City Council Study Session – 24 April 2017

City Council Regular Meeting.  (Phil Cernanec was absent).            24 April 2017        Citizen Minutes

City Manager Search Update

There were 42 applicants as reported by the consultant.  Doug Clark, after reviewing the second round of applicants, said he would like to offer Mark Relph the position.  He had seen Relph in action.  He is a man of integrity, treats all council members the same,  provides all information to all council members and he proposed to make Mark Relph an offer.

Peggy Cole said she asked Relph if he was willing to be the city manager and he said yes.  She thought Clark’s recommendation was good.

Jerry Valdes said he has also asked Relph and obviously there were questions and details that they needed to walk through.  He said he was willing to consider the appointment.

Bill Hopping thought Relph had done a good job of stabilizing the staff since the firing of Michael Penny and Relph had done a good job of communicating.   He was concerned with the opening this appointment would make in the Public Works department.  (Mark Relph is also our Public Works Director and has been performing both functions since appointed acting city manager.)  He did not think it was to their advantage to foreclose on the resumes submitted.  He did not think Relph was the best choice for the long time health of the city.  He stated the motto of the military – Mission, Man, Self – we have to think of the mission of the city. He said he would not support Clark’s quasi-motion.

Bruce Beckman said he supported Relph for the position.  He said that Relph did not apply for the first round of interviews and as he continues to work with Relph he has gotten to know Relph he knows Relph can do the job.  As he looked at the applications and what the applicants said were their best qualities – Mark has them and is doing it.  He expressed his total confidence in Relph with budgeting, regional issues, and some of the things they are trying to do downtown.  He said that Relph is a humble man and his humility is not hesitancy.  He is the best choice.

Clark said they have an advantage in the fact that they have worked with Relph.  He’s the right guy and he has conducted himself with council in an exemplary fashion and is willing to admit his mistakes.  He has not treated anyone on council  differently which is part of the reason they are in the position they are in currently.  He is the best choice for the city.

Hopping said it was unfortunate that they had to have this discussion publicly – it is disrespectful and unfair to everyone in the process.  One issue bothered him.  He had been trying to get two items on the council agenda that had the support of four council members – Design Guidelines and a revenue study.  He said there were only two people in the room when the council agenda was determined, the mayor and the city manager.  He did not think it was the city manager that did not advance his topics but the other person in the room.   He wanted a fresh look at the issues facing Littleton.

Cole said getting his agenda items advanced was not the fault of the city manager.  That’s the responsibility of the council.

Debbie Brinkman agreed with Hopping expressing how difficult this was having lost their executive session privileges  – it is punitive not to have the opportunity to sit with other council members behind closed doors.  Having to do this in open session stifled her conversation with people in the audience taking copious notes.  Phil Cernanec is gone and there are at least three council members not in support.  She appreciated what Relph had done but preferred to have a professional city manager.  Having an experienced city manger is very important to her. If some are concerned about the time it takes for a new hire coming in and learning – smart people can get up and running. It is not a reason to hire the interim.  She wanted to have a conversation about bringing in another interim – it is OK to do with the Charter.  She thought they could hire an interim while looking for a city manager.  (She apparently did not want to hire one of the candidates in the pool as she was promoting hiring another interim while conducting another search.)  To get around the Charter they could hire an interim as long as they don’t have an end date in the contract.

Clark said working to get around the Charter gets them in trouble.  Brinkman was not happy with Clark’s characterization of her intent to work around the Charter.  She had talked to the attorney and having a contract with an indefinite date would accomplish compliance with the Charter even knowing that the interim city manager was only that – interim.  Clark commented that she was calling it indefinite but not really.  Brinkman mentioned her conversation with Sam Mammet, Colorado Municipal League, indicated that they do this all the time.  (That maybe but we have no idea what they other municipalities’ Charter has to say on the subject.)  Brinkman said there are retired city managers that do this as a service to a community – it is an option.

Jerry Valdes changed the subject saying that it must have been difficult to narrow the pool down to ten.  He told Brinkman that they earned the loss of their executive sessions by over using them several years ago. (When Brinkman was mayor there was an overuse of executive sessions which prompted citizens to change the Charter.)  He agreed that it was a shame that they had to do this in public but that and the camera would not prevent him from speaking his mind.  He was excited to promote the acting city manager to city manager.

Beckman addressed Hopping’s charge telling him he had no idea what he was talking about.  He told council that they could not vote tonight but they could find a way to move in a different direction in anticipation of a vote next week.

Clark suggested that they assign someone to go through a contract with Relph to bring it forward as an agenda item.

The consultant said they did not have any contract info from council for the terms.  He told council it was up to them how they moved forward.

(The severance, or lack of, in our Charter has been a sticking point.  Eric Von Savage had provided council some options that could address that without violating the Charter.)

Hopping decided he needed to describe his three choices from the applicant pool.  All three were from military backgrounds and had impressive experience which led Clark to say he wasn’t planning on going to war.

Brinkman said it was clear that there were four council members wanting to move forward with Relph and what was the likelihood that the other applicants would still be interested in coming to Littleton after watching the meeting.  The consultant told her that they had been informed of the possibility and some might withdraw.

There was some discussion about following two paths.  One, work with a Relph on a contract and two, determine how many from the pool to interview if need be.  Julie, from HR, clarified that that is what they wanted to do and it became clear that going that direction was not what the consultant wanted to do.  It was left that a contract would be negotiated and brought forward at the next council meeting for Relph.

Community Engagement

Jocelyn Mills, Mark Baron, Ryan Thompson and Aaron Heumann presented a new approach to engaging the community.  Looking at parking in downtown Littleton will be the first subject matter to use the new approach.

Mills talked about their previous approach as not transparent or inclusive, outcomes already determined by staff, the approach not having actionable steps in the end and often undertaken at one point in time without community consensus.

The new approach is called Littleton Listens.  They will use components from two approaches – Hans Bleiker Systematic Development of Informed Consent and Appreciative Inquiry.  They will attempt to reset community dialog.  They will use focus groups and online input.  Their goal is to get input, cooperate in identifying the issues rather than staff presuming to know the problems and solutions.  They will establish on-going input opportunities and involve citizens to gain effective feedback.

Relph compared what they want to do with what they did with neighbors along Mineral on the west side of Santa Fe.  They went to the citizens asking them to tell the staff what was wrong.  They prioritized, weighed expectations and solutions.  Downtown is the heart of the city and there’s definitely a lot going on in downtown that we have to address.  Studies have been done and not acted upon.  We have to collect information on a regular basis over time – that will inform us.  Not a study but a long lasting approach.

Hopping asked the staff if there was a way to go and fix some of the problems now?

Heumann said one of the reasons why the Mineral issue was so successful is because they took the time to listen.  Staff was able to explain to citizens why some of the ideas would not work while some of the ideas they heard were good.  Citizens said they may not agree with the solutions but they respected the process.   By skipping steps (by fixing some of the problems now) rather than having the initial discussions undermines the approach.

Valdes said they had done so many studies for hundreds of thousands of dollars that were filed away.  This approach is more real time with real feedback and asked if it could work for Littleton Blvd.

Thompson said that is the beauty of this approach – it works for everything.

Clark said it looked good to him and regarding parking there are two parts – how much do we have and need and the parking regulations.

Public Works Update

Mark Relph provided an overview of street maintenance – accomplished and to be done.


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