City Council Regular Meeting – 2 May 2017 – City Manager Contract Negotiation??

City Council Regular Meeting                       2 May 2017                    Citizen Minutes

Public Comment

Kyle Schlachter agreed with Doug Clark that Mark Relph would be a great city manager but he did not agree with going around the process to circumvent the public’s will to select the city manager.  He thought it spoke to the public trust and the trust of future applicants if the process is circumvented.  If Mark Relph does not want to go through a competitive process will he not stick his neck out for residents?

Don Bruns applauded the excellent rationale used in last week’s study session as being solid and well reasoned.  He referenced Relph’s professional integrity, his good understanding of the city manager’s role and the council’s role and his comfort dealing with citizens with differing views.  Relph knows the players and recognizes the problems and is even-handed with a welcome measure of humility.  He hoped that council would act in the best interest of the citizens by appointing Mark Relph as city manager.

Pam Chadbourne agreed with Kyle and said what council did was appalling.  There was a lot to learn by going through the process.  All the citizens could have heard about the applicants and whether or not Mark was selected – we learn by the process – by talking with each other.  She encouraged a no vote and a continuation of the process and if Mark is selected – good.  And if a different candidate is selected it would be for the good of the city.

Chadbourne also addressed the last Planning Commission meeting saying that a new member of the Planning Commission brought up compliance issues with the downtown design standards and guidelines that were not included in the staff report.  Rather than addressing the concerns they were ignored.

Carol Fey favored Mark Relph as our city manager.  She believed that if there had not been a misunderstanding about the residency requirements for the city manager that Relph would have been included in the first round of applicants.  As such, she thought the process was being followed.

Consent Agenda

Resolution to approve a Memorandum of Understanding between the 05-2017 Services and the City of Littleton for sharing communications resources.

Motion to approve the cancellation of the June 20, 2017 and July 4, 2017 regular council meetings.

Approval of the April 18, 2017 regular meeting minutes.

All passed 7/0.

Ordinances on First Reading

Amend the city’s zoning code Title 10, with respect to commercial mobile radio service and to expand the city’s regulations to include wireless communications facilities and to schedule a public hearing on May 15, 2017.  This item was discussed thoroughly at a previous study session and motion carried 7/0.

Ordinances on Second Reading

Motion to approve the  Canon Financial Services Master Lease agreement.  This was also discussed in a study session.  Motion passed 7/0.

General Business

Doug Clark moved to direct Waters & Co. to negotiate a contract with Mark Relph for city manager.  Peggy Cole seconded the motion.

Clark commented on Relph’s 10 months as acting city manager and said he had done a good job and his attributes and skills makes him the best selection and it is the best thing to do.

Phil Cernanec moved to table the motion to June 6 after interviews of other candidates had been conducted.  Debbie Brinkman seconded.  Cernanec made a point about the process that had been agreed upon by the council that included three different panel interviews.  During the last round of interviews the panels appreciated being involved and the panel’s input influenced their decision.  To scrap the process is wrong.  Doug Clark has a personal opinion of Mark Relph’s performance and that may not be a universal observation.  Mark has indicated that he was not interested in the job and that he would only take the position if there’s a 7/0 vote.  He mentioned that he had talked to Mark Relph about some performance items and that Relph withdrew from the pool and then said he would only jump back in if he was the only one being considered.  Let’s go through the process.

Bill Hopping said Mark has done a fine job and now it is time to move on to making a permanent appointment.  We have a process  and it would be money down the drain if they don’t go through the process and select Mark Relph – a great dereliction of duty.  We need an experienced city manager to reach into their resources to address complex issues.

Debbie Brinkman agreed with Cernanec and Hopping.  She was critical of not following the process but the process is whatever they decide it to be.

Clark said they had already paid Waters & Co for the first search – the second search was done at no additional charge.  He has worked with four city managers and 3 had been promoted from within the organization without previous city manager experience.  He is not settling for Relph as suggested by others but he wanted Relph to be the city manager.  He will help the city council to function well, he will be able to calm the discord among the citizens, he is willing to meet with everyone and would not counsel council members not to go to some citizen meetings.  (This is in reference to former city manager Michael Penny who instructed council members not to attend the Sunshine Boys meetings.).  Clark said it is highly unusual to get seven votes and there have been several successful city managers with 4/3 votes.  We have the person that can do the job – Mark was the best person in the first group and is in the second group.  There’s no sense in lengthening the process and flying candidates out.  It is unfair to the candidates and the citizens.  He encouraged a no vote on the motion to table.

Peggy Cole asked a procedural question – if they table the motion until June 6 and they go through the interview process there is a chance that they might want to recommend someone other than Relph for the position.  Attorney Fellman told her they could vote no at that time or move to table indefinitely.

Jerry Valdes believes in promoting from within when there’s a good candidate – Relph has done an exceptional job.  Littleton has some big stuff coming up and he is the best person.  Going  through the interviews would not do a whole lot for him.  It is time to move on and he said he was not surprised that there were three that wanted to drag this out.

Hopping said he had not seen a resume for Mark and it would be nice to see it.  He said he would not review all the candidates but wanted to mention one.  This particular candidate had a BA and Master’s degrees in Public Administration, attended the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executive Program and was the 2016 New Mexico City Manager of the Year.  He thought they should consider others while considering Mark.

Cole said there had been a couple of US Presidents that did not have the background or education that others had but turned out to be the best presidents this country has ever had.  We have seen Mark for ten months which provided good insight into his abilities.  She did not think they will find anyone better.  She is not settling – he has proven himself.  If it is important to some, Mark can work toward some of the certifications mentioned.  Relph is doing a good job under challenging circumstances.

Cernanec said he was not sure who Clark meant when he said “we.”  We have not heard from the citizens or the directors and our process was put together to get buy in from all panels.  Mark has done a good job as caretaker but we need to look for more than a caretaker.

Brinkman was disturbed – when it is convenient for a quick decision without a full process motions are made and supported.  When it is not convenient battle lines are drawn.  It is hypocritical – a violation of the public process and the interview process because of the drive to hire a particular person.  This is a tough start for someone without the opportunity to interview.  There are more facets to being a city manager and Relph has not been able to do them as an interim.  It is unfair for council to step out of the process when there are three others up here.

Motion to table was defeated on a 3/4 vote with Brinkman, Hopping and Cernanec voting yes.

Vote on main motion to negotiate a contract with Mark Relph passed on a 4/3 vote with Brinkman, Hopping and Cernanec dissenting.

(I was on the citizen panel that interviewed the first round of candidates.  When the council finally deliberated, after meeting with the citizen and staff panels, they decided not to offer the city manager position to any that applied.  At that time Peggy Cole, Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes said that they would prefer to hire Mark Relph.  They did not have the support of four council members at that time so they started a second search process.  The citizen panel was asked if we would prefer Mark Relph over the candidates we interviewed.  I know there was support within our panel for Mark Relph.)

Comments & Reports

Mark Relph – today was his birthday, he is 60 years old and it is a birthday he will never forget.  He appreciated the differing opinions and he never intended to create this situation.  He has spoken with each council member and he appreciates their support for him as acting city manager.

He stated strongly that he wanted the job and he intends to be successful for the organization, the council and the citizens.  He has some goals that will be shared at a more appropriate time.  He appreciates the challenge and hopes to bring back some unity to the council and the community.

South Metro is submitting a unification proposal (for fire) available to them tonight.  They have a process in place and a consultant that will help them over the next 30 days.  The city has asked the consultant to bring other options to be considered.  They are working with the consultant on the dispatch center and the timing of contracting dispatch services with South Metro.  There could be consideration as soon as May 9th.

Cernanec wanted to know if there was a response time included in the proposal.  Relph said he did not know – he just got the proposal.

Bruce Beckman said this was South Metro’s proposal and for all the talk they have not seen anything in writing until today.  He has been asked by the community what this is all about.  There needs to be outreach to the public to see if they have an interest  in Plan A or Plan B.

Relph said this was the beginning of the process.  Issues will have to be worked through – he’s  not sure about the timeline but that is why they have a consultant.

Beckman said the consultant had talked to each council member and there may be a need to do so again.

Relph said the public process is in the back of everyone’s mind.  Brinkman said public outreach is part of the consultant’s plan but they have to be cautious  to make sure what is presented is fine tuned and polished.  There are governance issues to be determined and the elected liaisons are meeting to discuss and they will be hiring an attorney to guide them.

Beckman suggested that there be a dedicated piece in the next study session agenda devoted to fire.  He wants council to stay ahead of the fire discussion over the next several months.  The consultant is asking hard questions and representing the welfare of the citizens of Littleton.  He has confidence in the consultants.

Cole wanted to know the status of returning to four minutes for the public to address council.  Beckman said it was more of a consensus decision of council’s to make that the number of minutes is not written in their protocols or rules and procedures.  (When Phil Cernanec was mayor, he unilaterally reduced the number of minutes a citizen could speak from four to three.)

Hopping told Cole that her desire to add one minute to the citizens time made the priority list at their retreat but it did not make the top six and for her to bring it up was inappropriate.

Hopping mentioned that the downtown merchants were unhappy with the new signage as it directs people to the side streets.  They had to give up their sandwich boards when the new signage came in and they believe they see a difference in sales when they are used.  They are not happy.

Hopping reported that Historic Inc got Rep. Mike Coffman to visit the downtown Littleton P. O.  He was appalled at the condition, took several pictures and wrote a letter to the Post Master General telling him to clean it up.

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