03.19.2013 Littleton City Council Meeting

Citizen Minutes

Littleton City Council Meeting – March 19, 2013

Sandwiches, salad, bread chunks, cookies and soda was served for dinner.

Council moved to go into an executive session for the purpose of receiving legal advice regarding pending litigation and for the purpose of determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiation, developing strategy for negotiations, and instructing negotiators on potential annexation.

Bruce Stahlman and Phil Cernanec was absent.  Cernanec arrived at approx. 6:30.   I do not know when Stahlman arrived.

Citizens Appearances

Nancy O’Connor – A South Suburban employee retiring after 43 years of service was honored.

Alan English – Spoke about the Pathways students not being involved in what is going on in Littleton and he has done something about it.  If you are interested in getting involved in his effort to get the Pathways kids connected and engaged in Littleton email him at ajenglish_99@yahoo.com.

Larry Borger – Larry was not there but someone else spoke about the Crabapple Trail.  Over 40 years ago, as part of the beautification of Littleton, crabapple trees were planted.  This group has organized to care for and plant more crabapple trees in Littleton.  Boy Scout Troop 361 is assisting in their efforts.

John Watson – John expressed his concern about the over 1,935 luxury apartments that are in the works for the City of Littleton.  The economic impact of apartments is significant.  There were no infrastructure costs involved in the most recent rezone.  He has developed projects in several states and in several counties in Colorado and he has always been required to pay impact fees to offset some of the infrastructure costs that are required with each new project.  Littleton does not charge impact fees and they should be asking for them.  Littleton is an in-fill community with limited retail opportunities and they are not being used for economic development.  2013 03.19.2013 J Watson Opposition to Littleton Apartment Zoning-1

Unscheduled Appearances

Linda Knufinke – She gave a presentation to the council on the Alexan complex at Belleview and Santa Fe.  The complex has a “F” rating with the Better Business Buearu.  She looked at the financial impact the complex has on Littleton – it amounts to $51.44 per unit which she did not feel covered the additional costs to the city that the complex brought in police, fire, and infrastructure.  She then showed examples of actual comments from past and current residents of Alexan – parking is a big problem inspite of the project meeting the parking requirements as set by the zoning code.  The residents are not happy with the management at all. (follow the link to see Linda’s presentation)  2013 03.19.2013 Linda K Alexan_-_5151_Rio_Grande v2

Marty Brzeczek – Marty asked about the questions he presented to council several weeks ago about the severance pay for the City Manager.  He told the council that he hoped they would discuss the changes to the City Manger’s severance agreement before rubber stamping the decision as they had done in the past.

Leia Burkett – She told the council she really loves coming home to Littleton after a stressed day – it is nice to relax in our small town.  She loves the small town character but is afraid that will be lost if a station area plan is not developed for the downtown area around the light rail.

Carol Brzeczek – I spoke to council about their lack of transparency.  Their own rules state that they shall start their meetings at 7:00pm but the start time could be changed with a majority vote of the council.  However, their meeting times have been changed without taking a vote.

On Nov 6, 2012 council convened into an executive session to discuss personnel issued regarding Michael Penny.   Following the exec session council returned to regular session and without any discussion approved a motion to increase Penny’s salary by $5,000 per year.  The next two meetings of council were study sessions so no decisions could have been made.  Then on Dec. 4th there was another exec session to discuss pending litigation, medical marijuana lawsuit and settlement options, Amendment 64 on pending municipal court cases and personnel issues related to municipal judges contracts.

There could not have been any discussion of the severance/longevity pay for the city manager as it was not sited in the motion.  The minutes for that December 4th meeting state

Mayor Brinkman stated the City Manager’s pay has been increased by $5,000 annually and added a severance package, which is equal to one month of service, per year of service, up to one-year.  Council Member Cole removed 7d from the consent agenda. 

Black’s Law Dictionary defines severance pay as money (apart from back wages or salary) paid by an employer to a dismissed employee.  Such a payment is often made in exchange for a release of any claims that the employee might have against the employer.

You can call it what you want – but it is severance pay and it is in violation of Section 51 of the Charter.  I don’t care about the money involved but with your process.  If you think the charter needs to be changed then you need to follow the same process for doing so just as any other citizen.

I know you are tired of me coming here to address the OML – but I take it very seriously and you should to.  I wish I did not have to be such a cynic but the behavior of this council has not done much to build trust with the public.  You have broken your own rules and you have violated the open meetings law when it suited you.   The first violation I could over look, the second violation concerned me but the third and subsequent violations have put me on high alert – I have to watch because you are no longer trustworthy.

Doug Clark – told the council that the concern about the severance pay and the lack of transparency and open government might only be a distraction for the City Manager.  The Charter sets the amount of severance pay for the city manager.  If you want to change the Charter you need to go to the citizens.  In fact the council has already rec’d an opinion from their attorney that you would need to go to the citizens if they wanted to change the severance package.  So the council shopped around for an attorney with a different opinion.  Council has used executive sessions and now a third attorney and met in private when there was no legal requirement to do so.  He encouraged the council to reject the severance package to the city manager’s contract.

David Schwan – told the council he was surprised to see that the idea of charging for plastic bags was back in front of council  – had the council not heard about the additional larceny where the public was asked to pay or to use their own bags?  The reuse of cloth bags has also been shown to create sickness from cross contamination from the lack of the bags being cleaned and bleached.  He is also concerned about the council’s rush to find high density and more traffic for Littleton.  He did not recall that the recent survey results showed citizens clamoring for more density and more traffic.

Reports

Michael Penny presented his PR piece – Community Scorecard.

Bruce Beckman thought there needed to be a hard look taken at the TOD (transit oriented development) as it would be helpful in the future.

Jim Taylor thought the council should spend more time with the Planning Board to reach some kind of agreement on the future of our city.

Consent Agenda

Second Amendment to City Manager’s Employment contract – 2013 03.19.2013 CM Contract Amendment

Peggy Cole thought the council should find a way to compensate all employees at all levels and not just the city manager.  She also thought any longevity pay should be paid while the employee is employed with the city and not upon their termination.

Taylor moved to approve the 2nd amendment to the city manager’s contract.  Stahlman seconded

Beckman thought that a benefit package would help retain good employees.  But this is like a camel created by a committee.  He believes the amendment is difficult to understand and he did not want to endorse anything that would be tough for a future council to interpret.

Jerry Valdes was opposed.  He said there is not a tremendous amount of turnover in city manager positions.  There’s a domino effect in government.  They are always looking to see what others in government are being paid and everyone wants to be above the median pushing the median up.  What is the job worth?

Phil Cernanec – The compensation for the city manger is a tough discussion.  The questions is do we want to provide the city manger a benefit related to us wanting him to stay ?  Is it fair and competitive?  Yes!

Bruce Stahlman – Everyone is very pleased with the job the city manager has done as the CFO of a large organization.  The citizens are broadly enthusiasti  about the direction the city is going.  The citizens regarding the first cut at the amendment raised some issues and he took responsibility for not thinking it through.  So there was an attempt to fix it with the help of a third counsel.  He felt they needed to rely on their attorney that they were not in violation of the charter  – it was a good amendment to the contract.

Debbie Brinkman – she concurred with Cernanec and Stahlman.  The intent is to provide a mechanism to secure a qualified candidate in the most important position in the city.  The city manager can be fired by a majority vote – there are a lot of risks with the job – risks we have the responsibility to assume also.  This is clearly not a severance package.   This is a long bonus.  E heard comments and needed to look at it again.

Peggy Cole said it is severance pay since it is not given until he is severed.  She would prefer the pay be given when it was earned.

Motion passed 4/3 with Valdes, Beckman and Cole dissenting.

Second and Final Reading on Designs by Sundown/Breckenridge Brewery Rezoning – This was approved 7/0.  From all appearances of the project it may well be the most beautiful place to be in Littleton!  Information is online at the city’s website if you are interested in details.

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