City Council Regular Meeting July 5, 2016 – Reconsideration of the Firing of Michael Penny

City Council Regular Meeting                                Citizen Minutes – July 5th, 2016

This set of minutes is very long – 26 pages.  But there was significant discussion among the council members around the firing of Michael Penny.  A very good meeting and it is worth the read.  It is not as timely as I like to get the minutes out but it was important to get it right – at least the content portion!  I am behind but will try to catch up with the other outstanding minutes.

 

Agenda

Peggy Cole asked a question about item 7c – what are we being asked to reconsider? Phil Cernanec said the vote from the last meeting. Jerry Valdes said he would be happy to do that. Peggy asked Jerry if he was willing to suspend council rules in order to do that and Valdes said no. Bruce Beckman stated that the rules allow for reconsideration is done during the same session, which a matter is brought up. Reconsideration ends at the end of that meeting. Cernanec suggested that they could possibly work with the rules and would like to do that once they get to the agenda item.   Beckman determined to leave the item on the agenda and determine whether or not they want to suspend their rules to reconsider at that time.

Citizen Comments on Consent Agenda items and General Business items.

Paul Bingham – supported the abolishment of LIFT (Littleton’s urban renewal authority). There are a bunch of reasons why. He asked that they amend section 2a – an audit of their books that needs to be done and any money left needs to be returned to the city to fix our streets.

Carol Porter – Carol read excerpts from both Debbie Brinkman’s and Bill Hopping’s emails written to all city staff apologizing for the firing of Michael Penny. (Both emails are on the Blog if you are interested in reading them.) She asked council to censure both Hopping and Brinkman for blatantly disregarding and conscientiously disrespecting their offices. They violate the city charter section 32 council not to interfere directly with staff and they disregarded their own protocols. She was particularly critical of Brinkman for criticizing her fellow councilmembers by calling them incredibly insane and called for her removal as mayor pro tem knowing that she violated the council protocols and standard of conduct.

Carolyn Bradish spoke in favor of urban renewal saying it was a bad idea to take it off the table completely. (The abolishment of LIFT would not prohibit the use of urban renewal in the future – future projects could be brought forward and if worthy the citizens of Littleton would ratify their approval. The current four plans did not have to be ratified by the voters of Littleton as they were rushed through the approval process in order to beat the voters at the ballot box on March 3, 2015.) She also spoke about the interim city manager saying it did not appear that there was one and she was concerned about “this city council” to hire a new city manager.

Pat Cronenberger – mentioned she had heard a rumor that the Protocols as an agenda item were due to Brinkman’s email to staff – she hoped that was not the case. She said Brinkman was only guilty of being a human with emotions.   The firing of Michael Penny will go down as an ugly. She thought there had been several transgressions of their protocols by others in the past.

The agenda item regarding the interim city manager contract signaled a search for the new city manager. She thought the council should schedule a session with Sam Mamet (Colorado Municipal League) on what it means to be a policy making body. She thought they needed a refresher course telling them they did not understand their role and they were setting the new city manager up for failure without training.

Julie Devon – read a letter of no confidence in Doug Clark, Peggy Col, Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes. A few citizens followed her reading by reading off a list of names that had signed their letter. (It has been reported that several of the names on the petition were not citizens of Littleton. In fact, the letter states that they do not need to be a resident of Littleton to sign the petition. I will include the letter as it was circulated although I do not believe it was read in its entirety.)

 

Karen Milspaugh concluded the reading of the names asked for reconsideration of his firing or at least rehiring Michael Penny placing him on a work plan for Michael Penny.

Arthur Resick (sp?)- Asked to remove the agenda item to abolish urban renewal. He thought it was very important for Littleton to flourish through urban renewal and to make the tax dollars available to Littleton. (He is referring to the tax increment financing that takes taxes from the schools, park district, the city, the county and urban drainage to diverts them to LIFT to develop UR projects of which we have none but LIFT is collecting increment.) He stated his lack of confidence in the four councilmembers that fired Michael Penny.

Allison Resick (sp?) – She was disappointed is what was going on – Michael Penny is one reason why they moved from Jeffco to Littleton.   She was very, very, very sad and hoped that the fences could be mended.

Jeanie Erickson – thought abolishing urban renewal was a wonderful idea and it won’t hurt anything as Littleton is developing on its own. Let the taxing entities keep the tax dollars they are entitled to receive. She expressed her confidence in the four council members that supported the firing of Michael Penny and praised them for having the courage to make a tough and controversial decision.

Chuck Reid – asked for the abolishment of urban renewal to be removed from the agenda. To throw away the tool would be a detriment. (Again, the abolishment of LIFT would not prevent the future use of urban renewal in Littleton.)

John Watson – expressed his confidence in the council majority. He agreed with the abolishment of urban renewal and was not in favor of corporate welfare. There are mounds of plans sitting on the counter of the planning area just outside the council chamber, which is evidence that we can develop without subsidizing projects.

Carol Brzeczek – Referred to the Littleton Awake letter of no confidence pointing out the errors in their representation of the Sunshine Boys. To set the record straight she said Sunshine is a group that meets once a week – all meetings are open for one and all and there are usually 30 to 40 people that show up to talk about what is happening in Littleton. They collect food and necessities for the military reserves and have assisted home owners that were having difficulty maintaining their property by showing up in force to do what needed to be done to get them off the code enforcement watch list.

There are no members, there are no dues and there is only one rule – only local issues are discussed. That has been the success of the group of republicans, democrats, libertarians, a John Bircher and unaffiliated voters.

Sunshine has never been in front of council advocating one way or the other on any issue since she started to attend the meetings in 2005.  But there are several people that have attended Sunshine that address council regularly.

Did Littleton Awake get Sunshine mixed up with CRD?

– Citizens for Rational Development sponsored 301 on the limiting of executive sessions that led to the very public firing of M. Penny.  9,234 citizens agreed with them.

– Citizens for Rational Development sponsored 302 that requires a super majority for all zoning changes that are controversial – 7,203 citizens agreed with them.

– Or, Your Littleton Your Vote that sponsored 300 giving voters the right to approve urban renewal plans that use tax dollars for funding and eminent domain – in a special election 5,755 citizens agreed with them.

– Or, perhaps, Advocates for Littleton which is another group that is suing the city for the lack of due process in the zoning of The Grove – citizens have raised over $30,000 to advance the law suit – hardly a small group of Sunshine attendees.

– Could their claim go all the way back to the WalMart fight – when 7,878 citizens voted to overturn a council decision?

Frank Atwood invited everyone to attend a Sunshine meeting each Friday at 9 am. (Meetings are at the South Fellowship Church’s Connections Room just a few doors south of Solid Grounds.)

Linda Knufinke – said the decision to fire Michael Penny has been made. Michael Penny, reinstated, would not have the confidence required of a city manager. Performance plans never work at that level of a position. What’s done is done – move forward.

Pam Chadbourne – commented on the agenda item dealing with signage (was postponed due to more legal issues being resolved). At the study session the only reason sited for the update of the code was based on a recent Supreme Court ruling. There was no mention of “third party signs”. (This is a reference to the new signs in downtown Littleton that are left without inserts because they are third party signs and our sign code does not allow third party signs. So the new signs put in place by Michael Penny violate the city code. The city code will have to be changed in order for the signs to be completely installed.) She thought Michael Penny was not a good city manager – the decision needs to be behind us. She confirmed that they are a policy making body and they need to make decisions on growth, housing, and traffic. She thought the complements for Michael Penny were not meritorious. Get rid of the bad UR and do not be fearful that the voters of Littleton will support well-founded urban renewal projects.

Vanessa Mackey (sp?) – owns a downtown Littleton business and said that the area has changed. She opened her business eight years and three months ago when it was a ghost town and it is now thriving. She believes Michael Penny was responsible for the change and asked that he be reinstated.

Marty Bolt – a 53 resident of Littleton said we all love Littleton but we have different viewpoints. It would be a huge mistake to reinstate Michael Penny. Urban renewal needs to be addressed. Amendment 300 only asked for one thing – the right to vote on what is done in our city. There’s no way in current law for the public to address urban renewal. There were outside forces that came from out of state in the form of financial contributions and real estate professionals ($73,000) to kill our right to vote. Yet, 60% voted Yes for our right to vote.

Cherie Chism – offered her support and confidence to the four council members that voted to fire Michael Penny. She heard her fellow citizens speak about their loss of confidence and cautioned them for accepting the opinions and views of others without doing your own research – it is dangerous and irresponsible. Come to the meetings and learn what the issues are and make your own conclusions as opposed to being handed your talking points by a handful of people that have ulterior motives that may not end up aligning with your own principles. It wasn’t until she just recently began attending the council meetings that she really began to understand what goes on in our beloved city. She said anyone of us could stand up and read off a list of names but what she wanted is for those people to actually learn first hand what the issues are and what they mean to all of us. Until then, reading a list of faceless people means nothing. She thanked Cole, Valdes, Clark and Beckman for their courage and said they stand behind them.

Don Bruns – he said anyone who watched the meeting knew how difficult and strained their decision was to make. He expressed his confidence in the four and appreciated their commitment to ethics, truth and not the falsehood they had been confronting.

Consent Agenda

5a. LIFT – pulled by three members – Phil Cernanec got the credit for pulling

5b. IGA Open Space funds for Runyon Elementary School Playground Renovations

5c.   IGA Open Space funds for Phase 1 River Integration at Hudson Gardens

5d. Request to table Resolution 31-2016 to August 2 city council meeting approving the Amended and Restated IGA establishing the Chatfield Watershed Authority

5e. Certification of the June 7, 2016 regular meeting minutes

5f. Certification of the June 14, 2016 special session meeting minutes

Motion to approve 5b, 5c, 5d, 5e, and 5f was approved 7/0.

5a. Abolishment of LIFT and Repealing of the Urban Renewal Plans – Phil Cernanec, who was absent for the joint study session on UR, said he thought there was support from LIFT and the planning board to consider retaining the Columbine Square, Littleton Blvd, and the North Broadway UR plans. These are areas of emphasis and he was not aware of other financing alternatives available for the public infrastructure that might be needed in those areas and asked for a staff report before further consideration. (What Cernanec is saying is this – because he doesn’t know how the future infrastructure needs in these areas will be funded he does not want to abolish UR because doing so would eliminate the use of the taxes diverted from the schools, parks, city, county and urban drainage to the urban renewal authority to be used for infrastructure needs. However, the UR law was not written to provide a revenue stream to the city, through UR, to pay for infrastructure. The law was written to provide a funding mechanism and a decision making body, not subject to any thing other than the law, to rid a community of slum and blight that is contributing to the spread of crime and disease; something missing from all current UR plans.)

Bruce Beckman said they have a single topic rule and he preferred to have at least two ordinances brought forward – one to deal with the abolishment of LIFT and the other repealing the plans.  He did not want to rewrite from the dais. He mentioned that the legislation information in front of them mentions the debt of the LIFT board and he was not comfortable forgiving the debt. He asked for a factual statement of LIFT’s debt. He was looking for a better way to “do this.”

Bill Hopping said he also had issues – it is a major move to do this. It sounds like there is still meat on the table. He attended the Community Conversations (he referred to the Community Conversation as a Sunshine meeting – they are two very different meetings and groups with some overlap just depending on who shows up for which meeting) on UR and thought they should postpone indefinitely and move forward pending a council discussion. Beckman asked him if he wanted to make a motion and Hopping said he thought he had. He then moved to postpone Ordinance 5a abolishing Littleton Invests for Tomorrow urban renewal authority pursuant to 31-25-115 (2) and ending the city’s urban renewal plans pending further study by council. Cernanec seconded.

Cernanec said they typically get a staff report and he wanted to have a report from the planning board and LIFT knowing it could take five years for a project to bubble up. Lumping this altogether is not a thoughtful way to proceed.

Peggy Cole asked for a date certain and one or two study sessions on the subject before the end of September to get answers to the questions that have been tapped danced around including the cost of being in a holding pattern. Clearly there are questions that several of us have and it would help to have the answers. She moved to a date certain with a first reading on October 4th. Amendment passed 6/1 with Hopping voting no and the main motion passed 7/1 with Clark dissenting.

Acting attorney, Ken Fellman, asked council members to submit their questions to the city manager before the study session. Responses can be provided in a memo from Mr. Hoffman hoping to begin to address your questions.

5e and 5fClark continues to pull any motion on the minutes from the Consent Agenda in order to be able to vote no. He continues to support a written accounting that is approved by the council as the official record as opposed to a video accessible online.

Ordinances on First and Second Reading

6a. – Request to continue the public hearing and second reading of Ord. 7, which would amend chapter 3 of title 4 and chapter 20 of title 3 of the city code concerning the regulation of signs.

City Clerk, Wendy Hefffner, explained that they needed to postpone action but in order to do so they needed to open the public hearing. The ordinance needs more legal work.

Jerry Valdes said this is all over the signs the city approved for the Main Street area that don’t meet city code; is that correct? Mike Braaten said this is both to address the constitutional issues decided by the Supreme Court as well as the clarification of the downtown signage. It is not all the signs but specifically the blade signs. Valdes asked again – they don’t meet code – correct? Braaten said true.

Beckman opened the public hearing. Jeanie Erickson had signed up to speak to the issue and would not be available for the future open hearing and was prepared to address council; they allowed her to do so.

Erickson said she hoped the next city manager and staff would be able to read the city code so they know what is legal in the future so codes don’t have to be changed to accommodate an error. She did not think the signs matched the historical character of downtown.

The motion to move the public hearing and second reading to July 19 was passed 7/0.

General Business

7a. Interim city manager discussion/appointment and authorization for city attorney to draft an interim city manager employment contract. Beckman said Section 50 of the city charter is the guiding principle. The deputy city manager fills the city manager’s position in the absence of a city manager. Mike Braaten is doing that. Council may appoint an interim city manager for up to one year.

Braaten was asked to approach the current executive staff for an interim city manager. Mark Relph was the only one interested and he has the support of the other executive staff members. Mike Braaten is not interested in the job.

Beckman said if Relph is interested in the position he will need a contract and it will need a “roll back position” in order for him to return to his role as public works director once a new city manager is hired. A salary needs to be determined as well.

Cole asked about the public works department if Relph takes on the interim position.

Cernanec was concerned about taking a key department head that deals with infrastructure and transportation issues and put the additional burden on him. Relph was involved in discreet discussions about the Grove. He would like to interview more than one candidate. He preferred someone that has been through the wringer and someone outside the city politics. He wanted to discuss Tim Nimz who is very familiar with the process. (Current director of the museum who took over the library directorship when Marjorie Smith retired a few years ago) This is our direct report and he wanted to make a good decision.

Relph said a true test of a leader would be to make the department so effective that they don’t need a director. But, that is not the case. The operation side of public works just needs a manager to lead. But, the engineering side would be a challenge. He would have to stay in touch but was confident that he will be able to manage.

Brinkman asked if they have an interim does that mean that are not going to do a search for a permanent replacement – is this in lieu of a larger search?

Beckman said no, restating the charter provision for an interim for up to one year. HR is working on a recruitment process; a draft RFP is being sent out.

Cernanec wanted to see an interview process with more than one from the director position within the city. He wanted someone with experience of the budget process and someone without large budget items. He was concerned about how they were going to pay for some of the large items in Relph’s budget that would be somewhat controversial. And then there is the unresolved court case. He may be the best qualified but he still preferred to go through an interview process.

Hopping asked if there was anyone else interested in the position and Braaten said he asked twice and both times the answer was no.

Beckman said there was another alternative – there are circuit riders – city managers that make a career out of coming in for interim positions. He expressed concern over bringing someone in not familiar with city issues and the budget issues. Relph is already in tune.

Brinkman said she was concerned – Mark has been great as a public works director for the past year but how is he going to juggle both jobs with the current situation. She wanted to reach out for an interim city manager and interview for more options and choices. It has not worked well in the past just to move someone in.

Valdes was ok saying the interim needs to know what is going on and supports Mark.

Beckman asked Mark Relph to provide the council with his background. Relph has been in this business for nearly 30 years. He spent most of his career on the Western slope. He was the public works and utilities director in Grand Junction for nearly 16 years. He spent the last nine years working for the city of Shoreline, WA.   His experience in Shoreline was invaluable. While in Grand Junction they completed probably the largest public works project financed entirely by a city in the state of Colorado supported by a public vote. He was hired by the city of Shoreline specifically to negotiate the water utility from the city of Seattle and create their own water utility. He said it is not just “me” – it is about public engagement; it is listening. The training they had a few months ago – he attributes his success to following those principles.   He enjoys this work because of those principles. It is the interaction with the community that he enjoys and that is why I he’s there. Littleton is a fantastic community and he would be honored to be the interim city manager.

Brinkman asked about his experience with contract negotiations since the police and fire negotiations are coming up.

Relph said his most relevant experience was in Shoreline. Washington is a union state for public employees and Shoreline was one of the largest cities in Washington not unionized and that was by design. He has extensive interaction with unions maintaining the culture that did not want to bring in unions. It was almost a daily action to maintain the relationship with the employees was pretty solid. He said no matter where this goes he would be the first inline to support their decision.

Hopping said they needed to consider the shock to staff – they will flounder until rooted. Someone within the organization will help to settle them sooner. He was impressed with Relph’s skills – if he is confident and staff is comfortable Hopping heartily endorses Relph.

Clark – ditto.

Cernanec repeated that he would like to interview Relph to hear his plans for the city and others. He did not want to limit council to one option.

Brinkman agreed with Cernanec. She was not prepared to make a decision now.   She mentioned the “angst” over the Grove issues – what staff had done or not done. Relph sat in on some of the meetings. If we get rid of one city manager for the same reasons she could see some conflict there and would feel better with interviews.

Clark was not comfortable going outside with circuit riders. He generally likes to interview but there was only one volunteer. This is the appropriate action. Any department head will have the same problem of juggling both jobs. Tim Nimz would have the same problem and Clark was willing to go with Relph.

Beckman informed the public that this was not a decision they could have in an executive session – the Charter is clear. In order to proceed we need a vote. The city attorney (acting – our city attorney Kristen Schledorn is on a leave of absence) can develop a contract with a roll back provision and a salary.

Fellman said Relph has a contract with the city as the public works director and it may be as simple as amending his current contract with the roll back provision and salary which can be addressed as a percentage increase of his current salary or a number of ways it can be done.

Clark thought there was a policy for dealing with the salary for an interim city manager.

Braaten said the policy had been changed over the past few years. (Personnel policies are not changed by council but by the city manager.)

Clark said he preferred to use the policy.

Beckman moved to direct the city attorney to prepare a contract to hire Mark Relph as acting city manager and to work with HR director to put a salary range to be determined and prepare a resolution.

Cernanec tried one more time to have an interview next week.

Beckman considered Cernanec’s plea finding time on the July 12 council meeting to conduct an interview at that time.

Motion passed 5/2 with Brinkman and Cernanec dissenting.

7b Council’s Standard of Conduct and Protocols Discussion

Beckman said he thought it was important that council members do not send emails to all city staff. The current protocols do not address sending emails to all city staff nor does it address the language used that would result in a disciplinary action for an employee if used.   He suggested a future study session be held to discuss and include language addressing these issues in their protocols. He said council does a lot by email and they are lagging behind. It has a tremendous impact on employees – they have specific rules and council’s protocols need to reflect the same expectations.

Clark said he was surprised that the security system on the email was set to allow anyone to send an email to all city employees. Seems to be a shortcoming in the IS security protocols that probably needs to be fixed. There are two issues:

  1. Following the rules
  2. Who do we want representing us as mayor pro tem?

The council elects both the mayor and the mayor pro tem and if you have one of them campaigning against other council members that’s a problem and we have a problem. It is not a question of knowing what the protocols are, it is a question of just deciding to go off and do it. If we really want to move forward and select a city manager we have to get over this name calling that is happening. I am not adverse for council people advocating strongly for their position, he has done that. I think when you are the mayor or the mayor pro tem that there are obligations and limitations that come with that position and if you are not willing to accept the limitations you should not take the position.   He was disappointed that Brinkman’s email went out to all city employees – he was disappointed in the language that was used in the email that seems to be a continuation of the problem we had with the city manager, in his opinion. Debbie has a right to stir up the citizens as a council person to come up with a vote of no confidence but not as mayor pro tem to stir up a vote of no confidence for the majority of the council because part of the job of the pro tem is to represent the council. Adding another item to the protocols will not really change anything. Frankly we all know how to behave and if we don’t we shouldn’t be elected.

Valdes said her email was harsh and Bill’s was when he referred to everyone as cowards. And Bill has used derogatory remarks when referring to the mayor over the past couple of months. Debbie did apologize and he accepted her apology and was hoping that city council can come together and not make derogatory comments about each other from time to time.   We make decisions, as individuals, that we think are the best for the city and he would not like all votes to be 7/0. He appreciated Doug’s comments and was OK with Brinkman as mayor pro tem.

Hopping – Jerry, you said comments I made were harsh when the mayor made a motion some months ago that everybody thought was a stunning or at least he did. He did apologize and if I remember you wrote an email to all of council in violation of protocols. We all have violated council protocols. The elephant in the room is there is very good evidence that the decision to fire Michael Penny was not made a in the open. It was reported in the Independent, the first I heard about it was when it slipped from you. I mentioned to you the occasions I felt like people walked into the room with their votes in their hand. There’s evidence in a text exchange between several council members that includes references to other council members that were told about this vote and some three weeks before the vote occurred. There’s a lot happening out of the public eye where four council members have cut off three other council members.

I am a team player but never had a team where four people ran off and did something different. Sun wasn’t shining. I first heard about abolishing UR when Beckman said there were four votes to disband it. This is the elephant in the room and to hide behind a protocol conversation about this bigger issue is a smokescreen. I want to get this council on the same page. Making a decision on a city manager that precluded three districts being represented. That’s the real issue – not inappropriate letters to the staff.   Hopping said he would like to make a motion to try to get the council to work together. Someone in the audience laughed and he pointed his pencil at the audience (actually me!) and said go ahead and laugh – and that’s part of the problem because I don’t think you think it is possible and I don’t care for that reaction. (At this point I was indicating that the laugh did not come from me.) Hopping then said, “Whoever laughed – I don’t know who it was.” (I mention this because it is part of the problem – not only does the council not interact well among themselves but the public is, at times, not treated well either.)   He moved to immediately suspend action on any council member introduced motions and work with a mediator to determine and implement more effective working relationships and actions until such time city council votes by a super majority of 5 to 2 to resume addition council introduced motions under fair, open and transparent conditions as defined by the Colorado Open Meetings Law (OML). The issue is the OML was not followed in the firing of Michael Penny and we have an opinion from a lawyer at the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition that that was the case.

Brinkman seconded the motion.

Beckman said it would be in violation of the Charter. The Charter directs council to act by motion, resolution or ordinance – we are obligated by the Charter to act in that way. We don’t get to change the Charter.

Hopping said it was a proper motion but deferred to the attorney.

Fellman said the mayor is correct. The bigger concern is under the Colorado OML the agenda needs action items to be on the agenda so a citizen has an idea of what will be debated and decided.   This was not on the agenda – appropriate to have the discussion but at a future meeting if desired once noticed on the agenda. (This has been brought to the attention of the council in the past by a citizen but was simply ignored. Glad to have an attorney make the statement.)

Hopping withdrew his motion and urged council to consider how to get back on the same track. He didn’t know what suggestions “you people have” or did they just want to charge ahead with their 4 to 3 group or do you really want to have a hear to heart about how this is going. There are three items – the city manager, urban renewal and the streetscapes – all had the votes in hand when you came into the room. It really felt like that. Need to address that, how we work as a group and how communication goes because one of our protocols is evenness of information and when the mayor comes in and says I have four votes that means he has already had conversations with four people and hasn’t even bothered to tell the others.

Clark said repeating feelings and making pronouncements of fact isn’t getting us where we need to go.   I have a concern about communication only going to certain council members and in fact that was happening with the city manager. A specific example related to the minutes when the city manager said he had gotten statistics off the web site on how many hits there were and how many searches there were for minutes and sent that to four council members rather than the seven. That is an issue that has been brought up before – Jerry has brought up the issue multiple times. I have a problem with that. That’s not the only example. I agree that we have a problem with information going out to a subset of council members. Stop making accusations based on feelings and not substantiated. We have a problem with the city manager, ex city manager, meeting with some council members and giving them information that the other councilmembers don’t get. I can make suppositions that it happens based on questions that come up in council meetings but it is supposition. If we want to go forward I would suggest that you stop making accusations that you can’t substantiate that are based on your feelings or what you think you are observing and that we go forward.

Brinkman said she was elected in 2007 and has always behaved with the highest level of respect to the office, chosen her words well and deliberate and what she has to say. June 14th continues to be painful. There were 450 people that were not in the room watching and they had to come to work the next day. She couldn’t sleep. She did not apologize for the sentiment or apologize for sending the email to all staff. There was no city manager at that time so she did not violate the city charter. It was probably inappropriate. I have apologized to the council members and to the community on Next Door. She did not see her position as pro tem any differently as any other council member. She was not surprised by Clark’s position, as he did not support her for pro tem. When we misstep, we apologize and should move on. We need to get in a room without the public and hash this out – we can’t and that is why we are where we are.

7c. Request for Reconsideration of Michael Penny’s firing

Cernanec said action items need to be posted – was the action to fire Penny legal? We have an opinion by an attorney that there was an illegal meeting. He displayed on the overhead a copy of a text message saying that Cole, Valdes and Clark may have all been included in this chain. The text read:

  • From Bruce to his wife: Hi honey. Peggy has lost confidence. She’s asking to see who else has. FYI
  • From Jerry Valdes to Bruce: I told Peggy that I was not interested in firing Penny at this time
  • From Bruce’s wife to Bruce: You should not say that she will repeat I and if she got 4 more votes you would be. Stay neutral and encourage others to act. You are not leading the effort. She is going to tell Doug or carol. You are close and Penny is making you not look good.

There is an opinion by a lawyer that indicated that this was an illegal meeting. Clark, Cole, Valdes and Beckman were all included in the chain in this reference. (Clark was not in the chain as Cernanec represented.)

Cernanec continued, I remember Bruce Beckman when he first joined council, former President of Littleton Rotary, who talked about principles – the Four Way Test

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Beckman asked Phil if he was going to talk about him or did he want to talk about the issue because if you want to talk about me I will have a response.

Cernanec said he would be talking about the issue because what you (Beckman) said is – here is a great way to behave. Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned? There’s been a lot of he said she said and it would be nice to identify where the real truth is. But one think I know is, from his perspective he had a pretty simple request – to reconsider the termination of the city manager immediately. Four of you have control of this. As the attorney pointed out – if it is not on the agenda action should not be taken. We have an opportunity to deal with it.

Beckman asked Cernanec to redisplay the text message and then pointed out that it was only part of the text message – this is the great conspiracy. There was no conspiracy. I think my motivations have been pretty clear; I have expressed them in this room many times.   My concern about the city manager, the projects, the community being listened to – my motivations have been clear. It is important to discuss motivation – what you see is not the complete text. There is a fourth person – the city manager. Why has this text been sent out by the city manager? What was his motivation for doing this and how did it get there?   The reality is this is a group text. The night before I had attended a celebration at the Ltn United Methodist Church for the people involved in the fire. Valdes took a picture of me and he sent it in a group to my wife, the city manager and me.   It was sitting on my phone. Michael Penny was in that group text. You don’t see his comment in there so you wouldn’t know that. So what was his motivation for releasing this edited version of the text? It was clearly to make it look bad for me. It was my mistake – I was on the phone with one of the council members – Peggy – she was telling me her concerns – she had a really bad week and I am telling you – we all had a bad week – it was the week before the Grove. This is the week that we were finding out the information from the citizens was better than the information we had and we were pretty frustrated.   That is where a lot of the four-way conversation was – on this dais.   So I hung up from the phone call. I had been on the phone with Peggy when my wife left so I picked up the phone and said – Hi honey. There’s the conspiracy. I think my wife’s response back to me was pretty darn good.   And if you have a relationship with your spouse you probably discuss a lot of these things   Her advice was just to stay neutral and let someone else take the lead.   Wish all the advice you get from your spouse was that good. Guess what – I accidently hit it and it went to Jerry in a Group text because he sent me the photos from the ceremony (photos are not showing the text – appears that the city manager edited the full text message, according to Beckman, to make him look bad.) And Jerry says I am not ready to vote – Jerry had not idea what it was about – it just showed up out the clear blue sky and he responded. I wasn’t having a conversation with him. I wasn’t having a conversation with anyone except my wife. But I accidently sent it to the city manager and Valdes. I spent over an hour on a Saturday afternoon talking to the city manager about what this meant. Talking about how his credibility was dropping quickly. I just had a long conversation with Cole and called her to tell her that he had talked to the city manger about that and one of the parts of the conspiracy was that no one told the manager nothing. As if we do not talk to him regularly. I can tell you they did on the dais and they did privately and so where is the motivation?

And honesty? This is not the truth. And Michael Penny is responsible and why would he do that and who did he give it to? And how far did that person distribute that… the edited version (of the text)? If they would have just read it – stay neutral and let others lead was a great suggestion from my wife and the fact that it begins with Hi honey indicates there is no great conspiracy. Let’s be real – this is a very serious business we are in up here on council. We all take it very, very seriously. So Phil – Is it the truth – that’s why I didn’t want to keep that city manger any longer.   Because he couldn’t stand by the very first one that I believe in – is it the truth. He was no longer truthful to the people in this room and he was not truthful with some of the council members. It is really tough to have to talk about that in public but that’s what we had to do so I chose one incident in which he was not truthful to me or to council in which he violated the Charter by putting councilmembers out there to deal with operational matters. So Phil – was it the truth – no. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Beckman continued – Let’s back off – it was a very bad situation that seemed to be getting worse month by month. I became the mayor in November. Not much happened in December but in January it was the Grove among other things but it was also the Southview fire. 120 people were evacuated – 17 pieces of fire equipment – 2 police officers went to the hospital and the city manager never called city council – never called council to tell them about it. It happened on Wednesday and I found out about it through a business person at Arapahoe County the following day. When I called him (Penny) I said what the heck happened with this fire? Why was I not notified? Why was council not notified? It’s our business? It’s the biggest crisis in 50 years in this city and his answer was – nobody told him. Is that the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?   Does it build goodwill? We had 120 senior citizens displaced with what they had on their backs and it wasn’t an interest of the city manager. That’s when I lost faith because he didn’t care.  There was no effort made by this city to take care of those 120 people with the exception of a fireman that worked the whole time. This is not just someway to screw somebody. This is a relationship that had gotten worse with time. I have a number of other examples in my pocket – he is no longer employed and Beckman was not going to be part of the piling on. What an insult to the integrity of the council by Michael Penny to release that (text). And whom did he give it to?

Valdes – even our local press daisy chains. The former city manager daisy chained. All the time. Before the Grove meeting, the city manger met with city council two members at a time because three would be a meeting. That information is not out there. How does the process actually work? Many times Michael Penny asked Valdes how Penny could regain his trust. Someone doesn’t ask you that just because they want to be your friend. It is because they have not been honest with you and they want to regain your trust. He lost my trust many times. I didn’t meet with him every morning like some did at city expense for breakfast. I didn’t do that. My decision was my decision. I am not part of some gang of four. Sounds cool.   I am an individual – I tried to do this without shaming or humiliating him. I had ethics issues with him. And that was part of my decision. I didn’t want to have to put that stuff out there. Valdes said he was not enamored by the city manager, as I believe some were– he was not a personal friend – I was not at his wedding and I wasn’t asked to officiate at his wedding. He was an employee. Once you cross the line and become friends you can’t make proper decisions about your employees. I made my decision and it was mine alone and I know it bothered some people but it was my decision that I thought was the best for the city of Littleton.

Cernanec said the additional titles are not mantles but responsibilities – you (Beckman) are the facilitator of this body. Not to have had a discussion about a possible council action was not right.

Beckman – we haven’t had a full council for 2 to 2.5 months. The requirement is for a quorum. The reality is the city business continues. Someone rallied the city to write emails five days prior to 6/14 – they heard we were going to fire the city manager. Who told the city employees to send information about not firing the city manager to city council? There was no guarantee of a motion – frustration has been building for months.

 

Employees were rallied – if you interview for a city manager and ask if it is appropriate for city manager to rally city employees to weigh in on an action with an employee I would have moved on to the next candidate. Truth was the issue.

Cernanec asked for a reconsideration of Michael Penny’s firing. Beckman said reconsideration is proper at the time of the decision and it is not in our rules to reconsider at a subsequent meeting.

Fellman said council could suspend their rules upon a majority vote. Phil is asking for a suspension of the rules – you have the legal authority to do so.

There was no interest from any council member to move to suspend the rules for reconsideration so Cernanec’s effort failed.

Hopping said the conclusion is to get on the same page. It is incumbent for councilmembers to come forward with issues and not let them fester for weeks.

Citizen Comments

Carol Porter – thanked the council for having the courage to have the discussion she had just witnessed. Her confidence in Mayor Beckman was greater now than when she walked into the meeting. She agreed with Valdes’ assessment that it was the friendship part of the relationship that lead to the whole problem with the city manager. It was not council’s role to be friends with the city manager but to provide leadership, guidance, accountability, and to go forward in a professional way.

Chuck Reid also thanked the council for the discussion. Self-governance is hard work. Communication is hard work.

Pam Chadbourne said the discussions in the past several months had been great and it was a privilege to see democracy at work. There are real policy directions that need to be made –

  • Housing – gentrification is taking place and people are being displaced by $600,000 duplexes.
  • B-2 zoning – give us a policy that gets us what we want

Carol Brzeczek also thanked council for their great conversation. The discussion was done without the privacy of an executive session and they were able to get the discussion out for the public to hear and that was a benefit for everyone in the room, everyone home watching and everyone that will watch the video in the future. If the Charter had not been changed the discussion would have been done in an executive session and the public would not have the benefit of hearing what they just heard. She thought the turmoil that was experienced would just go on and on we would not get on the road to healing which is what she wanted to see. She did not want to sound like she was lecturing but the council had opened a door of opportunity to perhaps geting things worked out among themselves. She said what some of them experienced or expressed is pretty much what some of the citizens have felt as far as being included and how they are treated. Michael Penny also wanted her trust. She couldn’t give it to him. The problem is not just up at the dais – the problem exists in this room and in the community and that needs to be fixed. We have always had 4/3 votes and I have sat in here and been on the losing end of a vote but I go home, I work and try to understand and move on. You will have 4/3 votes and it doesn’t mean that thing are happening behind the scene or that we need to rally the public to put out a petition. She made a couple of suggestions – on first reading discuss the item so the public knows the direction the council is going.   A lot of times the second reading appears to be a scramble and sometimes the second reading is very different than the first reading. Secondly, as someone who believes that it is very important to follow the Open Meetings Law– there’s a culture that has been created – motions get made without being on the agenda – there are lots of things that would make you more successful but you need to get someone in that really knows the open meetings law because if you abide by it a lot of your concerns get taken care of. She again complemented the council on a great meeting.

Betty Harris – thanked all council members for a very difficult and very hard discussion in front of the public. She gave them the highest praise because what they had done was to demonstrate to the people what we all believe we need to be doing and that is participating in governing ourselves. Great job.

Frank Atwood – expressed thanks and looking forward to seeing citizen cards being responded to in reagerds to the interview process there’s vacan on the election commission applications are due by July 15. He encouraged others to apply and he will continue to lobby and advocating for Approval Voting. If you have any questions please call him at 720 260 1493. He offered a final thank you!.

Reports

Cole – All the wonderful things that have happened in Littleton that were mentioned tonight are the result of the council’s vision, goals and objectives which come from the citizens.

Clark – almost every ordinance needs to come to city council at a study session before the first reading. When we have significant differences it means that we have not discussed and hashed out the issues The background needs to be presented and staff directed to bring it forward.

Hopping agreed with Carol Porter – relationships with people that work for you should be at an arm’s length. It just works better and it doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly. He agrees that 4/3 votes are fine – it is how we get to the vote.

Valdes commented that parking has been an issue in downtown Littleton since the late 90’s. He was not sure what the citizen was referring when she said there were no cars in downtown Littleton 8 years ago. The economy in Littleton in the last five years is booming as it is in the entire metro area – it is never because of one person. We are likely to have a little decline in the future but what we are doing now will help.

Beckman mentioned the great neighborhood party they had that was funded by the neighborhood grant.

 

 

 

 

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