Suspended Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer filed a notice of claim last month against the Town of Parker, Mayor Karen Bonds and Councilman Randy Hartless, the latter of which says he finds the claim “preposterous”.
Last October, Wedemeyer was suspended by the Town Council after a search warrant was executed at her home in connection with an investigation by the Yuma County Sheriff’s Department into possible wrongdoing at the Town of Parker. Hartless had been a vocal Wedemeyer critic, saying that she had been running the Town without proper accountability by the Council.
In her civil claim, Wedemeyer through her attorneys says that Hartless and Bonds filed false reports with the Arizona Auditor General, alleging that she had been involved in embezzlement by a Town employee, Jennifer Alcaida, and other wrongdoing. The claim cites Hartless’s message to the Auditor General, in which he wrote, “My concern is that you have no cast a large enough net over the Town of Parker,” and said he was concerned that Wedemeyer had been removing boxes and documents from Town Hall in the middle of an investigation into a Town employee.
“Mr. Hartless … made these statements maliciously,” the letter claims, while stating that Wedemeyer went to Town Hall at the direction of the Town Attorney to retrieve important bank statements and personal Amazon packages that had been waiting for her, not to destroy or remove documents.
The letter also takes issue with Hartless’s statement to the Auditor General that Wedemeyer had had “a history of shady financial dealings”, saying she does not have “any” history of such things.
In an email to Parker Live, Hartless said, “Yet they don’t even attempt to defend the gift card fiasco, where she handed out $48,000 in gift cards with no documentation, and when the auditors told her she had to claim that $48,000 as income, then [former mayor] Dan Beaver and [Councilman] Jerry Hooper decided to pay her $11,000 IRS bill with no input or knowledge from the council. Or the fact that she loaned $10,000 to councilman Chris Boatright several years ago. We asked her for credit card statements back in May of 2021 and she never produced them. Now we have them and there are numerous financial irregularities to say the least.”
Wedemeyer’s claim goes on to say that a search warrant was executed “just days after Councilmn Hartless and Mayor Bonds filed their false reports.” Hartless says this implies that the search warrant was based on his message expressing concern to the Auditor General, but he says the detective in the investigation has said his message to the Auditor General was “a very small part of the search warrant request.”
“Just silliness,” Hartless said. “Could a detective really obtain a search warrant based solely on my letter? Of course not – he interviewed a number of people before he ever requested a search warrant. And how could he review bank statements before he obtained a search warrant to do so? Preposterous.”
Wedemeyer’s claim goes on to say: “Accusations of stealing Town property and destroying documents can be proven true or false, and thus are actionable as slanderous statements.” But Hartless points out that his initial message to the Auditor General said she was “removing boxes”, not stealing.
Her claim talks about damage to her reputation, the destruction of her standing in the community, damage to her quality of life and ongoing stigma. It says, “It is anticipated that Ms. Wedemeyer will have to leave Parker, her home for the last 25 years, in order that she may escape the damage done to the person by scandal.”
It ends with a demand for $5 million in damages for her lost retirement, damaged reputation, and mental and emotional damages. It also demands $1,666,666.67 each from Hartless and Bonds, in the event that either of them want to settle separately from the Town of Parker.
But Hartless says it doesn’t have merit.
“Filing a $5 million claim in the middle of an ongoing investigation simply shows the desperate and preposterous lengths to which Wedemeyer and her legal team are willing to go in order to cash in before the truth comes out,” he told Parker Live. “The Town of Parker and the taxpayers continue to pay her $169,000 a year – around $6,000 every two weeks — and she has not worked since October, but she has plenty of money to hire lawyers and file outlandish claims that have no merit whatsoever. I cannot get three other councilmembers to agree that it’s time to cut bait and rid the town of her, so we will continue to pay her, probably until October, when her contract runs out.”
Hartless said he believes the investigation will reveal the truth.
“There is so much more to this story that Wedemeyer’s claim fails to mention, but I’m not at liberty to talk about it because of executive session rules as well as the simple fact that there is an ongoing criminal investigation involving the Town of Parker. When the truth finally comes out, I’m confident that I’ll be on the right side of history, and hopefully, we can move forward in a productive manner and put this drama to rest.”
Since the council suspended Wedemeyer, the Town, Hartless says, is finally running with “a proper council/manager relationship”, which is something that he says should have been happening all along.