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Aspen city manager going under contract

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Aspen Times file
ALL |

ASPEN – The Aspen city manager will be subject to the terms – and also the security – of an employment contract if the document wins City Council approval Monday.

City Manager Steve Barwick has long pushed, off and on, for a contract – something that’s standard in the industry for governmental managers.

The proposed contract sets Barwick’s salary at $170,352, which he is currently earning, and establishes a severance package that could provide him with up to a year’s salary if the council terminates the contract.

Barwick has held the city manager’s post since November 1999, but has never had a contract, which is unusual for individuals in such positions, according to Mayor Mick Ireland. The manager serves at the whim of the council, and council membership is in a regular state of flux as new members are elected.

“When things go wrong, it’s fire the coach,” Ireland said.

The contract language is expected to apply to future city managers, as well, the mayor said.

The terms of the agreement allow Barwick to resign at any time, provided he gives the city at least 30 days’ written notice. The city may terminate the contract without paying a severance package to Barwick under certain conditions: If Barwick fails to maintain a full-time residence in the city; if he is convicted of a felony offense or certain other offenses spelled out in the document; or if he commits “an act of gross negligence or malfeasance in office as determined by the City Council.”

If Barwick is fired for other reasons, he is entitled to a severance package equivalent to six months of his salary. The amount increases to nine months of his salary on April 26, 2011, and to 12 months on April 26, 2012.

If the city asks Barwick to resign and he agrees, he is eligible for the severance package, according to the agreement.

“A year is a pretty minimal package, especially when you keep getting a new council,” Ireland said.

The severance package in Pitkin County Manager Hilary Fletcher’s contract is six months, according to the county’s human resources office.

Also under the terms of the proposed contract, the city can’t adjust Barwick’s salary to less than $160,000 unless it is as part of a government-wide pay cut.

“We can’t lower his salary to get him out, to avoid paying severance,” Ireland explained.

janet@aspentimes.com


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