Larger payout for terminated Aspen city manager being considered
Elected officials are considering whether to let Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick — who was effectively fired last week — remain in his house for a year.
When Aspen City Council met in executive session Jan. 7 and a majority agreed to ask Barwick to resign, it was suggested that he receive a six-month extension beyond what his 1995 purchase agreement for the house outlines.
It stipulates that if he ceases to be a full-time employee of the city he must sell it back to the municipal government within six months.
Councilman Bert Myrin, who has wanted Barwick removed since he was elected four years ago, said he supports an extra six months for the sale of the home and a six-month extension of health care.
Those are both beyond what was negotiated by council in Barwick’s employment contract in 2010. That agreement stipulates that if he is terminated, he receives a year’s severance and any accrued vacation and sick leave.
Barwick’s annual salary is $195,228.
He bought the 2,800-square-foot house on Cemetery Lane for $210,500, and will receive an increase of 3 percent of that purchase price per year, or whatever the consumer price index is — whichever is lower.
The equity Barwick will receive in the sale of the house is likely in the six-figure range, observers have said.
Myrin said last week — as did other council members —that Barwick should receive a favorable payout for the 25 years of service, 19 of which were as city manager.
But he became no longer effective and was unresponsive enough for a majority of council to ask for his resignation.
Myrin and Councilmen Adam Frisch and Ward Hauenstein supported Barwick’s termination. Mayor Steve Skadron and Councilwoman Ann Mullins did not.
Skadron said last week the terms of a separation agreement will be finalized at a later date, as will the details of when he will leave the position permanently.
Meanwhile, council members are not sure exactly who is in charge, what Barwick’s power is currently and how long he will stay in his position.
Hauenstein, who first asked Barwick to retire Jan. 2, said he may propose a freeze on all staffing positions so no hiring or firing can occur during the transition.
Myrin has suggested that a new city manager could move into a house that the city owns on West Hyman Avenue and is currently listed for sale.
Tonight, council is expected to discuss if Assistant City Manager Sara Ott should become interim city manager and what the transition for Barwick to leave looks like.
Also on the agenda is workload priorities, particularly considering that Assistant City Manager Barry Crook left last week after being put on administrative leave.
That leaves Ott and Public Works Director Scott Miller the only ones left in the city administration department.
“The transition to an interim city manager, plus the decrease in City Manager’s Office staffing levels will necessitate some rethinking of City Council’s near-term expectations,” Barwick wrote to council in a Wednesday email that was obtained by The Aspen Times. “Would you please be prepared to discuss your thoughts regarding the most important work items and those items that might be postponed?
“Focusing on items that are both important and urgent may help,” Barwick continued. “Staff is in the process of developing specific items for City Council’s consideration.”
As council considers a national search for a new city manager, that individual will likely be hired by one elected board, but serve under a new one.
That’s because March 5, Aspen voters will elect two council members and a new mayor but they do not take office until June.
A hiring committee could include current council members, staff, citizens and possibly council members elect.
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