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Tempers flare between Heber City mayor and council member

(From left): Heber City Councilman Scott Phillips, Councilman Mike Johnston, Mayor Heidi Franco, Councilman Ryan Stack, Councilwoman Rachel Kahler, and Councilwoman Yvonne Barney
Heber City
(From left): Heber City Councilman Scott Phillips, Councilman Mike Johnston, Mayor Heidi Franco, Councilman Ryan Stack, Councilwoman Rachel Kahler, and Councilwoman Yvonne Barney

Tuesday evening’s Heber City Council meeting ended with a dispute between the mayor and members of the council.

A heated exchange between Heber City's top elected officials ended the city council meeting late Tuesday evening, Sept. 19.

After the meeting’s official business was finished, council member Rachel Kahler asked to read a statement she’d prepared, addressed to Mayor Heidi Franco.

“I’m reading this with as much love as I can,” she began.

She expressed frustration about the way that she said Franco dominated council meetings, and she said that the mayor’s recent article in a Heber Valley local newspaper had made false claims about council members.

Earlier in the meeting, the mayor had presented a “dignity index,” laying out standards for civil discourse that she wanted to use in Heber City. She did not give Kahler an opportunity to comment on the index, which became a friction point at the end of the night.

“Somehow you hold yourself above this dignity index,” Kahler told the mayor. “I’m not sure you even realize when you’re talking down to staff, or when you lecture presenters, and you make sure that you have the last word on every agenda item.”

She said Franco’s public comments, in meetings and in the newspaper, did not represent the people’s opinions. As she continued to read her statement, Franco interrupted with her gavel.

“You seem to think that your blogs and news articles are a representation of the will of the people,” Kahler said, “yet there is no follow-up to articulate the hours–”

“Your comment is out of order,” Franco interjected, banging on the table. “I will take a motion to adjourn this meeting.”

She began pushing back against Kahler’s comments until council member Mike Johnston asked her to let Kahler finish.

“I’m happy to let her finish her respectful, Dignity Index – it looks like number three: she’s the good person, I’m the bad person; it’s us versus them. Please proceed,” Franco said.

The two continued to go back and forth, with Kahler telling the mayor that she was coming to her “on her knees” asking her to work more collaboratively with the council, while Franco said it was council members who had made it difficult to work together and that Kahler had overstepped.

“If you want to do my job, you need to run for mayor and you need to win, okay?” Franco told Kahler.

But after close to 15 minutes of arguing, council member Yvonne Barney had had enough.

“This bickering – I’ll say it again; I’ve said it before – it is out of control,” she said. “My goodness, people, this is politics... Mayor. I'm going to say this: we need to be done, people. Enough of this. Quit acting like children. Grow a thicker skin.”

“If we don't get the response we want, then we move on, and we come in with a smile, because this isn't about us,” Barney continued. “It's about the people we represent. It's about our community. It's not about power. It's not about control. It's about making sure that our citizens are getting what they deserve.”

Citizens will have a chance to choose at least two new council members in November. Rachel Kahler and Ryan Stack are not seeking re-election. Heidi Franco is two years into her four-year term as mayor.