Grants manager resigns: Golden quits after mayor eliminates her position

Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For the first time in nearly 24 years, Bonnie Golden can no longer call herself a Kenai Peninsula Borough employee.

In December, just two months after current Borough Mayor Dave Carey was elected, Golden said Carey told her he planned to eliminate the grants manager position -- the position she's held for the past nine years.

Golden said it was never clear whether he actually intended to eliminate the position or not, as Carey often failed to follow through on statements made.

"His actions are often inconsistent with what he says," Golden said in an interview Monday.

However, in April, Golden said Carey made it clear that her position would be terminated.

With the Assembly enacting Resolution 2009-32, designating certain positions as middle management, at its April 7 meeting, grants manager was one of the several previously at-will positions included.

According to Borough Attorney Colette Thompson, borough code grants the right to appeal termination of middle management positions. In her 13 years as borough attorney, Thompson said she's never seen a non-union borough employee utilize the appeal process.

Golden was, in essence, a guinea pig.

"This process has never been used before," Golden said.

Golden's first step was to appeal the decision to the mayor, which she did.

After Carey told her that his mind had not changed on eliminating her position, Golden submitted an appeal to have a hearing before an assembly review board. That appeal, too, had to be filed via the mayor.

Because the process had never been used by anyone prior to Golden, no one -- the administration nor the assembly -- knew what authority either governing body had.

"Attorneys got involved," Golden said. "So it got really complicated and expensive."

Golden said all parties involved -- the mayor, the assembly and herself -- each had a private attorney.

After spending thousands of dollars on legal fees, Golden decided to drop the appeal. She said she shouldn't have to pay out of her own pocket to have the borough decide what authority the assembly has on the matter.

An assembly review board never heard Golden's appeal.

From her experience, Golden said she learned the process doesn't work.

"It's really very vague," she said.

Golden said she thinks the assembly's intentions were good when approving the resolution, but having lawyers involved complicated the matter.

Rather than wait for June 30, the day her position would be terminated, Golden "decided to just drop it and move on." She sent Carey her resignation letter on May 20. Though her resignation wasn't effective until June 5, Golden went on annual leave after submitting her letter to the mayor.

Golden said she wanted to make it clear that she resigned from the borough, she didn't retire. Golden said she left because it was clear the mayor didn't want her working there any longer.

Golden said Carey never gave her a reason for eliminating the grants manager position.

"He's never explained to me why he's making that decision," she said.

As a certified grants manager who's held that position in the borough since 2000, Golden said, "I don't know who else could be more suited for the position. I can only assume it was the person and not the position he was getting rid of."

In an interview Tuesday, Carey said the recently approved budget includes a new borough position, a community and fiscal projects manager, which will replace the grants manager. He said the position will be responsible for grants and other community projects.

Golden said that job is too big for one person to handle.

"The borough currently has 124 active grants," she said.

That number doesn't include any recent grants the borough is in line to receive via the federal stimulus bill, she said.

"I don't know how one person is going to do all of that," Golden said. "Instead of adding to staff, he's decreasing it."

Carey said he intends to fill the new position by the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1.

Carey said he could not comment further on terminating the grants manager position nor on attorney's involvement in Golden's appeal process.

But Golden isn't letting how her borough employment ended leave a sour taste in her mouth.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my work at the borough," Golden said in an e-mail. "It was a pleasure working with the various community members on their projects, striving to meet their goals and objectives."

"Working with my co-workers at the borough was very rewarding," she added. "I appreciate the support, assistance and friendships I shared with them. We were a great team."

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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