“I’ve never been one to shy away from a growth opportunity.”
– Fire Chief Steven Cox, who was named interim city manager today.
“I’ve never been one to shy away from a growth opportunity.”
– Fire Chief Steven Cox, who was named interim city manager today.
“Don’t read anything into it.”
— Fire Chief Steven Cox, who is filling in at today’s City Council meeting for City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft, who announced her resignation on Friday. Culbreth-Graft called in sick today, and Cox said she probably won’t be in the rest of the week.
Herpin said in an e-mail today that he was unable to attend the city manager’s performance review Monday afternoon because was traveling back to Colorado Springs from California, where he and his wife were visiting their grandchildren.
But Herpin wants people to know he supports Culbreth-Graft.
Herpin also said he doesn’t think even former Colorado Springs Mayor Bob Isaac, the city’s longest-serving mayor, or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who became known as America’s mayor after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, ”could have done much better” than Culbreth-Graft given the circumstances.
“I am not sure any city manager could have done any better than Dr. Culbreth-Graft,” he said.
“She arrived in Colorado Springs in January 2008 just (as) the full effect of the downturn in the economy began to hit. Given our low tax burden, overdependence on sales taxes, the economy, the leakage of sales tax to new, big box stores in the county and Internet sales, and a requirement for a balanced budget, I don’t think even a ‘strong’ mayor like Mayor Bob or even Rudy Giuliani could have done much better. In fact, other cities are facing the same kinds of problems as we are,” Herpin said.
“I suspect that she would, in retrospect, have stayed in Huntington Beach, where the city was running a budget surplus,” he said.
Before moving to the Springs, Culbreth-Graft was the city manager in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“This move has cost her, and her husband, personal financial problems when the California housing market collapsed just as she was putting her house on the market,” Herpin said, referring to Culbreth-Graft’s ocean view home, which the lender took back in January.
The word on the street is that City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft is on her way out.
Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen.
But later today, the City Council will give Culbreth-Graft her annual performance review, which could possibly shed some light on her future in Colorado Springs.
The employment agreement between Culbreth-Graft and the city gives Culbreth-Graft and the City Council the right to end the agreement “at any time for any reason.”
But Culbreth-Graft would walk away with more cash if she was fired “without cause.”
“In the event of termination without cause, City Council shall pay six months of salary and benefits in addition to payment of unpaid base salary earned or accrued and any other amounts as then may be owing to the city manager,” according to the agreement, which was signed Nov. 27, 2007.
Culbreth-Graft is paid $210,000 a year, plus benefits. Her salary has stayed the same since she started working at the city in January 2008.
The council can terminate the agreement “with cause,” including “the willful and continued failure or refusal of the city manager to perform the material duties required of her as an appointee of the City Council,” the agreement states.
“There’s a lot of rumors going around. I try to ignore them all.”
— Vice Mayor Larry Small, when asked if there was any truth to noise about City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft being on her way out.
Culbreth-Graft’s annual performance evaluation is later today.
City Council members today started the first of four closed-door meetings to conduct performance reviews of their four appointees.
A source said today’s evaluation was of City Clerk Kathryn Young.
“That’s just a standard thing the council does each year,” city spokeswoman Mary Scott said. “Since they are personnel matters, these are closed meetings.”
In addition to Young, the other appointees whose job performance will be evaluated by the council this month include City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft, City Attorney Patricia Kelly and Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte.
The city auditor is also a council appointee, but that position has not been filled with a permanent replacement since Jeff Litchfield’s resignation took effect Feb. 3.
The next performance reviews are scheduled for March 12, 15 and 16.
A bomb threat yesterday forced the evacuation of the City Administration Building, prompting dozens of city employees, including City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft, to leave their work on their desks.
So how much did the roughly 90-minute disruption cost taxpayers?
City officials say it’s next to impossible to determine the cost, but that many city employees kept doing their jobs after being evacuated from the building at 30 S. Nevada Ave.
“I checked with HR, and there isn’t any way we can get a reliable cost estimate,” city spokeswoman Mary Scott said today in an e-mail.
“We would have to look at who was in that day, what they make and then also know what they were doing during evacuation,” she said. “Many kept working on BlackBerries, went on field visits, returned phone calls, etc. Also non-exempt employees could have stayed past 5 (o’clock) to complete work that got delayed during evacuation.”
Security guards at the City Administration Building downtown are insisting that visitors sign in upon entering the building.
But people who refuse to sign in still have access to the building at 30 S. Nevada Ave., according to documents obtained under an open-records request.
On most days, the city has between two and three security guards sitting at a security desk near the front entrance of the building requiring visitors to sign in.
The question of whether visitors are required to sign in hit home last week when a rookie security guard insisted that I sign in to use the restroom. When I resisted and asked him for the policy requiring that I sign in, neither he nor his supervisor could produce it.
The policy, obtained this week, states that visitors who refuse to sign in can’t be denied access to the building.
But the public has no way of knowing that because the policy isn’t readily available and the sign on the door to enter the CAB states that visitors must sign in.
“Visitors will be asked to sign their name and their destination,” states the policy from City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft. “Visitors refusing to sign in will not be denied access. This step is only in place to increase the deterrent of visible security and to facilitate customer service to our visitors.”
In the policy, Culbreth-Graft says she approved the plan, which has been in place since December 2008, ”to improve security within the CAB without restricting public access.”
Culbreth-Graft enacted the policy after city agencies housed in the CAB eliminated administrative support staff, such as secretaries.
Visitors were found roaming offices and hallways seeking assistance.
“What is even more disturbing,” Culbreth-Graft stated, was the increasing number of complaints of theft and missing items from employees in the building, “raising serious concerns about the security in the CAB.”
Security at the CAB cost $121,297 last year, according to documents obtained today, also under an open-records request.
The costs included $3,867 for ADT alarm charges, the documents state.
“The City Administration Building has an installed alarm system and pays subscription and service fees to operate the system,” city spokesman John Leavitt said in an e-mail.
Here’s a breakdown of the security costs:
Amount Journal Line Description
$9,355 JAN 09 SECURITY GUARD SVCS
$8,871 FEB 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$10,351 MAR 09 SEC GUARD SVC
$10,323 APR 09 SECURITY GUARD SVCS
$9,355 MAY 09 SECURITY GUARD SVCS
$10,290 JUN 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$2,900 JAN-SEPT 2009 ALARMS
$10,444 JULY 09 SECURITY GUARD SVC
$9,807 AUG 09 SECURITY GUARD SVC
$9,823 SEP 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$10,387 OCT 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$8,419 NOV 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$10,000 DEC 09 SEC GUARD SVCS
$966 OCT-DEC 2009 ALARMS
The salaries and benefits of city employees are once again turning into a pressure-cooker issue at City Hall.
Last year, a proposal for across-the-board pay cuts to help balance the 2010 budget created infighting and animosity toward city employees after their salaries became public.
Get ready for Round 2.
The first sign of things to come happened Monday when City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft and City Council members, who are starting budget discussions early this year, reviewed options to deal with projected shortfalls in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Culbreth-Graft, who has consistently said she opposes pay cuts, told council members that she didn’t recommend reducing employee benefits and compensation to bridge the budget shortfall in 2011.
“You know my feeling on the matter, and we have seen impacts on our workforce just as a result of the discussions,” she said, adding that the council makes the final decision.
Her comments – and a companion report stating that reducing employee compensation and benefits were “not recommended” – didn’t sit well with at least two council members.
Councilman Tom Gallagher, who advocated pay cuts last year, said he was “disappointed” and “a little disturbed” that Culbreth-Graft hadn’t provided the council more information about employee compensation and benefits despite previous requests.
“I understood it was not recommended when I asked for the information,” he said. “I am tired of making decisions with incomplete information.”
(To listen to Gallagher’s comments at Monday’s meeting, click here and fast-forward to 2:42)
Gallagher also said that “many municipalities in this state, many of the counties in this state, have gone down that road” of cutting salaries and benefits.
“I’m not convinced that we’re where we need to be to be a sustainable community,” he said.
As difficult as it may be, Councilman Randy Purvis said the council needs to consider reducing employee compensation and benefits as a cost-cutting measure.
But the city administration first has to provide the necessary information for council members to conduct a thorough review, he said.
“I thank you for putting your position face up on the table,” Purvis told Culbreth-Graft.
“But with all respect, Ms. City Manager, it’s not your decision to make. It’s council’s decision,” he said.
(To listen to Purvis, click here and fast-forward to 2:50)
Afterward, Purvis told Culbreth-Graft he didn’t mean his comments to be disparaging.
“I respect you, and I appreciate your position and think we’ll go forward together,” he said.
Culbreth-Graft told council members that she had planned to bring them back salary information.
“We would typically bring that to you in a May or June timeframe,” she said. “At your request, we have already indicated that we would be expediting that and be bringing that back sooner than later.”
The tension spilled out of the meeting.
At 11:11 p.m. Monday, Jeremy Kroto, vice president of the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters union, sent council members an e-mail calling Gallagher’s comments “dishonest and irresponsible.”
The next day, Gallagher fired back.
”You can quote me on this: (expletive) them,” Gallagher said in a telephone interview.
The city has 1,610 employees whose paychecks come out of the general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations.
The city’s 2010 general fund budget is $212 million, about $16 million less than the amended 2009 budget, officials said today.
Colorado Springs City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft, who is facing foreclosure on the ocean view home she owns with her husband in Huntington Beach, Calif., has put the home back on the market, a real-estate blogger for the Orange County Register has reported.
Click here to read the blog.
To check out the listing for the home and see pictures of what it looks like, click here.
Culbreth-Graft, who used to be city manager in Huntington Beach before becoming city manager in Colorado Springs in January 2008, did not return a request for comment today.
But last year, she told the Colorado Springs Independent:
“My husband and I have basically lost everything for coming here. If we’d known the global economy was going to collapse, we would have done a lot of things differently, no question about it,” she was quoted as saying.
“I don’t like being cagey and nontransparent, and I wish I could scream from the top of the hills why this is going on, but I can’t do that yet,” she said, according to the Independent.
In addition to facing foreclosure, Culbreth-Graft and her husband, William, are being sued for allegedly failing to pay one of the mortgages on their two-story, Cape Cod-style home.
In the past, City Council members have supported Culbreth-Graft and said she is “facing the same kind of financial problems that many Americans are facing.”
But Culbreth-Graft’s personal problems have generated ridicule in the community, especially because she and her husband purchased – according to county records – a $875,000 home in the Broadmoor area the same month she started her new job in Colorado Springs.