Montrose reveals top candidates for city manager; one offer made
MONTROSE — Montrose on Thursday afternoon released the names of the two finalists for city manager after The Daily Sentinel submitted an open records request, citing Colorado law.
The finalists are Robert Karlinsey, city administrator of Gig Harbor Wash., and William Bell, city administrator of Rhinelander, Wis. An offer to one of them apparently has been extended.
Mayor Kathy Ellis said she previously individually telephoned Montrose City Council members and asked about their leading candidate and suggested salary range. The city then refused to divulge the names of the finalists, which is public record under the state’s “Sunshine Laws,” designed to ensure government conducts its business in view of the public.
“There is no question that the City Council has violated the state’s open meetings law and has deprived the citizens of Montrose (and surrounding communities) of being able to observe the conduct of public business that the law guarantees,” said Steven Zansberg, an attorney for the Colorado Press Association, a consortium of the state’s newspapers.
“The ‘poll’ conducted of council members constitutes an illegal decision to hire the next city manager, a decision that the law requires be discussed and made in a public meeting,” Zansberg said. “Furthermore, the law forbids the city from extending an offer of employment to any candidate until 14 days after it has been publicly announced.”
Montrose City Attorney Russell Duree said the council did not violate open meeting law and said CPA attorneys “are paid to find discrepancies and violations.”
Duree said council members can have conversations regarding business away from a public setting, and members of the council never formed a quorum when discussing candidates.
City Council had interviewed five candidates on May 6 and held an additional meeting the next day to narrow the five candidates to two, according to Ellis.
On the same day, Ellis said a city-hired consulting firm advised her to individually telephone council members to poll who their favored candidate was and what salary was appropriate. The poll results show Ellis asked council members about employment packages and wrote down notes from each conversation.
Ellis said she relayed those results to KRW Associates of Colorado Springs to compile and contact the candidates individually.
In documentation, the candidates are referred to as “Candidate A” and “Candidate B.”
The poll results show council members Ellis, Carol McDermott and Gail Marvel voted for “Candidate A,” with a salary between $122,000 to $125,000 a year.
Councilmen Bill Patterson and Thomas Smits voted for “Candidate B,” with a salary of $108,000 to $110,000 a year.
This made a 3–2 majority for “Candidate A,” whose employment package was similar to one approved May 12 by the council.
The council then advised KRW to make an offer to the top candidate, then the second, if necessary, and then a third if the first two said no. The council agreed to a “best and final offer” to “Candidate A,” worth more than $170,000.
The package includes a base salary of $124,500, as well as a $4,500 annual car allowance and $600 per year for a cellphone, plus $10,000 for moving expenses.
The second-choice candidate’s salary and benefits package would total more than $149,000, including a base salary of $108,000 and $5,000 for moving expenses.
Smits on May 12 said the first-choice candidate was “given a price without my knowledge. You can call it what you want; I call it an offer. The candidate knew before I even knew, and to me that verges on a violation of open meetings laws.”
In a previous interview, Ellis said she was unaware of any violations.