Snowmass Village interim Town Manager Gary Suiter agreed Wednesday to extend his services to the town for a monthly fee of $17,250.
Suiter is the principal of consulting group Suiter & Associates LLC. He has been interim town manager since Aug. 1, and on Tuesday he proposed a contract to the Town Council to serve in that role as a consultant.
In a discussion during executive session Tuesday, the Town Council gave Suiter until the end of the business day Wednesday to make a decision, he said. As of Wednesday afternoon, Suiter had signed the agreement, but it had not been executed.
The council does not have to vote in a public meeting to make Suiter’s consultant contract effective. It is not continuing to search for other applicants.
The agreement makes Suiter’s service effective for three months at a time and is renewed automatically after each period unless the town or he terminates it. The town or Suiter can terminate the agreement at any time by giving 15 days notice for cause.
The contract requires that Suiter work a minimum of 138 hours per month, or approximately 32 hours per week. Suiter will be compensated $120 for every hour over that and billed on a prorated basis for time under that amount.
The town will provide housing for Suiter. The contract does not include benefits such as health insurance and a 401(k) plan.
Multiple council people have said that they have been divided, 3-2, over whether to extend an offer to Suiter. The council was scheduled to vote on an offer to Suiter on Jan. 6 but continued the item after an executive session lasting around three hours.
Continuing the consultant service, rather than entering into a long-term agreement, gave Suiter and the council more flexibility, he said.
“Based on information I had, a long-term contract would not have received unanimous support from the Town Council,” Suiter said. “It’s conventional wisdom; one wants to go into a position, any position, preferably with consensual support from the governing body. It’s always better.”
To Councilman Chris Jacobson, the search process has been complicated from the start by the inclusion of the interim town manager.
“We can see clearly that it created an unfair and unbalanced playing field,” Jacobson said. “I think that his involvement as well as communication outside of the executive search process — in other words communication through channels other than the people who were designated to negotiate — has eroded the integrity of the process.”
The contract the council was considering on Jan. 6 would have offered Suiter a salary of $145,000.
“The increase in cost to the town ... for a part-time town manager is irresponsible and indefensible,” Jacobson said.
Contract employees generally are compensated more in salary than full-time employees, said Councilman Fred Kucker.
“If he’s going to be an independent contractor, there’s a lot of stuff that he’s going to have to pay for that otherwise the town would be paying for,” Kucker said.
Kucker said the elected officials didn’t have much choice but to accept Suiter’s proposal.
“We wanted him, at least the majority wanted him, as our town manager, and this was the only way he felt comfortable doing it,” Kucker said.
Jacobson said there was another alternative.
“A compromise, a very rational compromise, was offered that would allow Gary to be retained on a short-term basis while continuing or reopening the search,” Jacobson said.