Call it the Wastewater War.
City officials last week fired wastewater treatment plant inspector Dan Lauber for making a perceived threat against his supervisor, among other accusations.
But interim city manager Don Icsman said Lauber was only part of the problem at the plant, where an ongoing feud has divided the maintenance division.
"It's like the Hatfields and the McCoys over there," Icsman said, referring to the warring families in Kentucky. "They're fighting, and there's two sides, and behaving in all sorts of inappropriate ways."
Connie Nicholson, a human resources specialist at the city, said the feud has caused "tension and division" in the plant's maintenance department.
She said the city plans to offer more training to its employees about hostile work environments to try to extinguish the problem.
"In the division, it is true, they're definitely fighting," Nicholson said. "As I think we mentioned in the (termination) letter, there's been constant feuding and in that area -- I don't know if it reaches other parts of the plant -- but in that maintenance area, there's definitely tension and division."
According to his termination letter, Lauber cut out a headline from the Register that read, "Kromer found dead," and admitted he intended to give it to his supervisor, chief foreman Scott Kromer, with whom he had "known tension."
The newspaper headline referred to David L. Kromer, the suspected killer of Carla Westhofen. Kromer committed suicide in November. It wasn't immediately known if David Kromer and Scott Kromer were related.
During an investigation into Lauber's behavior, Lauber said the headline was "too good to pass up" and he "didn't think it was as severe as it has been made out to be," according to the letter.
He placed it in a desk drawer used by many of the main-tenance employees, where another employee found it.
The termination letter cited the headline, as well as the "constant feuding," as reason for Lauber's termination.
In addition to the perceived threat, the city also said Lauber didn't report an employee to his supervisors when he suspected that employee was working while intoxicated.
Two other employees, maintenance worker Andy Schoewe and union representative Jim Broshious, were disciplined for the same incident.
Schoewe, who first suspected the intoxication, didn't follow the city's drug training policy of reporting the employee and instead told Lauber.
Lauber also didn't report the employee and instead sequestered him, counseled him, and contacted Broshious.
The employee passed a Breathalyzer test early that afternoon and was not disciplined.
In response to the incident, Schoewe received a written reprimand. Broshious received an oral reprimand, a less severe discipline, according to the union's contract.
Nicholson said Broshious received a lighter discipline because "he was sort of dragged into it."
Icsman said all of the employees' actions are unacceptable.
"With all that's been going on, you'd think they'd appreciate their jobs more," Icsman said.
"Most of us here are doing more with less, and they're over there not doing the things they should be and not performing their job in a conscientious manner, acting like it's Animal House. It's frustrating."
Lauber, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, filed a grievance against the city.
The city is drafting a response, Nicholson said.