Bach vetoes another council ordinance

February 4, 2014 Updated: February 4, 2014 at 6:03 pm
photo - Colorado Springs mayor Steve Bach vetoed an ordinance that would have changed the process for mayoral appointees.  (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Colorado Springs mayor Steve Bach vetoed an ordinance that would have changed the process for mayoral appointees. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

For a second time in recent months Mayor Steve Bach has slapped down a Colorado Springs City Council law he says attempts to limit his power.

Bach vetoed the recently approved council ordinance that changed the process for mayoral appointees.

The council approved an ordinance that says if an interim appointee serves in the vacant position for more than six months, the council may request that the mayor provide a plan to fill the vacancy. If the mayor fails to provide a plan, the council could start the confirmation process to make the appointee a permanent member.

The rule applies to the chief of staff, city clerk, city attorney, chief financial officer and police chief. It also would apply to the director or manager of any city department such as the Colorado Springs Airport or the public works department, where currently interim directors are serving.

Council member Don Knight said the council raised the issue after a number of interim directors were appointed and there was no time limit for when a permanent replacement would be hired. Further, the mayor does not seek council confirmation for interim appointments.

But the city's code and charter were silent about interim appointments, Knight said. The new rule was an attempt to make the process uniform, he said.

But Bach wrote in his Feb. 4 disapproval letter to the council that the ordinance "attempts to usurp executive authority over hiring and firing decisions reserved exclusively to the mayor."

In December, Bach vetoed a city council ordinance related to his budget powers. The council attempted to limit how the mayor can move money within the budget by creating 12 appropriations departments instead of the existing five. The mayor needs council approval to move money from one department to another and the ordinance would have limited his flexibility.

But even after the council voted to override the mayor's veto on that budget issue, Bach directed his staff to ignore the city law. Bach said the council was illegally intruding on the functions of the executive branch. He also cited the city's charter in his defense of a five-department appropriations budget and said he needed flexibility to move money in times of emergency.

In the case of the appointee ordinance, council members Knight and Andy Pico worked with the city attorney's office since August to draft the ordinance language to ensure that it did not intrude on the mayor's authority, Pico said. It never was viewed as controversial, he added.

"The mayor does not have, as he incorrectly asserts in his veto message, exclusive authority without restrictions," Pico said. "Section 4-40 (f) of the charter is absolutely clear - mayor's appointments are subject to confirmation by the concurring vote of a majority of the members of city council."

The mayoral appointee ordinance was approved by a supermajority - 6 of 9 members - of the council, meaning the council has the votes to override the veto, Pico said.

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