Process question swirls around Glenwood Springs city manager decision
A decision before Glenwood Springs City Council whether to hire an interim city manager and formally end City Manager Jeff Hecksel’s active employment now rather than waiting two months is likely to raise some questions about process.
Mayor Michael Gamba announced last week that council will decide this Thursday whether to extend a six-month contract to former Garfield County manager Andrew Gorgey to begin serving as interim city manager starting next week.
If approved, Hecksel’s last day on the job would be Friday rather than Feb. 1, 2016, as spelled out in a recent separation agreement reached between Hecksel and council.
Gamba said in a formal statement issued late the day before Thanksgiving that council had “considered various options” regarding the city manager’s position, but ultimately decided it was time to transition to an interim manager now rather than after the first of the year.
Council also plans to formally launch a nationwide search for a permanent city manager using the services of Slavin Management Consultants.
Of primary concern is the looming Grand Avenue Bridge project, Gamba said, and the desire to ensure there are no gaps between city managers as that project ramps up after the first of the year.
Council recently solicited resumes for an interim city manager from a variety of interested candidates and reviewed them in executive session at the Nov. 19 meeting before the interim proposal was put on the table for this week’s council meeting.
However, some council members felt there should be a formal interview process before moving forward, and that the city should honor its agreement with Hecksel.
“I was very disappointed that we didn’t do any kind of interviews,” Councilman Leo McKinney said, adding that’s “not a reflection” on Gorgey’s qualifications to serve in the position, but more a statement about process.
McKinney acknowledged that the Oct. 15 separation agreement allowed for Hecksel’s early dismissal.
Hecksel, who has been city manager for 11 years, has been actively searching for a new job since council decided on a 4-3 vote in early August not to renew his two-year rolling contract.
He was allowed a year’s notice of nonrenewal under his contract, allowing him to stay through August of next year. The contract also called for nine months’ severance on Hecksel’s $130,874 salary in the event of early dismissal.
However, he and council recently signed a separation agreement extending his employment until Feb. 1, 2016, but also allowing the city to exercise early dismissal with month-to-month salary until he finds new employment, or until August of next year, whichever comes first.
Hecksel’s tenure as Glenwood city manager came into question last spring following the election of two new council members, Kathryn Trauger and Steve Davis.
They joined Gamba and Councilman Todd Leahy in the 4-3 council decision to end Hecksel’s contract, while McKinney and council members Stephen Bershenyi and Matt Steckler wanted him to continue on.
Hecksel has recently been a finalist for two city manager jobs, one in Delta and another in Moses Lake, Washington, neither of which resulted in job offers.
Meanwhile, Gorgey most recently served as the Garfield County manager from 2012 until this past July when he, too, agreed with county commissioners to part ways over what Commission Chairman John Martin referred to as “personality conflicts” within county government. The county is also in the final stages of hiring a new county manager.
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