Brungardt said the issue with the family of Linda Baker may have stemmed from confusion over space and style requirements for columbarium markers.
STERLING - The mayor of Sterling says the city manager didn't know what he was talking about when he told 9NEWS that a city worker tried to keep "Jesus" off a cemetery marker.
Controversy over the alleged affront to religious freedom attracted national media attention and criticism in a Facebook post from former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Sterling Mayor Heather Brungardt says longtime City Manager Joe Kilobasa, who confirmed the story to 9NEWS last Wednesday, didn't check to see if it was true.
"I'll just say he hasn't made me very happy with this incident," Brungardt said. "This is the city where I was born and raised and it kind of makes us look like we're not the kind of city that we are."
Kilobasa told 9NEWS on October 16 that a family was erroneously informed that they could not put the word Jesus on a headstone because it might offend someone. Kilobasa said the cemetery manager was wrong to block the family's request and said the inscription would be allowed.
"It all started out with a cemetery employee who raised some concerns over it being a religious emblem and stated it may not be allowed," Kiolbasa told 9NEWS last week.
The City of Sterling now says the family was never told any such thing. The mayor says Kilobasa took the family's word for what happened and confirmed the information to 9NEWS without contacting the city personnel involved.
The cemetery manager has not returned repeated requests for comment, both before and after the airing of the October 16 story on 9NEWS.
Brungardt said Kilobasa's actions were discussed at a meeting Tuesday morning and would be a topic of discussion at Tuesday night's city council meeting. Brungardt said city council plans to discuss the issue in executive session at a November meeting.
"It will not just get brushed under the rug. We will be addressing this," Brungardt said.
The mayor declined to answer directly when asked if she still has confidence in Kilobasa as city manager or whether she would vote to keep him in the position he has held for nearly a decade.
Kilobasa did not return a call requesting his response to Brungardt's comments.
Brungardt said the issue with the family of Linda Baker may have stemmed from confusion over space and style requirements for columbarium markers. Brungardt says the cemetery manager informed the family that it could have the ichthys, the fish symbol of early Christianity, or the word Jesus engraved on the marker, but not both.
Baker's daughter-in-law, Stacy Adams, maintains that the family was originally told the word Jesus could not be included for space reasons and later informed the city's true concern was potential offensiveness.
"To basically call us liars, I'm really disappointed," Adams said. "But I do think that speaking up changed something and I'm happy for that."
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