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Despite lacking minimum qualifications, city retiree to head public works 

Unlikely comeback

Mayor Steve Bach has appointed David Lethbridge, a city retiree, to head the Public Works Department — even though Lethbridge apparently has neither the degree nor the license listed as requirements for the job.

City Council is required by the City Charter to confirm the public works director's appointment, and was expected to take the matter up this week. But Monday, the mayor's office simply appointed Lethbridge interim director, which doesn't require Council confirmation.

Lethbridge retired from the city as subdivision engineering review manager in 2009, after 26 years of service. At that time, he was paid $110,819 a year, the city says in response to questions.

In his new role, Lethbridge will be paid $147,657. That's $12,000 more than his predecessor, Helen Migchelbrink, was paid, although Lethbridge seemingly has neither the degree nor the license that Migchelbrink has.

Under "minimum qualifications" in the job posting for Public Works Director/City Engineer, the city listed a bachelor's degree with "major coursework in civil engineering, public administration, business administration, or related field." While the city failed to produce the résumé that the Indy requested last Thursday, Lethbridge's LinkedIn page states his bachelor's is in pastoral studies from Nazarene Bible College. It adds that he's taken "lots of engineering and management training courses over the years." (Lethbridge could not be reached for more detail.)

The job posting also called for "Registration as a Professional Engineer (PE) in Colorado or ability to obtain Colorado PE registration within six months of hire." Lethbridge's LinkedIn page does not mention this registration, and Migchelbrink explains via email that getting it is a multi-year process that requires passage of two exams.

"The first is the fundamentals of engineering," says Migchelbrink, who's now working for the state Department of Transportation. "Then you must work for four years under the direction of a [professional engineer], then you take and pass the Professional Engineer exam to become licensed."

Asked about Lethbridge's qualifications, chief communications officer Cindy Aubrey says in an email, "Mayor Bach is confident that Dave Lethbridge is the best person for the job."

Duties mentioned in the job posting included oversight of city engineering, stormwater management, streets, fleet management, traffic engineering and transit. It drew 43 applications, 27 of which met all requirements, according to the city.

Bach's Chief of Staff, Laura Neumann, noted in a message to Council on Monday that Lethbridge retired as engineering manager, "a position with responsibilities similar to Public Works Director." Since retiring, he's worked part-time for El Paso County as recovery coordinator for post-Waldo Canyon Fire flood mitigation, she noted, and also in the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department's flood plain office.

Lethbridge, who starts Monday, is charged with overseeing a $115 million budget with 271 authorized full-time employees.

The Charter is silent on appointments of interim directors, so it appears he can remain interim director indefinitely, thereby skirting Council confirmation. Not that confirmation is a big deal, if history is any indication.

The Charter requires Council to confirm appointment of the city attorney, city clerk, chief financial officer, and many department heads, among others. But since the new charter was adopted in November 2010 and put into practice when Bach took office in June 2011, Council has never held up a confirmation.

zubeck@csindy.com

  • Unlikely comeback

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