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Labeled by two former employees as an abusive boss with a bad temper, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson took the unusual step Friday of issuing a statement that said, in part, "I'm sorry."
He never used their names, but the 1 1/2 -minute message was directed at Deeda Seed and Christy Cordwell. Anderson fired Seed as his spokeswoman Aug. 26. Cordwell, the mayor's longtime assistant, quit soon after on the same day.
"If I became impatient, if I became frustrated, if I said or did anything that hurt or caused anxiety to anyone, I'm sorry," said Anderson, who didn't take questions from reporters.
The mayor has said Seed was incompetent. He didn't seem to back off of that when he said: "I've made hiring mistakes and I've made mistakes in the way that I've handled things when it became apparent that some city employees were not getting the job done."
Neither Seed nor Cordwell could be reached for comment after the mayor's remarks.
They have retained an attorney, Ralph Chamness, who specializes in employment law. Neither Chamness nor his clients were present at Anderson's statement, though a handful of Anderson's current staff were there and applauded the mayor when he concluded: "I will continue to demand the very best from those who are paid by taxpayers, and I'll continue doing my best for the people of this great city."
Earlier this week, Chamness had informally approached the city attorney's office on behalf of Seed and Cordwell - though he wouldn't say what was discussed.
When read Anderson's statement over the phone, Chamness called it "interesting" and declined further comment.
Anderson also has apologized to Lisa Romney, his environmental-affairs adviser, she said. She met with him on Wednesday.
"The first thing he said was, 'I would like to apologize for how I've been treating you,' '' said Romney, who declined to explain what Anderson apologized for.
"He's very passionate and wants to get things done," she added. "I understand how stressed he gets because of his position. We all feel the stress. We all want to get things done. He did apologize to me and it was appreciated. [These events] did really shock him and he is trying to figure out how he can be a better boss."
Anderson described the situation regarding Seed and Cordwell as an "ordeal" and said he had lost two "good friends." Cordwell had worked for him since 2001, five of his six years in office. Employees at City Hall saw her as a buffer between them and the mayor.
Seed worked for the mayor during his first term as his chief of staff and, in 2003, worked on his re-election campaign, in which Anderson's temperament was a key issue. She was hired as his spokeswoman in April 2004.
When Anderson fired Seed on Aug. 26, she fired back and said he was "abusive" and berates and degrades employees. Cordwell said the mayor has a "horrible temper. He has no control."
Anderson, Cordwell and Seed worked on one side of the mayor's office at City Hall. Anderson's employees who sit on the other side have had only good things to say about their boss.
Gwen Springmeyer, who works on community affairs, says the mayor treats her with respect and she's never been belittled by him. Mark Alvarez, Anderson's minority-affairs assistant, echoed that, as did Annette Daley, who also works on community affairs.
"He's passionate. He's demanding. He expects the same out of people that work for him," Daley said. "We're all human. Whether this is a corporation [or a government], we all have weaknesses and we're not perfect."
Some of Anderson's former employees contacted this week echoed Seed's statements.
Alison Weyher, who resigned as director of community and economic development in 2004, said this week she left in part because of the "way I felt he was treating me." She declined to elaborate. Anderson was going to demote her to become his adviser on economic development.
"He's not an easy man to work for. He never yelled at me. I had seen him on occasion get pretty irate," said Weyher, who added that the mayor shouldn't be judged on his interpersonal skills but on his accomplishments. And she didn't think turnover in high-level positions hurts the city. "The majority of the work that's done in City Hall is done by rank-and-file employees."
Anderson fired Weyher's predecessor, Margaret Hunt, in 2002. She's now Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s director of the Division of Fine Arts. She said Friday that Seed's allegations were "consistent with my experience."
She described the work environment as "intimidating. I would have liked to have seen a more respectful and collaborative management style."
Anderson has gone through six communications directors in six years, making it the most turnover-prone job in the mayor's administration. The mayor is closely covered by the local media and he seeks out coverage.
Josh Ewing, Anderson's spokesman with the longest tenure - he worked there a little more than three years - called the job the "most high-pressure and stressful position there is in the mayor's office. It's because Mayor Anderson cares so much and is so passionate about how he's viewed and how the work he's doing is viewed in the press."
Ewing added he doesn't feel "too sorry" for Seed because she "knew the kind of stress the position entailed and who she was working with."
The former spokesman noted that he and the mayor have always had a "respectful relationship. There were certainly times when we disagreed. It was always in the vein of healthy debate. I never had a single shouting match with him while I was there," said Ewing, who worked for Anderson during the trying times of the Main Street Plaza debate.