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Prescott public works director involuntarily resigned in April

Former Prescott Public Works Director Henry (Hank) G. Zwart, Jr. accepted an involuntary resignation on May 15 that was effective April 2.

Per a RiverTown Multimedia open records request made to the city of Prescott, a complaint was filed against Zwart dated March 4 alleging that on at least 10 occasions, either Zwart or City Code Enforcement Officer Sanjeev Dhawan had been on a woman's property since she bought it in March 2014, without notifying her or knocking on her door. The woman, whose name was redacted from the report, said they sited issues with her shed (which she said was permitted properly), her driveway (which she again said was permitted properly) and a holding pond behind her house. She said most of the issues came from the holding pond.

On Feb. 22, 2018, the complainant alleged that without notification to her, about eight men were on her property behind her house, cutting down trees.

"I'm just trying to understand how I can pay taxes on this property and they can trespass and cut out my trees which were at the upper edge of the holding pond holding the embankment from washing away, and trees are vital for the environment," the woman said in her complaint. "I was told by Hank that they were going to spray all the vegetation which also holds the bank and stops erosion."

The woman alleged the tactics used by Zwart were both intimidating and threatening.

"Hank has been rude and intimidating, he has informed me that he is going to knock my shed down (the one with the permit), he has gotten within less than a foot from me," the woman stated in her complaint. "I'm a single woman, I follow the rules, have gotten permits for everything, I keep my property up and in good repair. But the heavy handed tactics make [me] feel threatened and intimidated."

In a memorandum sent from Zwart's attorney, Catherine Munkittrick, dated April 17 to the city of Prescott Personnel Committee, Munkittrick said Zwart was informed on April 2 that his employment with the city would be terminated.

"The reason given for this decision was 'resident complaints,'" Munkittrick writes. "Mr. Zwart asked for the cause of his termination to be put in writing and the City refused, based on the recommendation of the City Attorney."

Munkittrick went on to say that by the city's own policy it needed to give Zwart a copy of the complaint unless it may result in criminal charges. She said since Zwart was not provided with the complaint, he was put into a position to think that someone was pressing criminal charges against him.

According to a court records search, no charges were filed.

"Mr. Zwart was shocked when Ms. Brand told him the City was terminating his employment," Munkittrick wrote. "Mr. Zwart had no prior notice that this decision was coming. Mr. Zwart was never informed of any problems with his job performance. He was never given any verbal warnings. There are no complaints or warnings in Mr. Zwart's personnel file. Quite the contrary, the performance evaluation in his personnel file indicates that he exceeds expectations in every category."

The City of Prescott and Zwart reached a severance agreement signed on May 15. In the agreement it is agreed that Zwart's separation of employment from the City will be considered an involuntary resignation and not a termination. Zwart was given a severance payment of 160 hours at his regular wage of $35.65 per hour (with no accrual of vacation or sick time accrued on this), payment of 55 percent of Zwart's 282.4 hours of unused sick time at his $35.65 hourly rate, and an additional payment of annual vacation leave of $3,211.50.

Prescott City Administrator Jayne Brand said on the phone on May 9 that there comes a point when it is in both parties' best interest to separate from each other and that is what the City of Prescott and Zwart decided to do.

Munkittrick declined comment May 9, speaking for herself and Zwart.

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