented people. I am thankful and blessed to have had such an incredible staff and the most dedicated volunteers that shared in my vision for the Senior Center. I wish the Parker Senior Center and the Town of Parker the very best in the future.”
Parker Senior Center feeds dozens of senior citizens every week at its location in Parker and by delivery, provides transportation to Lake Havasu City weekly, provides Medicare assistance and other programs.