By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
Following controversy surrounding the suspension of a 15 year old Wellness 24 Fitness Center member, Chris Davis has resigned the Parsons Park and Recreation Board after eight years of service. The Parsons City Council addressed Davis’ resignation at their regular November 14th meeting. Davis addressed the issues surrounding his decision to resign in an interview with the Parsons Advocate on November 18th.
According to Davis, he and Courtney Barb talked after the Park Board Meeting on November 13th. “Me and Mrs. Barb actually following the Park Board meeting, had an opportunity to talk,” Davis said. “And I think there was a lot of miscommunication and lot of things you know looked at differently. We’ve had some past things that needed talked out and we were able to do that and at least get on some common ground.”
Davis said that he felt he came to some common ground with Barb following the meeting. “We both apologized,” Davis said. “That’s not the way things were coming across. We weren’t targeting anybody. There were things from another matter that were untrue and I think she kind of felt the same way.”
The resignation letter was sent prior to his conversation with Barb on the 13th, according to Davis. Davis did acknowledge that prior to his resignation letter that there had been social media posts made, but did not identify any individuals. “As I sent that in, there were some posts made on social media that were untrue. I’m not sitting in my home watching people on a video stream from my home.”
Council Member James Humphrey said he felt that Davis was wronged by the Parks and Recreation Board in regards to the incident. “In my opinion, I felt he got thrown under the bus by the rest of the Parks Board,” Humphrey said.“We are losing a big asset to this city because, in my opinion, the Park Board dropped the ball on Chris Davis.”
Council Member Tim Auvil denied that the Parks Board had wronged Davis in any way. “No, it was not us, believe me,” Auvil said. “I think that’s a false accusation. I talked to him. We exchanged text.”
Council Member Melissa Jones clarified Humphrey’s position on the controversy surrounding the incident. “What (Humphrey) is trying to say is that the Park Board, when it became a big Facebook post and accusations about (personal issues), well, the Park Board and the City did not take a stand to back him.”
Humphrey said he blamed the City of Parsons for what was happening. “I’m not only blaming the Parks Board,” Humphrey said. “I blame the whole City of Parsons.”
Auvil acknowledged that Davis was the target of unjust comments. “I agree,” Auvil said. “There was unjust criticism, unjust accusations, thrown at him and that’s why he’s resigning. He dedicated eight years. He was on the Park Board for eight years. I agree 110% we are losing a valuable asset.”
According to Humphrey, Davis had said he tried to contact the rest of the board and his phone calls were not returned. “I was told that nobody contacted him,” Humphrey said. “He tried to contact everybody. Nobody would answer his phone calls.”
Auvil denied the allegations. “No, I talked to him,” Auvil said.
Humphrey questioned Davis’ role in regards to reviewing footage from the Wellness Center. “I would like to know why he was the one in charge of running the cameras,” Humphrey said.
Auvil said that Davis was not the person designated to review camera footage. “No, he wasn’t the one in charge of overseeing the cameras,” Auvil said. “They are reviewed at the Wellness Center and here at the office.”
According to Humphrey, Davis had video evidence from the incident on his phone. “He showed me videos on his phone,” Humphrey said. “How did he get the videos on his phone if doesn’t have access to cameras?”
According to Auvil, Davis had become involved only if a violation was suspected. “If there is a violation, then he had asked to help to determine that because he’s there all the time,” Auvil said. “He’s over there more than all of us put together.”
Council Member Kathy DiBacco questioned Davis’ dual role at the Wellness Center. “I have a question,” DiBacco said. “When he’s working for Elkins Physical Therapy why is he policing the Wellness Center? I mean is Elkins Physical Therapy ok with that?”
Jones said that Davis did not police the facility when he was there as an employee. “From what I understand, I wouldn’t say it is policing,” Jones said. “From what I understand, it had been brought to the Park Board and Park Board requested that he keep an eye on things and if Mistee would call and say, ‘hey, so and so doesn’t have a membership’ he would graciously help.”
Humphrey said that Davis should not have been put in that position. “That shouldn’t be his job,” Humphrey said. DiBacco agreed. Auvil stated that Davis was a member of the Park Board, but state that Davis acknowledged that he was not a Park Board member while negotiations with Elkins Physical Therapy were ongoing over the use of the facility and abstained from any votes pertaining to his employer while on the Board. “He had nothing to do with that and it gives the Center 12-Grand a year that helps stay fiscally viable,” Auvil said.
Davis in his interview addressed DiBacco’s concerns about his role at the gym as a physical therapist. “That’s the big thing is everyone is saying that I’m policing the thing when I was there. The reality is I didn’t do anything like that when I was there. I think that’s some miscommunication, too,” Davis said.
Davis went on to say that the only time he would intervene at the facility was at the request of the City and then only in his position at a Park Board Member. “I’m not targeting anybody,” Davis said. “I’m not harassing anybody. The reality is unless Mistee over at the City would call and ask me to do something as a Board Member, that was about the only time I ever would say anything regarding rule stuff to people in the gym. Just because I’m there treating for physical therapy. That’s my main job. I’m a volunteer as a board member. “
Davis clarified the arrangement that Elkins Physical Therapy has at the Wellness Center. “The reality is we rent space,” Davis said. “So what I do there has no bearing on the City. Its nothing they are going to have any association with.”
Davis also addressed the concerns over perceived policing at the facility. “The reality of me leaving is its hard to do both,” Davis said. “If I’m just there working, I can’t be policing in a facility…I really didn’t say anything to anybody. That’s not what I’m there for.”
According to Davis, he spoke to everyone in the facility, but not in an official capacity. “I think that misconception that I am harassing all these people, I talk to everybody. If I said hi to them that might be what it is. There’s a few people there that didn’t like me from different things and that’s ok, too. I’m not running up and harassing them saying anything.”
Davis denied ever saying anything to Barb’s son at the gym. “Even with the Barb situation, you can say I was harassing him. I didn’t say a word to him when I saw him in there because I didn’t want this crazy, harassing situation talked about. Unfortunately, everybody took it that way and it kind of blew up on social media. And its disheartening that the public takes one word on things.”
During the meeting, Council Member Melissa Jones asked City Attorney Tim Stranko if the council could enter executive session to discuss the resignation. However, Jones was informed by Stranko that there was no exemption for the discussion in executive session because Davis was a park board member and not an employee of the City. As a result, the council was not legally allowed to hold discussion in executive session and instead was required to have an open meeting discussion on the matter. “You cannot go into executive session for this discussion.,” Stranko said. “It is not qualified as an exception.”
Davis outlined the reason for his resignation in a letter read into the record and supplied to the Council. “Due to recent circumstances and the personal attack against Me and my family as a Park board member, Consider this my resignation as of October 30, 2023 at 12:01 am. It has been my honor to serve with a good group of people and a city organization that is looking to improve things. Our parks system is one of the best in the area and the City Council and parks and recreation are to thank for that,” Davis wrote.
The next meeting of the City of Parsons City Council will be held December 5th at 6 p.m. at the Charles W. “Bill” Rosenau Municipal Building located at 341 Second Street in Parsons.