City council members are pleased with Mayor Steve Bach's appointment of Wynetta Massey as interim city attorney effective Jan. 3.
Massey, who served as a deputy city attorney and legislative counsel to City Council, will replace Chris Melcher, who announced his resignation in October, one month after council president Keith King told him publicly that he would fire him if he could and council docked his pay by $4,000. Melcher is returning to private practice, city officials said.
Massey has been part of the city's legal team for 24 years. She will get a 10 percent pay increase to her salary of $139,277.
"I believe this is a great way to start the New Year, and appreciate Mayor Bach appointing her to this position," said council president Keith King. "Ms. Massey comprehends the council-mayor form of governance, and I am confident as she takes on the role of managing the city attorney's office that she will find the right balance to represent both the executive and legislative branches of government."
In April, Massey was assigned to work exclusively with the council, which had expressed concerns that it was not getting timely or unbiased legal advice from Melcher. Council had complained that Melcher's advice was slanted toward the mayor's political positions. Melcher said his office worked to provide the best legal advice to council and to the executive branch that it could. He said he was proud of the city attorneys office.
Council member Jill Gaebler said it helped to have a dedicated deputy city attorney work on council questions and issues. But all of Massey's work was reviewed by Melcher, she said.
"She (Massey) was honest with us that things could not be confidential," Gaebler said.
Gaebler said she is looking forward to Massey as interim city attorney because of her knowledge of the city's ordinances, code and charter and her experience working with council.
"I am pleased that the mayor has chosen her (Massey) for interim," Gaebler said. "I think it was a little bit of give from him to put Wynetta in that role. He is honoring council to some degree. He knows we respect her."
Massey will appoint a new legislative counsel from within the city attorney's office.
Melcher will serve as a consultant and maintain a city office through Jan. 31, and he will be available for assistance and consultation through July 31, city officials said.
Bach praised Melcher for outstanding service to the city over 27 months, including an instrumental contribution to the successful lease of Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, the establishment of the Colorado Springs Health Foundation and the state's approval of the City for Champions economic development proposal.
Council member Val Snider said City Council has not had consistently timely, proactive legal counsel, to include a range of legal options related to the city legislative policy making role.
"While Wynetta was an incredible asset advising council in our land use role, I felt she was stymied from influence outside of the legislative branch to adequately assist and offer legal counsel in areas like the amending of the 2014 budget."
Snider added that he values Massey's experience and is looking forward to working with her as the city's top attorney.