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Monument could lose 3 key staffers unless trustees break tie

May 14, 2018 Updated: May 15, 2018 at 6:26 am
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(Courtesy townofmonument.org)

Three of Monument's top staff members might lose their jobs unless a town trustees' stalemate breaks before Thursday.

Two new trustees were elected April 3, and now the board is split on whether to keep the town attorney, clerk and treasurer.

State law gave the board 30 days to reappoint the three after the new trustees were sworn in April 16. But if the board doesn't make the Thursday deadline, Town Treasurer Pamela Smith, Attorney Alicia Corley and Clerk Laura Hogan could get the axe.

Former Trustee Don Wilson was elected mayor April 3, beating Trustee Jeffrey Bornstein, who remains on the board. Voters also re-elected Trustee Kelly Elliot and elected newcomers Ron Stephens and Laurie Clark.

Wilson, Elliott and Stephens voted in favor of the reappointments May 7. Trustees Greg Coopman, Bornstein and Clark voted against the resolution for reasons that are mostly unclear.

The board is to appoint another trustee but hasn't yet.

Bornstein cited issues May 7 with the investigation into complaints against the town manager, who's been placed on administrative leave.

The board was to consult with an attorney in an executive session and reconsider the reappointments Monday night, but the meeting was canceled after all three trustees who voted down the resolution said they couldn't attend.

"We've got three good (staff) people who are going to lose their jobs if this does not change," Elliott said. "They're competent. They're dedicated and hard-working and qualified to be doing what they are doing."

What will happen if the reappointments fail isn't certain, since a board never has declined the reappointments, said Treasurer Smith.

"I've been there 13 years, and it's never been an issue, ever," she said. "Nobody really knows because we have no precedent set for operating this way. It's very confusing, and it's extremely upsetting to town staff."

Wilson said he gathered from the statute that the three employees will be terminated if they are not reappointed in time.

The Monday night executive session would have given the board a chance to discuss the situation with legal counsel from the town's insurer, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), and better understand the implications of not approving the reappointments by the deadline, the mayor said.

Since the meeting had to be abruptly canceled for lacking a four-member quorum, he said, he's working with CIRSA to reschedule it for Tuesday or Wednesday.

He said he's not aware of any issues or controversy involving the three staff members.

"There would be no reason not to reappoint them," he said. "They've always served the town well."

Bornstein responded to an email but didn't say why he opposed the reappointments or what could happen to the employees.

At the May 7 meeting, Bornstein said he was concerned that the town was "being fiscally irresponsible" with the drawn-out investigation into Town Manager Chris Lowe, who was suspended with pay in early February amid allegations of misconduct, including sexual harassment. Lowe has denied any wrongdoing.

But Smith, appointed as interim town manager, said CIRSA is conducting the investigation, not the staff. The work costs $5,000, regardless of length or outcome, per the town's insurance policy, she said.

It has taken longer than expected because the investigator interviewed nearly 15 people, and the police chief later lodged more complaints against Lowe, she said.

The investigation is completed, and Smith said she expects the results to be presented to the board at its next meeting.

Coopman said by email that, even if the board does not reappoint the staff members, he believes they will continue in their positions for the time being. He did not reply when asked why he voted against the resolution.

Clark said the situation will be resolved. She did not return a follow-up call and email asking for details.

Stephens said by email that the deadline has put the town in a "critical situation."

"I am ready and willing to attend a special board meeting to resolve this issue at any time," he said. "But I do not believe that Bornstein, Coopman, and Clark are willing to talk. I personally have no idea why they are acting in such an irresponsible manner."

Smith, too, said she still hasn't been told why she and her co-workers might not be reappointed.

"That's probably the biggest question," Smith said. "There is no why. This is a private agenda by three individuals, and it's got nothing to do with the town and how the town operates and the ability of the people in those positions."

If the staff members do lose their jobs, Smith said, Monument should be able to continue day-to-day operations, unless the law prevents the town from operating when those positions are vacant.

The town has a staff of about 50 people. Hogan has worked for the town six years and Corley for one.

Hogan and Corley did not respond to emails requesting comment.

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Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108

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