Craig City Council to hold special meeting to vote on city manager’s dismissal
CRAIG — The Craig City Council will hold a special meeting to conduct a public vote on the dismissal of outgoing City Manager Mike Foreman at 5 p.m. Monday in City Hall.
The meeting comes after the Craig Press became concerned that the decision to terminate Foreman’s employment, made without a vote during an executive session Tuesday, violated the Colorado Open Meetings Law.
According to CRS 24-6-402(4): “… no adoption of any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, regulation, or formal action, except the review, approval, and amendment of the minutes of an executive session recorded pursuant to subparagraph (II) of paragraph (d.5) of subsection (2) of this section, shall occur at any executive session that is not open to the public …”
At the meeting in question, council went into executive session to discuss the position of city manager. The council re-opened the meeting to the public as City Attorney Sherman Romney and Foreman entered negotiations about the situation. Council then returned to executive session, where Mayor John Ponikivar said council members came to a “consensus” that terminating Foreman’s employment was the best course of action.
In a meeting with the Craig Press Thursday morning, Ponikvar said he “dropped the ball” in not calling for a vote when the meeting was re-opened following the first executive session.
“Since we were in open session already, should I have called for a vote? Probably. That would’ve been the better process. That would’ve been the right process. That would’ve been the legal process,” Ponikvar said.
Council called the special meeting to rectify the matter and hold a public vote on Foreman’s termination, he said.
Ponikvar also gave more detail on the process and reasons for firing Foreman.
Much of the conversation around terminating Foreman’s employment with the city stemmed from an incident at a community event. Foreman engaged in a verbal altercation with a woman, then directed negative actions toward local law enforcement, according to a news release Ponikvar provided the Craig Press.
Following the incident, Ponikvar said, council no longer had confidence in Foreman.
He added that some council members felt disciplinary action with stipulations or contract modifications were warranted, but the majority felt that termination was the best course of action.
Based upon the suspicion that Foreman’s employment might have been terminated improperly, the Craig Press on Wednesday filed a Colorado Open Records Act request with City Clerk/Human Resources Director Kathy Larson asking for access to the audio recordings made during the executive session.
The city is currently reviewing the request. State statute allows the city three business days to respond to an open records request, giving it until Monday afternoon to respond.
“This council is very open. This council doesn’t pull any punches, in executive session or not,” Ponikvar said. “There’s no predetermined decisions. This council is going to come out to exactly how they feel.”
Three city employees report to city council: the city manager, the city attorney and the municipal judge.
In previous situations, when city council determined it no longer had confidence in a high-ranking city employee, that employee resigned, as in the departures of former City Manager Jim Ferree and Police Chief Walt Vanatta. The matters at play in Vanatta’s resignation also raised controversy, and the Craig Press also filed Colorado Open Records Act requests following his resignation.
Without a resignation, city council faced a situation without precedent.
“This is something that none of us had ever dealt with before,” Ponikvar said. “Should we have held a public vote? Yes. Would that have been the proper way? Absolutely, if that’s what the law calls for. Was it a mistake? Yes. Will it happen again? Probably not. Hopefully, we’re never in this situation again, where we’re firing one of our three employees. It hasn’t happened for years.”
Foreman was traveling and declined to immediately comment, but said he intended to make a statement Monday afternoon.
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