By: Alisha Thompson
Since September of last year, Davis residents have waiting to see if Gary Fielding’s claims of bribery and coercion against Davis City Manager Andy Holland will result in criminal charges.
It’s official, there will not be a criminal case regarding these claims.
In February of this year, Murray County Assistant District Attorney Robert Jaques announced that his office will not file charges against Holland.
In a statement to The Davis News, A.D.A., Jaques said “This office has reviewed the referenced matters and has concluded that no criminal violations have occurred. The controversy between Mr. Fielding and the City of Davis are civil matters to be resolved in the civil courts. The conduct and job performance of the City Manager are within the purview of the Davis City Council and the people of Davis.”
In September of 2021, Fielding addressed the council after he was asked to purchase a new split air conditioning unit for the Curio Shop after letting the City of Davis know that the air conditioner wasn’t working anymore. Fielding leases the Curio Shop from the City and, at the time, his lease had expired. City officials told Fielding they put in a window unit. Fielding was told if he purchased the new unit, the city would extend his lease. He would be required to pay the leasing fees for each year, too. The request didn’t sit well with Fielding.
Fielding went on to explain in the Sept. 13, 2021, council meeting that his relationship with Holland was strained and detailed two prior interactions with Holland. One in particular, Fielding had requested to put in a new ride at the over look and Holland said if he helped with sidewalks needed in the area, he would support the ride. He also asked to look at Fielding’s books for 777 Zip. Fielding was not happy.
The September meeting ended with City Attorney Mark Melton asking city officials not to speak on this matter because Fielding said he was pursuing charges against Holland. Melton said, in this case, Fielding was effectively suing the City of Davis. Holland never got the chance to publicly address these claims.
Holland is relieved that the A.D.A. has put this issue to bed.
Holland said that he addressed the contract issues with Fielding twice prior to the air conditioner going out at the Curio Shop. He said that the city made the choice to ask Fielding to pay for the air conditioner in lieu of raising the rent on the expired Curio Shop contract.
Holland maintains that this was a business decision and nothing more.
He went on to explain that the zipline was a business outside of the park. Holland said the Curio Shop has no influence for the park. “I’m investing in the long term,” Holland said. “The Curio Shop is a whole different matter. It (had) an expired contract. We are paying $1,650 a year on insurance. The rent is around the same cost. It costs me more rent to him than if I just closed it.” Holland said that he doesn’t know what the future holds for the Curio Shop. He said it hasn’t been worked into the master plan for Turner Falls Park.
“Last year I made some headlines on a number of different issues,” Holland said. “Sometimes the audience doesn’t necessarily get the full story. I try to be very transparent and informative as much as possible. When I do something, I want people to know the reason behind what I do.”
When Holland was hired he said he felt his experience managing contracts (in the Navy) would be a win for the city. Working with contracts, Holland is working with money and the money belongs to the City of Davis. “One thing is absolutely clear, I am handling public funds. That means every decision I make needs to be in the best interest of the public,” Holland said. “And I fight hard. I’m a hard negotiator. I believe I have been very consistent in that regard.”
Holland said he doesn’t treat anyone different when he does business with them.
Holland said that when he came on board he felt the need to manage Turner Falls Park before hiring Ricky Harness. Giving his full support to Harness, Holland said that Harness has handled most of the negotiations with Fielding. “The whole curio shop has pretty much been hands off. I have not had any specific discussion with Gary (Fielding) on that. I have turned it over to Ricky. That’s where it’s been,” explained Holland.
Melton sat in on the interview with Holland and added that “We are confident that nothing unethical, legal, criminal or civil occurred. It was a contract negotiation.”
Fielding is not happy with the A.D.A.’s decision and remains undecided on his next move regarding the claims he made against Holland last year.
“I am disappointed that he (A.D.A. Jaques) chose not to file charges against the City Manager of Davis, for what I believe to be extortion. I felt threatened when he said that we will renew your contract if you will put the air conditioner in. To me, that said that if you don’t put the air conditioner in, we will not renew your contract,” Fielding explained. “I thought that was very poor negotiations on the part of our city manager. Therefore, I contacted Craig Ladd (District Attorney) and he told me that it did not sound right but that I was wrong in that I should go to the Sheriff first and let him investigate it. Let him investigate it and him bring the charges rather than me going to the D.A. with charges. So, I did that. Again, I’m disappointed in that they chose not to file the case.”
Fielding asked D.A. Ladd what his recourse was and he was told it was civil.
With this announcement, Fielding was a man of few words but did have this to say “I do not believe the City Manager sought funds for himself but I think he was acting on behalf of the city in what the council had given him the power to do. Negotiate.”
Fielding said that he, in fact, dealt with Harness throughout the air conditioner issues. Prior to the issues with the air conditioner, he said he dealt primarily with Holland. “If you’re renting some place, you expect people to take care of the facility,” Fielding said.
Fielding’s contract for the Curio Shop was scheduled to be completed as of press time on Tuesday and signed at Tuesday night’s special council meeting. The contract for 777 Zip ends in March of 2024. Both contracts are supposed to have the same expiration dates.
While the A.D.A. concluded nothing criminal happened, Fielding still has the chance to purse this case through civil courts.