Colorado Springs Utilities names new chief planning and finance officer

Tamela Monroe

Colorado Springs Utilities’ CEO has placed Tamela Monroe, the agency’s chief planning and finance officer, on administrative leave.

Monroe’s tenure at Utilities will officially come to an end early next month, just shy of her two-year anniversary, said Utilities board member Tom Strand. The agency’s chief executive, Aram Benyamin, appointed Scott Shewey as Monroe’s interim replacement, said Utilities spokesman Mark Murphy.

Why Benyamin placed Monroe on leave on Sept. 11 remains unclear. Murphy declined to comment on the matter, and performance reviews obtained through open records requests were almost entirely redacted.

Releasing the text of Monroe’s 2018 and 2019 performance reviews would “stifle honest and frank discussion within the government” and “would cause substantial injury to the public interest as it would have a chilling effect on the pre-decisional and deliberative process,” Utilities representatives said as a justification for those redactions.

In an unredacted portion of Monroe’s 2018 performance review, Benyamin noted that she met expectations, giving her a three out of a possible five points in her overall score.

“My understanding is that she just didn’t get along with the current CEO,” Strand said. “And he had asked her to do a couple of projects that she just didn’t do or didn’t do to his liking.”

Monroe could not be reached for comment.

But Strand said he has been very impressed with Monroe’s performance at Utilities, which has included boosting the agency’s credit rating.

“I’ve attended dozens of meetings with her over the past year and a half or so… and I thought she did a really good job,” he said.

Utilities Board Chair Jill Gaebler said she never had a problem with Monroe but declined to elaborate on the departure. Gaebler said the decision to hire and fire the agency’s top officials rests entirely with Benyamin.

Strand said Monroe’s departure surprised him, especially after he learned that the city attorney’s office, which also serves as Utilities’ counsel, advised Benyamin not to inform the board of directors about his decision.

“I kind of would have liked to know about this so I could have shared the fact that I thought she was doing a really good job,” he said.

Utilities Board Vice Chair Wayne Williams said by text message that he did not believe the search to fill Monroe’s position had yet begun.

Monroe was hired in January 2018, at a salary of $274,996. Her salary as of April 2019 was $318,406. Previously, she worked as the senior director of business analysis and pricing at the Omaha Public Power District. She replaced Bill Cherrier, who left in September 2017 to become CEO of the Central Iowa Power Cooperative.

conrad.swanson@gazette.com @conrad_swanson

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