3 city officials under new City Council’s microscope
The continued employment of three top Glenwood Springs officials, including City Manager Jeff Hecksel and City Attorney Jan Shute, is to be considered by the new City Council at a special meeting today.
“With the election of new council members, we thought we should have a meeting to discuss the three employees that we hire, to determine if the majority of council wishes to make any changes,” recently appointed Mayor Mike Gamba said Tuesday.
“Honestly, I don’t know how it will turn out, and if any changes will be made,” he said. “It totally depends on the will of the council.”
In addition to the city manager and attorney, the other position that comes under the direct oversight of City Council is the municipal judge. That position is currently held by longtime former county judge Victor Zerbi.
The contracts of all three city employees are the subject of a special council meeting scheduled for today at City Hall. An executive session is slated for noon, followed by public session where action could be taken.
The move follows the election April 7 of two new council members, Kathryn Trauger and Steve Davis. Gamba and Councilman Todd Leahy were also unopposed for re-election this year.
The new majority supported Gamba for the council-appointed mayor’s seat after Trauger and Davis were sworn into office on April 16, over the nomination of second-term Councilman Stephen Bershenyi. Leahy was also appointed mayor pro-tem.
Gamba acknowledged Tuesday that he has “noted some concerns” about Hecksel’s managerial leadership during recent evaluations. But that doesn’t mean his mind is made up, he said.
“Honestly, I would say that I’m not going into this with any preconceived outcomes,” Gamba said. “All three of the people in these positions … are very competent, qualified individuals and are very capable of doing their jobs.
“That said, is there a possibility that a change might be beneficial for the city? That’s what this discussion will be about,” he said.
Questions about the effectiveness of top-level city staff did become a bit of a campaign issue, especially on the part of Trauger, who said that one of the first things she wanted to do was review things with the city manager and attorney, in particular.
Councilman Leo McKinney, who previously held the mayor’s seat, said Tuesday that he doesn’t take issue with the fact that council is having the discussion. In fact, he said the sooner the better.
But he did express concerns about the way in which today’s special meeting was scheduled, which he said was done without the knowledge of Hecksel and Shute, and without the knowledge of at least some council members until the notice was sent out Monday.
“In our roles as city council members, we direct those three staff positions as group, and these have to be collective decisions,” McKinney said. “I think the way this is being handled is detrimental.”
He noted financial considerations and “ramifications” should City Council decide to make any changes in the city manager’s position in particular.
Hecksel’s contract requires 12 months’ notice of council’s intent not to renew. Otherwise, he is entitled to nine months’ severance pay, according to the terms of his contract. That term was recently renegotiated from 12 months.
Hecksel is paid $130,874 per year, according to his contract, which is a matter of public record.
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Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or firstname.lastname@example.org