The Kadrich vote

According to Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon, the City Council didn’t vote on getting rid of City Manager Laurie Kadrich during a closed-door meeting last Wednesday. They just reached consensus.

Right. And Tim Tebow doesn’t pray when he gets down on one knee during Denver Broncos football games. He just asks God for guidance.

No amount of hair-splitting semantics can change what really occurred last week with the City Council.

The council couldn’t have reached consensus on Kadrich without some sort of poll or questioning of its members, whether in its closed meeting or by some other means. When Councilwoman Teresa Coons says she was the only council member at the Wednesday session who did not support the effort to force Kadrich out, it is clear evidence that other council members made their preferences known.

And that constitutes a vote under Colorado’s open meetings law that, believe it or not, requires important decisions by public entities to be made in public.

The City Council apparently does not believe it.

We’re not suggesting the council had no right to ask for Kadrich’s resignation. The city manager serves at the will of the council, and City Council elections have consequences. It’s well known that Kadrich’s support among council members dropped following last April’s election.

We have previously listed what we believe are some key accomplishments by Kadrich and her staff.  She has been a positive force for this community and has gotten much done. She is not being dismissed for incompetence. In announcing her resignation, the council identified several of her accomplishments.

But Kadrich also made mistakes. Most recently, she was wrong to announce to city staffers — before she took the issue to City Council — that there was enough money in the budget to reinstate some of the pay cuts staffers had suffered recently. That backed the City Council into a corner and would have made council members the black hats among city employees if they had chosen to use that money for some other budget purpose.

Council members had every reason to be furious about that. And there have been other instances in which Kadrich reportedly didn’t keep council members as informed about city issues as they wanted to be.

Furthermore, if there is a fundamental philosophical difference between the council and the city manager, then the council has little option but to seek a new chief administrator.

However, when Mayor Kenyon says some council members want to be more involved in the day-to-day operations of the city, it raises red flags. The Grand Junction City Charter established a city manager form of government, in which the city manager is responsible for the ongoing operations of the city. The council is elected to make broad policy for the city, not to run city government.

We hope the council will undertake the kind of search necessary to find a person who has the experience and executive skills necessary to oversee operations of the Western Slope’s largest municipality, as well as to work with the council in a manner that meets its expectations.

We also hope the City Council will remember from now on that the city’s business is to be conducted in public — with council members having the courage to make their views known in front of citizens, city employees and reporters. Reaching “consensus” behind closed doors is a clear violation of Colorado law.


COMMENTS

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The Sentinel is correct to criticize the council for not taking a vote.  However, the criticism did not go far enough. Every issue of substance that faces the council is discussed in back room meetings that are intended to skate by the open meeting law, just barely.  While these meetings are technically open to the public, there is no relatistic way for the public to find out what was said by whom in these meeting.  The city has the technology to record there discussions but choose not to.  The intent of the council is obviously to keep there discussions out of the public eye.  For example, the Airport issue.  The council had scheduled a regular meeting complete with minutes and recording for next Wednesday.  They could have added the Airport issue to the agenda as the only item of discussion.  Instead, they canceled the regular meeting and scheduled a back room meeting to discuss the Airport issue.

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