Updated: May 3, 2011 at 12:00 am
Acting City Manager Steve Cox warned city employees Monday to steer clear of politics at work after the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association sent an email to a dozen employees stating that Steve Bach would cut their pay and benefits if elected mayor.
The warning was triggered by demands from Bach that Cox investigate the origin of the email and “immediately” send all city employees a follow-up email encouraging them to disregard the police association’s letter and to “vote based on their own research.”
When Bach made his request Sunday morning, he thought the email was being circulated internally by city employees, Laura Carno, Bach’s chief of staff, said Tuesday.
“The PPA piece wasn’t clarified until after Cox got back to Steve,” she said.
“If that had been something that was being distributed from city employees to city employees, it would have been appropriate for the city manager to say, ‘Stop sending this stuff around,’” she added.
Cox told Bach on Sunday he would look into it, but rejected Bach’s request to send an email to employees, saying he didn’t want to violate the Fair Campaign Practices Act. City employees are prohibited from using “office supplies or equipment, including computers, telephones, printers or fax machines to create materials urging electors to vote for or against a campaign issue or candidate.”
“I checked with legal and I would be in violation of the FCPA if I were to circulate the letter that you sent me,” Cox said in an email about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
The police association letter identifies Bach as a “local developer” who would “drastically” cut employee pay and benefits to solve the city’s financial problems. The email included two attachments, including a November 2009 letter to Mayor Lionel Rivera and the City Council from Steve Bartolin, president and CEO of The Broadmoor hotel. In that letter, Bartolin said city employees’ benefit and pension plans are “not only Cadillac but more Ferrari” compared to the private sector.
Bartolin’s letter led to the creation of the City Committee, an advisory group that is recommending a review of city employees’ salaries and benefits, among other things.
“Mr. Bach’s candidacy is supported by the Broadmoor Hotel and Steve Bartolin and many private sector interests who stand to profit from his ‘outsourcing’ ideas,” according to the email sent by the Police Protective Association, which endorsed Bach’s opponent, Richard Skorman.
Bach and Skorman are in a runoff election May 17 to be the city’s first strong mayor. Ballots in the mail election went out last week.
Robin Rogers, executive director of the association, said the group inadvertently sent the email to a dozen city employees at work, including Terri Velasquez, the city’s financial and administrative services director, and Jennifer Stroh, a risk management supervisor.
“I sent it out to who I have on my general email address list,” she said. “I probably have between 150 and 200 addresses on that list. That’s how those 12 are in there. It’s certainly not intentional. In fact, typically I ask people to use their personal email addresses but there are some who had written their city addresses.”
After being contacted by The Gazette, Rogers sent an email to everyone on her list informing them that city and work email addresses will be eliminated from the list.
“I apologize to our members if any emails we sent out offended anyone in the city who received them at work,” Rogers wrote in the email, which she also sent to The Gazette and Cox.
“Our efforts have always been in good faith to communicate with folks through their private addresses,” she wrote.
Rogers said the police association didn’t write the letter portraying Bach in a negative light, but the board decided to pass it along because it was “factual.”
Carno, Bach’s chief of staff, said the letter isn’t accurate.
“It’s just scare tactics,” she said. “We’ve seen these things before. Steve Bach has said none of those things that the letter says he’s going to do, so it’s just scare tactics from people who prefer another candidate.”