Former Summit Housing Authority director reaches settlement with county
Acting on the behalf of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, the county and the organization’s former executive director reached a confidential settlement agreement this past December, the Daily has learned through a Colorado Open Records Act request.
Kermode, who took over in December 2007 as lead of the local housing agency that includes members from the county government, as well as the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Montezuma and Silverthorne, unexpectedly resigned her post last October. In a four-page letter two weeks prior to her final day, she charged authority managers and board members with political retaliation, open meetings law violations and age and gender discrimination. Kermode also asserted that the recent appointment of a supervisor was the equivalent of a demotion.
“The changes now in place (and there may be more to come) are creating barriers to my ability to do my job effectively,” Kermode wrote in that Sept. 20 document taken as her resignation. “I feel that they are trying to force me out of my position.”
Kermode closed the letter saying she and the board would both benefit from recognizing their “dysfunctional relationship” and determining the best plan for her quiet, mutually agreeable exit from the job. The board met soon after, installed newly-hired county housing director Nicole Bleriot as interim director, and resolved to negotiate a severance package with its erstwhile exec. Negotiations fizzled shortly thereafter though, and Kermode consulted with an attorney on filing suit.
County manager Scott Vargo, a county representative on the housing authority board, declared to the Daily in October that Kermode’s allegations were unfounded, and that the board no longer intended to reach a settlement. Then-board chair, County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, recused himself from the discussions because Kermode specifically cited him, as well as former county manager Gary Martinez, as sources of her list of grievances.
“We’ve reviewed the accusations and do not believe there is any basis, any evidence, any suggestion that any of those accusations are accurate and true,” Vargo rebuffed.
But at subsequent housing authority board meetings, county attorney Jeff Huntley continued to advise the board to enter executive sessions to discuss an outstanding claim. Those took place each on Nov. 22, Dec. 7 and Dec. 19, with the board, according to meeting minutes, unanimously passing a motion to settle the matter at the final meeting of the year. Because Davidson proceeded in recusing himself, Breckenridge town manager and board vice chair Rick Holman was directed to execute the agreement from funds shared among the county and towns rather than coming out of measure 5A taxpayer funds that were approved in November to develop workforce housing projects throughout the community.
The Dec. 21 agreement provided Kermode $35,900 in severance, or roughly five months of her regular annual salary of $86,147, which she was paid on Jan. 3, 2017, as proper consideration for release of all pending and future claims, in addition to five months of COBRA health plan contributions from her last month of work. The housing authority provided her a favorable letter of reference penned by Davidson for future employment inquiries too, and each party agreed to pay their own attorney’s fees.
The accord states Kermode acknowledges she voluntarily left her position, and includes clauses that neither party admits liability nor will disparage the other in public or through the media. A violation of the latter results in damages to be paid in the amount of $500.
While Huntley, who represents the county in legal matters, could not be reached for comment Thursday, Kermode replied to a message saying she enjoyed her time with the agency, and that she wished it well.
“I loved my job at the housing authority, and was sorry that it came to an end,” she wrote. “I hope they find a satisfactory replacement.”
Since the split, Bleriot and the housing board have decided on an updated governance model for the organization’s future and also produced a new job description for the executive director role. That position, which entails a salary of between $60,552 and $89,952, on top of a benefits package, was posted to the county website on Jan. 16. The board’s plan was for it to remain there for at least six weeks, and then until filled.
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Written pleadings filed Monday in district court by the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance seek a court decision requiring the defendants — the county, the board of health and interim director — to answer their complaint by Thursday and hold a court hearing on the matter as early as Friday.