Aspen officials sign off on separation with city manager
Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to the terms of a separation agreement with City Manager Steve Barwick, which gives the senior department head a year’s pay, six months of health insurance for him and his wife, and the ability to live in a government-controlled house on Cemetery Lane for a year.
That’s beyond what a former council and Barwick agreed to in a 2010 employment contract, which did not include health insurance payments or a six-month extension on Barwick selling his home back to the city.
City policy requires outgoing employees who bought a housing unit from the municipal government’s inventory to sell it back within six months of leaving employment.
It stipulates that Barwick must be actively pursuing other employment. If he accepts another job, the extension to sell back to the city can’t last longer than three months.
Barwick bought the house from the city for $210,500. He will receive that back when he sells, along with over 20 years’ worth of equity.
The appreciation is capped at either 3 percent annually or the consumer price index, which is even lower, and minus 1.33 percent for the city’s capital reserve requirement.
Barwick, who is expected to leave the job by March 1, will be paid $195,229 within 20 days of his departure. That’s his current salary and according to the employment contract, it must be paid almost immediately after his departure.
Barwick, who has been city manager for 19 years and in the Finance Department prior to that for six years, also will get a payout of whatever his accrued paid time off is valued at.
He was asked to resign by a majority of council earlier this year after a long year of communication breakdowns with the public on various initiatives from the city.
Council unanimously approved the separation agreement, with no comments. However, council members agreed to Barwick’s suggestion in a Jan. 7 executive session for the home-selling extension and COBRA health insurance payments. They also agreed to the larger payout in a public meeting in mid-January.
Shortly before Barwick was terminated at the Jan. 7 executive meeting, his right-hand administrator, Assistant City Manager Barry Crook, was placed on administrative leave and eventually left his position.
The other assistant city manager, Sara Ott, has been tapped to be the interim city manager but her employment contract is still being negotiated. Council went into executive session Monday evening to discuss personnel matters.
Until that contract is signed off on by Ott, her attorney, the city and its advisers, Barwick will continue to serve as city manager, according to City Attorney Jim True.
When an interim city manager is hired, Barwick will be deemed an adviser, although he will be paid his current salary.
Barwick, 63, also waives his right to sue the city, according to the separation agreement.
But he does not waive rights or claims under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act that may arise after the date the agreement is executed.
He also can file a charge or participate in an investigative proceeding before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, state civil rights agency or any other government, according to the separation agreement.
City Human Resources Director Alissa Farrell told council on Monday night that she has drafted a request for proposal (RFP) for a recruiting firm to seek a new city manager.
She said she has not asked Ott to participate in the development of that, since she might be a candidate for the permanent position.
Instead, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock and Snowmass Town Manager Clint Kinney are advising Farrell on the RFP.
Specifics will include details about key stakeholders being involved, as well as a position profile.
Council is expected to look at the draft during a Feb. 4 work session.
The city of Aspen has taken over the duties of producing the Fourth of July celebration in town and has an entire day planned to celebrate America’s birthday.
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