On September 20, I was surprised to learn, via an email from the Moab Times-Independent, that I was one of five defendants in a civil suit filed by Moab’s then-City Manager Rebecca Davidson, her housemate Tara Smelt and Ms. Smelt’s IT company, Tayo, Inc. The pair accuses us of “defamation, “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and “intentional interference with economic relationships” of Smelt/Tayo Inc.” They’re also suing my publication, The Canyon Country Zephyr.

Click Here to Read the Full Text of the Lawsuit.moabcityhall

On the advice of my attorney, I won’t comment on the accusations levied specifically against me by Davidson/Smelt, other than to state categorically that they are false and we will in due time provide indisputable evidence to prove it. And, of course, the evidence is in the 14,000 word article itself. We stand 100% behind it.

However, I would like to offer this timeline.

The Zephyr began its investigation of the turmoil at Moab City Hall in October 2015; we spent hundreds of hours gathering documents, conducting interviews, filing FOIA and GRAMA requests in Moab and Kemmerer, Wyoming, requesting and reviewing reports from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, and assembling that mass of information into an accurate, comprehensive and fact-based article.

To ensure accuracy, on January 11, 2016, I sent 15 relevant questions to Ms. Davidson, seeking clarification on many of the issues she now accuses us of distorting or falsely reporting. Ms. Davidson never replied.

Click Here to Read the 15 Questions We Submitted to Ms. Davidson 

On January 25, 2016, I received a letter from Moab City Attorney Christopher McAnany  He replied briefly to some of the questions and advised me that his letter would be, “in lieu of any further response from Ms. Davidson,” though in fact there had been no response from Davidson at all. We included the 15 questions to Davidson and McAnany’s limited response in The February Zephyr article and on our Blog.

On February 1, we posted my 14,000 word, “What’s Past Is Prologue— Three Small Towns and Their Common Bond—City Manager Rebecca Davidson.” Not once in the eight months since the article’s publication did we hear from Davidson or Smelt or any complaint from them that the article was inaccurate or “defamatory.” Nor did they demand corrections of any kind.

Click Here to Read “What’s Past is Prologue–Three Small Towns and Their Common Bond–City Manager Rebecca Davidson.

 On September 13, Davidson was placed on “paid administrative leave” by the mayor, pending an investigation of “internal issues.”

On September 15, The City of Moab received The Zephyr‘s latest detailed GRAMA request.

On September 16,  Davidson/Smelt filed their lawsuit— though I’m sure, as Davidson states in her recent T-I comments, their lawsuit has “been in the works for a while…”

And finally, in a special meeting on September 30, 2016, the Moab City Council  terminated the contract of its city manager, “without cause,” effective immediately. The vote was 3-1, with Councilpersons Jones, Knuteson-Boyd and Bailey voting to terminate. Councilwoman Heila Ershadi voted ‘no.’ Councilwoman Derasary was not in attendance.

According to Davidson’s contract, she’ll receive “a lump sum severance payment equal to nine months of her Base Salary.” In Davidson’s case, reportedly $82,000. According to the Moab Sun News’ facebook page, “The city issued a brief statement on Friday, Sept. 30, thanking Davidson for her ‘hard work,’ and wishing her well in the future.”

The nine months pay is the same  provided to Davidson when she was terminated from her City Manager position in Timnath, Colorado, in 2011. A non-disclosure agreement, signed by Davidson and Timnath City prevented the City from discussing Davidson’s tenure there when she applied for the position in Moab. However, newspaper accounts of the controversial events in Timnath were easily available via a GOOGLE search and the Colorado media.

If the City of Moab now submits to yet another “non-disclosure agreement,” it will be repeating history, to the detriment of the citizens that the Council is elected to represent and serve. It does an almost unspeakable disservice to the employees who lost their jobs, or lived in fear of it, during this past 18 month nightmare.

 Finally, regarding the lawsuit,  I would like to note that my situation differs from my co-defendants. While Davidson/Smelt took issue with a specific Zephyr article, Janet Buckingham, Chris Baird, Connie McMillan and Annie Payne are being drawn into a lawsuit for simply expressing opinions, some of them at public meetings presided over by Moab’s Mayor and Council.

With the council’s September 30 decision, there is some hope that Moab can begin to gather the fragments of this broken community and try to make it whole again. In the 30 years I’ve been reporting on politics in Southeast Utah, I have never, ever seen a less responsive, or a more arrogant and insensitive governing body than the current elected Moab council and mayor. One thing is certain; each and every one of them owes its citizens a very public apology. And it owes the defendants in this ridiculous law suit an apology and an expression of support as well.

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

To read the PDF version of this article, click here.

To comment, scroll to the bottom of the page.

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14 comments for “Take it or Leave it: A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE DAVIDSON/SMELT/TAYO INC LAW SUIT…by Jim Stiles

  1. Kathy Cooney
    October 3, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Thank you, Jim. Love from Moab.

  2. Kathleen
    October 3, 2016 at 10:15 am

    So sorry to hear of this unjust attack.

  3. William Perritt
    October 3, 2016 at 11:35 am


    In my 30+ years as a journalist, I have yet to see anything like this suit. Despite our differences, I want you to know I stand with you, your publication, and the citizens named in this suit. I assume you are familiar with SLAPP suits and the risk of court sanctions they carry. I hope the court sees this for what it is and acts accordingly.


  4. Amber Liberty
    October 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    I love your articles and your paper!! Thank you!!

  5. Jennifer
    October 3, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Please support The Zephyr by becoming a Backbone Member/contributor. Any amount helps.

  6. Gay M. Stocks
    October 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    You are one great guy to report all the happenings in your paper. Miss the good ole day’s. If Mayor Tom had a problem he would work it out with you, person to person at Dave’s.

  7. Jan
    October 3, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    You did a very good job of finding the facts and presenting them. A job well done.

  8. Joane Pappas White
    October 4, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    Your original articles on this matter were very well researched and documented, as I have come to expect from your publication. Pay close attention to William’s comment on SLAPP lawsuits, as I would just love to see you and the rest of the defendants obtain a judgment against the plaintiffs that disgorges all of what, in my opinion, is unjust enrichment created by the liquidated damages provision of the employment contact.


  9. concerned local
    October 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    This woman tried to rent my house with an agreement to purchase within 6 mos as she was expecting a large sum if money???? Makes you wonder she had all this planned as she has done before??? This was about 4 mos ago,,

  10. Kevin S. Ficker
    October 29, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Dear Jim, Sounds like Ms. Davidson bamboozled enough of the city council to get her way. Even town council didn`t want to go against her. Utah needs an ” open meeting ” law where substantial issues are not allowed to be discussed in private. Violations are referred to the State Attorney General. Fine journalism as practiced by you, is always potentially risky. I think the courts will throw this one out.

  11. Pete Koutoulas
    October 30, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Keep up the good fight, Mr. Stiles. Such a shame that anyone with deep enough pockets can so harass those seeking simply to expose the facts. Real journalism is in enough trouble in this country without this kind of thing.

  12. joel
    October 31, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Dunno about an apology in this facile age of ours but a wad of cash to cover court costs would be a nice stocking stuffer.

  13. Leo Dutilly
    November 12, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Jim, thank you for all your hard work on this. It is a story that gives me faith in 4th estate that is rare to find these days when propaganda is legal and investigative reporting is rare. You sir and your writing are a breath of fresh air. I wish you well and a positive outcome to your law suit. Thankfully the truth is the best defense even in these times.


  14. Rob Fiedler
    November 19, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Ah, yes, trust me I’m from the government

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