Former housing official sues after losing job |

Former housing official sues after losing job

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A former development official with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority is suing the agency, claiming he was wrongfully terminated from his job last summer.

Jay Leavitt, a Missouri Heights resident, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver late last month, naming both the Housing Authority and Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick as defendants.

The city and housing office have until Jan. 20 to respond.

Leavitt declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday, but confirmed he was notified in a June 6 letter from Barwick that his position as director of development and construction for the Housing Authority was being eliminated. His last day of employment was July 5.

Leavitt received a month’s notice of his termination, but no severance package, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

According to Leavitt’s complaint, he was hired under a written contract and performed his duties in “an outstanding fashion and manner.”

The actions of Barwick and the housing office were “willful, wanton and in reckless disregard” of Leavitt’s rights and feelings, according to the complaint. Leavitt is seeking monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial and his reinstatement to a position comparable to the job he lost.

As a result of his termination, Leavitt has suffered lost wages and benefits, as well as emotional pain, suffering, distress, humiliation and embarrassment, the lawsuit also claims.

Leavitt was hired in January 2000, with a salary of $74,000, to head up the development and construction functions of the housing office. A letter from then-Housing Director Mary Roberts, offering him the post, indicated the job would be a full-time position for five years and could be extended.

He was hired at a time when the Housing Authority was beefing up its staff considerably in order to push forward on various affordable housing projects in the county and the city. Two of those projects have since been constructed; another is ready to go.

Last year, city and county officials agreed to restructure the housing office, removing actual development from its duties. Two Housing Authority project managers were reassigned to the city staff, where they work on various projects, including affordable housing, under Sadler’s supervision. In addition, the city began moving toward turning the development of affordable housing over to the private sector.

Leavitt’s job, which overlapped with Sadler’s, was eliminated.

“We didn’t need two bosses,” Sadler said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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