The Snowmass Village Town Council voted, 3-2, on Monday not to reopen the search process for a full-time town manager, although one council member said she would consider it before the body addresses the issue again at its May 19 meeting.
The elected officials have publicly aired their division over the hiring of consultant Gary Suiter to act as their town manager on a part-time, interim basis, which he accepted after saying he would decline an offer of full-time employment by a split council. At its meeting on April 7, the council voted in favor of meeting with their search consultant about the potential success of starting over with a new process.
The council met with consultant Phil McKenney via Skype during a closed-door session at the start of their regular meeting on Monday. After moving through a handful of other items, Mayor Bill Boineau opened a public agenda item on the matter, during which the officials didn’t elaborate on what McKenney told them, although they did each express their own takeaways from the private meeting. Boineau, Councilwoman Markey Butler and Councilman Fred Kucker remained against reopening the search process, and Councilmen Jason Haber and Chris Jacobson came out still in favor.
Haber opened the discussion by saying that, based on what he learned from McKenney, reopening the search process would be the best option for finding a permanent candidate for the job. Kucker broke in, saying the consultant “made it very clear” that reopening the search now would not produce the best applicants and that it was clear during the private meeting that the majority did not favor starting the search again.
Kucker added that he would favor extending Suiter’s contract to March 31, 2015, so that the new council could evaluate him. The seats of Boineau, Kucker and Haber are up for election in November. Presently, Suiter’s contract ends every three months but is automatically renewed unless he or the council terminate it with 15 days notice.
“Firstly, the goal should be for this town to move forward,” said Butler, who initially suggested meeting with McKenney at the April 7 meeting. “A real concern of mine is when you restart a search process after one that has been somewhat challenging at best with a split council, the quality of the pool is going to be very minimized.
“At this time I did not hear any notion of moving forward from this consultant without some significant risk from my perspective and from what I heard him say.”
Jacobson argued that a “unified vision” against reopening the search didn’t manifest itself during the executive session, and that McKenney said some of the other key candidates from the prior process were still interested.
“We started a search process, and we haven’t finished that,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the minority has offered several compromises, some of which Suiter was supportive of. He blamed the majority for the council not moving forward on the issue because it refused to accept Suiter’s rejection of a full-time offer.
“There’s been this approach to an end run and this temporary situation,” Jacobson said.
Boineau agreed with Butler, saying what he got out of the meeting was that “with the election coming up in November, you’re not going to get the best slate of candidates.”
Snowmass Village resident and former councilman Arnie Mordkin stood up during public comments to admonish the council for meeting with McKenney behind closed doors.
“You should not, at least in this person’s opinion, have gone into executive session,” Mordkin said. “You’re doing the town’s business. Hiring a town manager is the business of each of the citizens of this community, and to hear a discussion about that in executive session, I only have to say, shame on you.”
The closed-door session precluded the public’s ability to weigh the council’s best move, Mordkin said.
“It may not be a good idea to have a new town manager search now,” Mordkin said. “I think it’s a good idea, but I could be wrong. We should know. It’s our right to know.”
Mordkin added that Kucker’s suggestion to extend Suiter’s contract was a moot point unless the elected officials removed the clause that allows them or Suiter to terminate the contract at any time by giving 15 days notice.
Butler said after Mordkin’s comments that she would like to continue the discussion at another council meeting.
“I’m a person that has to sit back and think of what I’ve heard tonight,” Butler said.
Despite her comments, Jacobson made a motion to reopen the search process, which was seconded by Haber. The council voted, 3-2, against it.
Recall effort in motion?
At one point in the meeting, Jacobson said that he has heard from several people that members of the council majority were collaborating with resident Gary Rosenau to start an election to recall him from his council seat.
“That is the level of commitment and stubbornness to not even compromise in moving toward a contract or to finish a search, which is that we’re going to go to a recall vote of an elected official and see if we can get a 4-1,” Jacobson said.
Suiter has said repeatedly that he would not accept the position full-time without unanimous support from the council. However, Jacobson said the individuals he spoke to believe Suiter would now accept a contract on a 4-1 vote.
Rosenau came to the podium and said he wasn’t involved in a recall effort, but that he has “people coming to me all the time.”
“This town is so mad that they don’t care what they do as long as they get rid of everything that’s happening,” Rosenau said.