Gorgey named interim city manager; Bershenyi walks out, alleges secret meetings
Amid accusations by one Glenwood Springs City Council member of “secret meetings” among the council majority and what another councilor referred to as a “pre-baked” decision, council voted Thursday night to hire former Garfield County manager Andrew Gorgey as interim city manager.
The 4-1 decision came in the absence of Councilman Stephen Bershenyi, who left the meeting in protest before the vote, and with Councilman Matt Steckler abstaining.
The move effectively ends the 11-year tenure of Jeff Hecksel as city manager.
Hecksel’s last day on the job will be today, two months prior to a recently agreed-to departure date between him and council, and following council’s 4-3 decision in August to give him one year’s notice of nonrenewal on his contract.
Hecksel will continue to be paid $10,900 per month for up to nine months under the severance terms of his contract, or until he gets a new job.
Gorgey will take over as interim manager on Monday, serving under a six-month contract at $10,000 per month. In the meantime, council will seek a permanent city manager using the search firm of Slavin Management Consultants.
“I want to thank city council, all seven of them, for this opportunity,” Gorgey said by phone from California where he was visiting family this week.
“I look forward to serving the city, and I’ll do that to the best of my ability,” said Gorgey, who also indicated he would consider applying for the permanent position.
Hecksel, who received praise from each of the council members for his many years with the city, including those who pushed to end his contract, declined comment after the meeting.
While Hecksel’s ultimate dismissal was determined four months ago, some council members have questioned the process to sever ties with the long-time manager prior to next August when his contract would have ended.
Bershenyi said in reading a prepared statement that he anticipated council would select a list of finalists from among the 13 applicants for the interim position, conduct interviews and come to a decision.
“Instead, the minority on council was informed by the majority that the normal process would not be followed and that they had made a decision,” he said.
“It became very apparent to me that this decision was made in advance at a secret meeting,” Bershenyi went on to allege, arguing also that Gorgey was not the most experienced for the job.
“I will not lend my credibility to this unethical sham,” he said before gathering up his papers and walking out of the meeting.
Mayor Michael Gamba, part of the majority along with council members Todd Leahy, Kathryn Trauger and Steve Davis, denied that there were ever any illegal meetings between the four.
“The resumes of the applicants were reviewed by the entire council at the [Nov. 19] executive session, and a majority of us felt that the most qualified person based on our criteria was Drew Gorgey,” Gamba said.
After the meeting, Gamba said he hopes the council members can patch things up and move forward with city business.
“That’s largely up to Stephen,” Gamba said, adding the accusations were “inappropriate, uncalled for and incorrect.”
“We’ve never had illegal meetings, it’s just how this process works,” he said. “The majority gets to make the decisions, and we move on.”
Councilman Leo McKinney made the “pre-baked” reference, and said it was apparent to him at the Nov. 19 meeting that a decision to hire Gorgey had already been determined.
“You don’t go into this sort of transition lightly, and the rippling effects are already going through city hall right now,” McKinney said, adding he had heard “chatter” on the streets for several weeks that council wanted to dismiss Hecksel immediately and hire Gorgey instead.
“I found that to be very disturbing,” McKinney said. “I’m not here to cast mud or work against anybody, but I just think this tears down any integrity we have as a board.”
Steckler said he, too, had concerns about the process.
“We didn’t do anybody any favors doing it this way,” Steckler said. “It’s not Glenwood council’s finest hour.”
Gamba announced last week that council had “considered various options” regarding the city manager’s position, and ultimately decided it was time to transition to an interim manager now rather than after the first of the year.
A primary concern in making that decision, Gamba said, is the looming Grand Avenue/Highway 82 Bridge project, and making sure there are no gaps between city managers as that project commences in January.
Hecksel has been actively searching for a new job since earlier this year when his future with the city of Glenwood Springs came into question after council members Trauger and Davis were elected.
He has been a finalist for two city manager jobs, but to date has not received a job offer.
Gorgey most recently served as the Garfield County manager from 2012 until this past July when he and county commissioners agreed to part ways with a favorable recommendation. The county is also in the final stages of hiring a new county manager.
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The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is working with local businesses and organizations to celebrate the spirit of Strawberry Days with a Berry Special Weekend from June 18-20, according to a news release.