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Bozeman mayor under fire for alleged "abusive" conduct to staff, officials

Special meeting set to discuss public documents concerning mayor's conduct
Posted at 1:22 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 22:37:02-04

The Bozeman City Commission will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, September 8th to review and discuss recently released public documents concerning Bozeman Mayor Chris Mehl’s conduct toward other city employees and officials.

Public documents made available by a Freedom of Information Act request show numerous email exchanges between city staff and Bozeman city commissioners.

A memo from Terry Cunnigham dated May 29th, 2020 outlines a conversation between him and interim City Manager Dennis Taylor.

In Cunningham’s memo, Taylor reported: “...on at least three separate occasions, in meetings with Mayor Mehl, the Mayor became angry and abusive toward him, causing the interim city manager to be concerned for his safety and consider whether he wished to continue serving in the Interim City Manager role.”

Taylor also reported to Cunningham, “Mayor Mehl has continued to attempt to reach into the organization in violation of the adopted norms to deal directly with staff… and Mayor Mehl consumes an inordinate amount of the City Manager’s time and schedule, with emails starting as early as 5:00 am and continuing throughout the day.”

Taylor confirmed Commissioner Cunningham's summary of their conversation was accurate and added:

“I personally l like Mayor Mehl very much. He is a smart, dedicated and tireless elected official. It is some of his problematic behaviors that I find so disturbing. Mayor Mehl is frequently abusive to staff and can be overbearing. He tends to bully staff and is especially abrasive, hostile and intimidating to many of our female staff…”

Released public records also an email exchange between former City Manager Andrea Suratt and Commissioner Terry Cunningham.

In the email, she writes: “Mr. Mehl’s repeated violation of the charters prohibition clause was a key factor in my decision to accept another employment offer. I told Mr. Mehl, in a face to face conversation outside of City Council chambers after a lunch meeting about code of conduct issues in December 2019, ‘that he was the reason I needed to leave’.”

Mayor Chris Mehl has responded to the released documents with the statement to KBZK:

“On Tuesday, the city commission will meet to discuss how I communicated with the previous city managers, difficulties in those relationships, and how the city is moving forward under the new city manager who started in May.

I welcome the opportunity to have this meeting and share my perspective. Citizens deserve representatives who take on difficult issues and ask hard questions to make the best decisions possible. It’s important the city remain transparent; learning information and sharing it with the public.

It’s become clear that my direct style doesn’t work for everyone and can be counterproductive. I deeply apologize for both my actions and results of my actions that made anyone uncomfortable. I screwed up and need to do better. I also want to be clear that I’ve never name-called or belittled anyone, nor interfered in city administration.

Finally, I am encouraged to work with the new city manager, Jeff Mihelich. Things are going well. Jeff recently told the city commission he has not witnessed any problems since he arrived in May.

My goal is to lock in this productive relationship going forward. It’s an honor to serve Bozeman. Thank you.”

The meeting will take place Tuesday, September 8th at 12pm via WebX

Link to meeting:https://cityofbozeman.webex.com/cityofbozeman/onstage/g.php?MTID=e4c45b1550fbeb101b1004525bf1cfaab [cityofbozeman.webex.com]

Link to city documents: http://weblink.bozeman.net/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=26&dbid=0

Bozeman mayor responds to allegations regarding conduct toward city manager, employees

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available - tune into our 5:30 and 10 pm News for reactions from Bozeman City Commissioners and the mayor.