It should be noted at the outset that Mayor Colten Johnson and the Kanab City Council have confirmed they are satisfied with Emily Bentley’s performance in her role as Director of the Kanab Museum. Should this change, the Southern Utah News will provide coverage of that story.
With that being said, a public meeting regarding the Kanab Museum and sponsored by the Kane County Committee of Safety was held at the Kanab City Library on Tuesday, January 23, at 4:30 p.m. “Please come and help us get to the bottom of this disturbing situation” was the tagline written on flyers that were distributed online and around town.
About 50 people attended the event. A sheet of paper taped to the podium stated the goals of the meeting: “We ask that you [city council] look into the matter of items missing from The Kanab Heritage Museum,” and, “We ask that you [city council] address the apparent shift of focus and purpose of The Kanab Heritage Museum.”
Linda Alderman-Briscoe opened the meeting by introducing Shawna Cox, who presented several slides about the history of “Committees of Safety.”
Emotions were high as the meeting began. Some vigorous back and forth took place, but the facts of the meeting developed as follows:
Regarding the first goal: missing items at the museum. Only one person in the room reported a missing item. City Manager Kyler Ludwig told attendees that contacting the museum director or city offices about missing items is the best way to address that need and met personally with the attendee who reported one.
Regarding the second goal: a shift of the museum's focus and purpose. Ludwig reported that the word “heritage” was removed from the sign and name some time ago in order to reduce confusion with the Heritage House, another popular destination in Kanab, when using Google to search or navigate. According to Ludwig, there is no effort underway to shift the focus or purpose of the museum.
At one point, Ludwig noted that it was a shame that Emily Bentley has been personally attacked without provocation and despite her solid work with the museum. Linda Alderman-Briscoe replied that she knew Emily, she knew Emily was talented and that she knew Emily has done good work, but that she doesn’t think she should be the museum director.
Given this statement from Alderman-Briscoe, it is clear this is the heart of the matter.
Toward the end of the meeting, Mayor Johnson, seeking to clarify the meeting’s purpose, asked Alderman-Briscoe what she hoped to achieve. She reached back to grasp the document taped to the podium and held it up. Johnson said that he felt like there were two purposes, the first being an airing of grievances about changes at the museum back in 2016, and the second being that Alderman-Briscoe thinks Bentley should be removed as the museum director. He noted that whereas he understands the first purpose, both he and the city council are satisfied with Emily Bentley in the position and that there will be no change in museum leadership.
It was shortly after this that most of the audience departed, and the meeting was concluded.