After a stream of complaints about excessive and inconsistent enforcement of municipal regulations, it was a bathroom that flushed Jim McErlean from his position as Kingman Building Official. McErlean resigned June 12, four days after he was served notice of intent to terminate his employment.
City compliance with a public records request reveals that the now-retired Development Services Director Gary Jeppson wrote McErlean a “letter of reprimand and last chance notice on February 24, 2016.
“Numerous complaints have been received by City and County elected officials, business owners and City management that you are delaying projects with unnecessary and overly expensive requirements. Conflicts with the fire marshal have brought to the attention of city management that you are requiring fire code compliance matters that are not being required by the fire marshal,” Jeppson’s reprimand letter said.
“Additionally, you have been unprofessional to business owners by purposely ignoring them when discussing compliance issues, even when they are standing right there, or making flippant comments rather than being helpful and customer service oriented,” the letter said. “Your reputation in the business community is if they do not complete your list of requirements, you will retaliate.”
“Your rigid stance, perceived intimidation, lack of cooperation and assistance, and unprofessional conduct has generated numerous complaints and has many business owners lacking trust in the City and consequently the City has gotten the reputation as impossible to work with and not business friendly,” Jeppson’s letter said. “Jim, this is a serious matter and we want you to be successful…However, any further infractions to the contrary of the instruction provided herein and the City Personnel Rules will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
16 months after the reprimand, the City essentially sent McErlean packing after determining a complaint from a new business owner was valid. The city determined McErlean should not have required Sherrie Henley to install an ADA compliant bathroom at her Tan On business, located at 1711 North Stockton Hill Road.
“You provided no options or solutions but rather the requirements of ADA, which was indeed not required,” McErlean’s boss, Fire Chief Jake Rhoades wrote in a June 8 employment termination notice. “This has caused the owner of the occupancy to spend an estimated $14,000 more on the occupancy to bring it into ADA compliance when it was not warranted.”
McErlean resigned rather than be fired.
“It has been my privilege to have been employed by the City of Kingman these past 19 plus years. Working with City staff and management, as well as the public has enriched my life with many lessons and blessings,” his resignation letter said.
“Nonetheless, recent developments have robbed me of the joy of serving as the Building Official. My zeal for the assignment no longer matches the will and the direction of the City. Therefore, please accept my letter of resignation, effective immediately.”
Henley said she has submitted a claim asking that the city provide $25,000 as reimbursement for the bathroom boondoggle, as well as other unnecessary work and fees. And she noted some compassion for McErlean.
“I’m not a head hunter. I wasn’t looking for anyone to lose a job. I feel bad,” Henley said. “I know he gave a lot of people a lot of problems, but he’s without a job at 60 years old. With all that I’ve heard that he’s done to people there’s no way he’s going to get a job in Kingman.”
At the same time, Henley said it shouldn’t be so difficult to do business in Kingman.
“I told the city manager he’s got a lot of work to do because if I’ve had to go through all of this just to open a little tiny bit of what I’ve done, I’m sorry. I can’t imagine any big company coming in here and trying to open a business and having to go through hell.”