Monday, August 1, 2011

Mayor to look into Velasquez's claims

Posted By on Mon, Aug 1, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Velasquez
  • Velasquez
Despite recently canned city finance director Terri Velasquez's assertion that Mayor Steve Bach initially dismissed her claims of financial mismanagement and a revenge-motivated termination, the mayor is saying he plans to look into her allegations.

“Given Ms. Velasquez’ relationship with the City over the past 24 years, including with the City’s legal team and her former role in the auditor’s office, we will proceed immediately to retain an outside independent investigator to review the allegations," Bach said in a press release. "I encourage Ms. Velasquez to come forward with all of the specific allegations. I am determined to get answers, to see that facts come out, and that there is resolution.”

Velasquez recently sent the following letter to the press:

“I am providing this statement to help clarify the situation concerning my termination of employment with the City of Colorado Springs, which occurred on July 28, 2011. I was terminated from my position as Director of Finance and Administrative Services, and offered no new employment.

On June 27, 2011, after nearly 24 years of proud and faithful service to the community of Colorado Springs, I was presented with a four month severance package to resign from the City. The package contained a provision that would prevent me from communicating anything negative about the City. When I asked Steve Cox, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and my supervisor, why he wanted to end my employment, he stated that he had given me a year to get on board and I had not gotten on board.

During my performance review with Steve Cox in April 2011, he never mentioned that I was not on board. The rating Steve Cox gave me exceeded expectations.

If what Steve Cox was referring to was a cover up of facts relating to financial problems or mismanagement, I was not on board. One of these instances included an overpayment of $4,913 to Mr. Cox, which occurred in May 2010, and while he was Chief of the Fire Department. Mr. Cox never voluntarily brought this overpayment to the City’s attention.

Six months after this overpayment occurred, Finance staff discovered the problem. This overpayment could have caused taxpayers to pay Mr. Cox an additional $160 per month in pension benefits for the rest of his life. I took the initiative for the public good and reported the overpayment to Denny Nester, Internal Auditor. Within days of reporting the concerns to the Auditor, however, I was requested by the Administration to consider a voluntary severance from employment. I refused the implied or expressed request to resign. Mr. Cox ultimately repaid the City. There were other fiscal improprieties that were discovered and reported.

I also have not been on board in regard to the El Pomar Foundation’s donation to the City for the USOC project and the alleged mishandling of those funds. In April 2011, I was asked by a City official to prepare a statement to the El Pomar Foundation regarding their donation to the City for the USOC project. That statement was to certify to El Pomar that the donated funds had been used appropriately. I declined to provide that statement given that the funds were used by LandCo in a manner inconsistent with the required usage terms. The District Attorney’s office met with me in June 2011 regarding its investigation into the alleged improper use of El Pomar funds. I was cooperative in this investigation and reported the meeting to the Administration before it actually occurred. I was not told that I could not meet with the District Attorney. Soon after cooperating with the DA’s investigation I was presented with a new severance package for a voluntary resignation. I understood that I was being threatened with termination of employment if I did not sign a voluntary resignation.

On June 28, 2011, I met with Mayor Steve Bach. I told him I was upset at what was occurring and asked the Mayor if he had reviewed the severance package. The Mayor said that he had not seen the package. I asked the Mayor if I could continue with my employment and suggested that I report to him directly or someone else. The Mayor said that I could not. I asked the Mayor if he knew why I was being forced out of employment and terminated, and explained to him my perception that I was being terminated for reporting financial mismanagement. The Mayor refused to act and said that he would support Mr. Cox in his decision.

I have now been terminated from employment.

I intend to fight this wrongful termination. I have done nothing wrong, and the citizens of Colorado Springs have a right to know how their officials are functioning and also have a right to demand honesty and transparency in government. It behooves the City Council to conduct an investigation into whether there have been any improprieties and wrongdoing by high ranking City officials.”

Any additional questions about the situation should be referred to my attorneys at the law office of Frank and Finger, P.C.

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