Two City Council members opposed Tim Leigh’s resignation from a panel that will have a say about the future of Memorial Health System despite revelations that his wife is a longtime employee at Memorial, according to e-mails obtained under an open-records request.
And one of the council members who didn’t think Leigh needed to resign suggested afterward that Leigh could give the public a different reason for his resignation.
Leigh, a longtime commercial real estate broker and mayoral candidate, was among three people selected to serve on the new Citizens Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System through secret polling among council members.
Mayor Lionel Rivera had asked council members to submit their top 10 choices for the commission. Leigh, Stephen Hyde and B.J. Scott appeared on the lists of five or more council members, making them shoo-ins.
Since Leigh was among the three applicants selected outright, he didn’t have to go through a formal interview like the other applicants, who were asked whether they had family employed at Memorial.
Leigh resigned Feb. 14 after Mayor Lionel Rivera and Councilman Darryl Glenn called him Feb. 12 and “suggested” that he step down, the e-mails state.
Of the nine council members, Councilmen Bernie Herpin and Sean Paige opposed Leigh’s resignation.
“I am concerned with the process,” Herpin wrote in a Feb. 12 e-mail to his colleagues. “Since a majority believes Mr. Leigh’s wife’s employment at MHS is a conflict that may taint his decision (I do not hold that view) I believe we should at least allow him the opportunity to convince us that he can be impartial or give him the opportunity to withdraw his request.”
Herpin reminded his colleagues that Leigh had filed papers to run for mayor and that he could use that as the reason he was stepping down.
“I am concerned that us removing him from the commission could be seen as politically motivated after already accepting him without interview,” he wrote. “I think Lionel should speak to him and give him the opportunity to withdraw. He could use his running for mayor as a reason if he wants (too busy, may seem like a conflict since, if elected, he may have to act on the commission’s recommendation, etc.).”
Paige said the council had “failed to ask a very important question” before appointing Leigh.
“Our failure to make the necessary inquiry in this case shouldn’t be held against Mr. Leigh now that he’s been publicly appointed to the panel,” Paige wrote in a Feb. 11 e-mail. “We would be indirectly calling into question his objectivity and integrity, and causing him potential public embarrassment, in response to an oversight on Council’s part.”
When the council decided to form the new commission in early January, Paige expressed concern about a public perception that council members appoint their “pet people” to give them the recommendations they want. He made reference to his earlier statement in the e-mail.
“Let me just reiterate, for emphasis — Mr. Leigh was not one of my top ten picks, so I am not trying to protect one of my ‘pets,” he said.
The Gazette requested “all correspondence” involving Leigh and his resignation.
The city government refused to release some of the documents, namely the e-mail that McEvoy, Memorial’s CEO, sent to the council alerting them that Leigh’s wife works at the hospital.
“Any correspondence on this topic from Dr. McEvoy is considered work product for City Council and not public record,” city spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg said today in an e-mail.
The city is also refusing to release the council members’ top 10 lists.
“The common law deliberative process privilege is codified at C.R.S. § 24-72-204(3)(a)(i) and is explained in City of Colorado Springs v. White, 967 P.2d 1042 (Colo. 1998). I believe you were provided with names of all 60 candidates, which is what is currently publically available,” Blumberg said in a recent e-mail.