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Upheaval at Moab City Hall: For its new City Manager, REBECCA DAVIDSON, ‘It’s DEJA VU all OVER again.’…by Jim Stiles

NOTE: The purpose of this article is to provide Moab citizens with information; I have no vested interest here, other than as a former longtime Moab resident (32 years) who still finds it difficult to believe Moab is changing—physically and ethically–at such a shocking speed. So I offer this information to whoever is interested, with no thought that it might make a difference. I have mainly relied on long quotes and links to other stories in other publications. Clearly, I have an opinion here and have no problem saying my sympathies lie with the dismissed Moab City staffers. But I encourage you to do more than read these highlights; follow the links, read the related articles in their entirety and draw your own conclusions. JS

Rebecca Davidson, new Moab City Manager.

Rebecca Davidson, new Moab City Manager. Photo from Moab Sun News.

Last month, two longtime employees of the City of Moab, David Olsen, its Community Development Director, and Ken Davey, Moab’s Economic Development Specialist, were dismissed by the new city manager, Rebecca Davidson.

 It took three weeks for news of their removal to reach the public, when the Moab Sun News reported the personnel actions. It noted that:

“The dismissals came after the Moab City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 22 to ratify the city’s organizational chart, following a closed executive session to discuss the ‘Character, Professional Competence, or Physical or Mental Health of an Individual.'”A source who asked to remain anonymous told the Moab Sun News that Olsen showed up for work one day and was given one hour to clear out of his office, under the direct supervision of other city staff.”

Link to the story:

Neither was fired, but rather, their removal was part of a city “restructuring.” Davidson told the Sun PathNews that the “city’s previous organizational structure appeared to be ‘kind of jumbled,’ pulling her in different directions.”

Neither Olsen nor Davey were able to speak about the dismissals, but when the story broke, on October 15, Moab/Grand County citizens overwhelmingly expressed shock and anger. One Moabite complained via facebook, “Just read in the paper tonight. Truly sorry way to treat valuable workers. My respect for the City Council and how it allowed this to unfold is greatly diminished. And truly revealing about the City Manager.”

His comments were typical; I’ve yet to see a Moab resident come to the defense of the council or Davidson.

At the center of this controversy is the new city administrator, Rebecca Davidson, and the Moab City Council that hired her last Spring. The council’s enthusiasm for Davidson was unanimous; Mayor

David Sakrison.

Mayor David Sakrison.

Dave Sakrison told the Sun News last March, “Her experience was paramount. She’s had a broad range of municipal experiences dealing with large capital improvement projects, along with human resources. She covers the bases pretty well.” Council members were equally effusive.

In the same article, the Sun News mentioned some legal problems Davidson had encountered while serving as the city manager of a small community in Colorado in 2010, but, ” Sakrison and Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre conducted a thorough review of the dispute in Timnath, and McElhaney said that he and other city officials are reassured by their findings.”

Before her move to Moab, Davidson had been the city manager of Kemmerer, Wyoming, from 2012 to 2015; its mayor stated that he and other officials had “faith in her.”

And yet…the current upheaval at Moab City Hall seems to be a pattern for Ms. Davidson. Wherever she goes, dissension and turmoil follow.


Rebecca Davidson’s last job, before coming to Moab, was as the city manager of Kemmerer,

Wyoming,  population less than 3000. She arrived in Kemmerer in 2011; by the time she left Wyoming to assume her Moab duties, she had become one of the town’s most controversial citizens. The Kemmerer Gazette covered her tenure, from beginning to end, and from both sides.

From the start, Davidson moved to re-structure and streamline city government and removed and replaced several longtime employees in the process.  Some accused her of favoritism.  Public opinion about Davidson boiled over in a December 2012 council meeting, when Kemmerer’s mayor, Zem Hopkins, addressed concerns about the city manager. They were in reply to a letter to the editor from a former city council candidate, Connie McMillan.

McMillan “expressed concerns about current city administrator Rebecca Davidson, voiced her continued concerns about the loss of a number of Kemmerer city employees since March of this year.”

One resident complained, “My name is Jim Roberts. I have lived in Kemmerer for 70 years. I’ve been to two World Fairs, numerous circuses and I’ve never seen anything like the bunch that is running this town right now. You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

Other Kemmerer residents, including Ellen Potter, acting director of the Main Street Committee and executive director for the Frontier Arts Council, were supportive of Davidson.

The Kemmerer Gazette also, “asked two council members, Kelly Blue and Jim Burnett, about Davidson’s previous issues in Timnath prior to the August primary election. Both confirmed that the council was aware of Davidson’s employment history in Timnath and expressed their confidence in Davidson’s qualifications and abilities, as well as confirming their support for her in her current position.”

This is essentially the same conclusion reached by Moab officials when they inquired about Davidson’s difficulties in Timnath, Colorado.

And finally, according to the Gazette, “Davidson (said)  that the city was restructuring. None of the city’s vacated positions have been discussed during council meetings, which according to Davidson is not an issue as those employees report directly to her, not the city council, and therefore the vacancies do not need to be addressed in council meeting.”

(Here is a link to the full story. Please read it. All we can offer here are excerpts)


Before Davidson came to Kemmerer, she spent five years in Timnath, Colorado. Trying to follow the convoluted maneuverings of the Timnath story is difficult. I’ve relied mainly on news stories that aired on Channel 9 News, the NBC affiliate in Denver. In late December 2010, News 9 reported that the Timnath Council would meet to “discuss suspended town manager,” Ms. Davidson.

Timnath Town Hall. Colorado

Timnath Town Hall. Colorado

According to the report, “Davidson has been manager in Timnath since 2005, working on a contract basis until January, when she became a town employee. Separately, the town has also been paying her engineering firm, IB Engineering, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year…This summer, council members asked for an outside investigation into the town’s contracting and bidding processes. The report by a Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency investigator has not yet been made public.”

It also reported that Timnath’s mayor, Donna Benson, “with whom Davidson has clashed,” had also filed a law suit against the Timnath council, “over secret meetings to hear employee complaints about her. Davidson’s complaints about Benson’s interactions with town staff prompted the secret meetings.”

A week later, Davidson and Timnath were back in the Denver headlines when 9News announced Davidson had resigned. The “three-way deal” ended with Davidson’s resignation and the resolution of a $1 million law suit “brought by Loveland-based Gerrard Excavating Inc. against the 633-resident town and Davidson, who until last year was both town manager and the town engineer responsible for overseeing the Old Town sewer reconstruction project”


9 News Reporting on Timnath Controversy.

9News also reported that, “Davidson was suspended with pay last summer, several weeks after Town Council members received an audit of Timnath finances. Council members cited the need to ‘review invoicing, lack of documentation, fair treatment in the bidding process, town contracts and other processes’ in suspending Davidson but never offered any further specifics.”

The report noted that Timnath officials would not publicly discuss the matter and that, “both sides signed a non-disparagement clause and agreed to keep confidential a report about Davidson written by an outside investigator.” 


By the time Davidson accepted her new position in Moab, debate about Kemmerer’s departing city manager had reached a fever pitch. One Kemmerer-based facebook page became such a foul-mouthed, mud-slinging free-for-all, I’d be hard-pressed to find anything printable. But clearly, the town has been badly divided over decisions made by Davidson and the city council.

Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Davidson’s announcement that she was leaving came as a shock to many, including the Gazette, noting her sudden departure was “a surprise.” And while the mayor and city council wished her well, it made an unusual decision when the City Council, “voted 4-2 to restrict Davidson’s ability to hire and fire employees during her final weeks.” A majority of Kemmerer’s governing body apparently feared Davidson would fire or replace even more staff in the remaining few weeks of her job there.


Councilperson Kyle Bailey


In a recent Times-Independent front page story, city council members sought to rationalize their actions. The story noted that the council was well-aware that jobs would be lost to longtime public servants but, councilwoman Kirsten Peterson noted, it was necessary to, “manage the city for the best potential for all its citizens.” 

Councilwoman Heila Ershadi explained that the changes were necessary to, “allocate our limited taxpayer monies in ways that would best serve the current needs of the community.”

Councilperson Heila Ershadi.

Councilperson Heila Ershadi.

And in the T-I story, Mayor Dave Sakrison shrugged, “I feel bad about [Davey] and [Olsen]…I’m sorry that two people lost their jobs, but it’s our responsibility to taxpayers to make sure the city runs as smoothly as it can. It wasn’t a overnight decision.”

Sakrison is right about one thing—it wasn’t an overnight decision. Rumors that the city council wanted to purge some of its staff have been around for more than a year, which is why Davidson’s appointment should have come as no surprise.  Rebecca Davidson likes to ‘re-structure.’ Clearly she doesn’t mind ruffling feathers and creating controversy. That’s not an opinion, but rather a simple observation of her past ten years as a public servant. The Moab City Council must have been aware of Davidson’s background and her volatile tenure at both Timnath and Kemmerer before they selected her from more than 50 applicants. This cannot have been an oversight—THIS is exactly what the Moab City Council expected from its new city manager.

In any case, if conflict and dissent are what they want, it looks like they have a good start with their new city manager, someone who moves comfortably with that kind of baggage, from town to town and job to job.

The question is—do Moab’s citizens feel the same way?


Councilperson Kirstin Peterson.

Councilperson Gregg Stucki.

Councilperson Gregg Stucki.

Councilperson Doug McElhaney.

Councilperson Doug McElhaney.







Jim Stiles is Founder and Co-Publisher of the Canyon Country Zephyr.



Posted in Uncategorized.

17 Responses

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  1. Connie said

    The citizen of Moab need to demand the removal of Rebecca Davidson as city administrator. What is happening will be just the beginning you have no idea what the person is capable of.

  2. Georgia Hamblin said

    Better fire The City manager now! Restore Olsen and davey’s jobs and show Them The respect and honor they deserve for there many years of service!

  3. J.Moss said

    Better keep a close eye on Davidson she’ll run rampant and destroy your city. She thinks she is above the law. Question is she still driving on Wyoming Lic. plates instead of UT plates????

  4. V said

    Watch your city credit card statements, your computer systems, your grant monies, and the moving van. Soon ‘ someone will see something and then ‘demands’ to arrest regular citizens will be made. Keep or move your police chief reporting to mayor and council. Do not turn over all power to her. Watch for her side kick, you will be looking at harassment and not enough protection for that one.

  5. Lin said

    OMG, Moab wake up! As a former resident of Kemmerer I continue to follow goings on in the Kemmerer area. This individual will destroy what has been created in Moab to inspire individuals to the area. I feel for your little town, before you know it this individual will destroy many previous initiatives that have been implemented and funds will be in question. Please act before this happens and under the cover of darkness things come into question.

  6. G Hamblin said

    Please City Council have the intestinal fortitude to right the wrong decision to hire this woman! Her mental competence is in question! She has a history of over reaching her power and authority! Fire her now and correct the removal of responsible and dedicated employees! Your reelection may depend on how you now respond to the public outcry!‼️?

  7. John hartley said

    Should we be surprised? This person was hired by the same lame council that kept a city manager for twenty years who didn’t even do proper employee evaluations, for twenty years.The Dave and Donna show can claim new city offices and a wind power designation. Not much else! Hopefully the newly elected can see through this persons cloaking devices! We ignored poor management to enjoy a FRIRNDLY DAVES mayoral ACT!

  8. It’s hard not to grieve for Moab. And it’s unfortunate a city manager, paid by the citizens, is not elected.

    Ignoring Davidson’s shady history, it’s hard not to draw conclusions on what motivates her just by what she is openly saying and doing:

    “It’s a bigger city, nicer environment, it pays more and it’s the whole picture. . . . They have some development going on that I’m looking forward to being involved with. . . . The city is structured around tourism and it’s something I’m really excited about…” (Her statements about Moab, from the Kemmerer Gazette you reference above).

    Then there’s this I found from Denver’s ABC Channel 7:

    “7NEWS has learned that since 2009, Timnath will have paid Davidson more than $400,000 by the time her severance agreement is fully paid out…”

    That’s on top of income from the engineering firm you mention.

  9. Sabrina Randall said

    My husband’s family family has been in Moab for 7 generations now and I have lived in Moab since 1980, but after the city council elections and city office goings on I am thankful that we moved to San Juan county 3 years ago. Our town is gone and will never be returned and that is heartbreaking. Honestly don’t know how much more Moab can take. It is shameful that so many of us would rather leave than stay because we know it is futile to try to fight.

  10. City Worker said

    A more than reliable source told me that David Olsen and Ken Davey got hush money and signed an agreement not to protest their firings. These should be obtainable from a freedom of information request at city hall. The newspapers are not doing their job but rolling over for Davidson. They are leaving the real journalism to Jim Stiles. This is just the beginning of her waste of taxpayer money as she begins her fascist wannabe “leadership.”

  11. Citizen Blue said

    The city fired two people and hired replacement down level employees. Yes plural and hired additional consultants at higher cost. This only to increase staff administrative costs and created a bottle neck for decision making powers. Note the word “power”. The city council is lazy or naive or maybe just don’t care about its citizens. I will go with “naïve” as I hate to believe they are heartless, but it seems they just like to hear each other talk about how much they do “care” about Moab and its people rather than act on behalf of its citizens. The council is ultimately responsible for this poor decision, they are costing the city future jobs and revenues. This council has zero oversight on how the new administrator is spending tax payer dollars nor do they have any idea of the bulling that is going on behind closed doors. Good job, way to go on the “new” Moab.

  12. L.T said

    I said this from the very beginning when her bathroom mug shot was in the T.I. I knew from the moment I saw her it was going to be bad. Apparently I pissed mayor Dave off because he only leaves a less than 10% tip when he dined at the restaurant I work at.. SMH.. They both can go.

  13. Rusty said

    Mayor Dave is totally behind her, even after the latest resignation of the city works guy. I predict this will eventually cost him his office.

  14. Don’t the city “fathers” do background checks on prospective employees and request letters of recommendation? There’s a definite MO here and the empress has no clothes on.​ If this was the first incidence I could understand the naivety but this has occurred several times and is public knowledge. If the citizens of Moab, having the information (which, it seems, is not he​ar​say and can be supported) choose to sit on their hands and do nothing, they deserve what they get.

  15. Jane said

    Thanks Jim. I knew something was wrong the first time I met Rebecca. To think that she has managed to get rid of Jeff and is taking on our sewer treatment issues fills me with dread. Maybe the raw sewage going into the slough should be transported to her yard. I think Dave has lost his passion and judgment, maybe it’s time to retire. Wait, fire Rebecca first! Move on petition anyone? Maybe a legal fund for past employees?

  16. Dave said

    Something is rotten in Denmark! You better believe that the city has induced a coma into its ranks.

  17. Lin said

    KARMA has struck.

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