Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bach backpedals on reporting severance pay to Council

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 3:02 PM

click to enlarge Miller: So now the media speaks for the mayor? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Miller: So now the media speaks for the mayor?
Yesterday, we posted a blog based on what was said on Monday regarding City Council's request to get quarterly reports on severance pay authorized by Mayor Steve Bach.

The city's personnel policies and procedures manual requires Bach to make reports four times a year to Council on the amounts of severance pay he's OK'd for at-will employees, who generally are the best paid people in city government and, in the past, have left the city with handsome severance checks, some exceeding $90,000.

But now, it appears Bach is back-pedaling.

Council President Keith King wrote a letter to Bach dated Monday, saying that in light of "recent media coverage" about severance payments, he was asking for the quarterly reports. He was referring to the Independent's latest report that Bach has spent $1.66 million on severance pay during his three-plus years in office, and that the policies spell out the requirement that Council be given quarterly reports of severance pay.

The letter ends like this:
I respectfully request that you provide City Council with reports referenced in Policy #66 dating to the beginning of your term as Mayor. I look forward to receiving the reports and engaging in a dialogue on the prudence of future payments in light of the City's ongoing budget challenges.
On Wednesday, King received a letter from Bach's Chief of Staff Steve Cox, who basically told him to perch and twirl.
As [HR director] Mike Sullivan indicated to you in his October 13, 2014, email, the Mayor and professional staff are confident that we have properly complied with the PPM severance reporting requirement by providing periodic public disclosure widely reported in the media.
Cox then tells King, "However, if a majority of City Councilors would prefer an alternative reporting method, please forward that suggestion for the Mayor’s consideration."

Suggestion? The quarterly reports are required under the policy. Moreover, the city claims it complied by providing information through the media, but doesn't bother to mention that those disclosures occurred only in compliance with the Colorado Open Records Act, which, by the way, contains monetary fines for non-compliance.

Take note that both the Indy and the Gazette have relied on CORA to obtain this information over the months, and the city refused for months to release the actual severance agreements until the Indy threatened to file a lawsuit.

There's no denying the media has reported on the issue of severance pay. We've written at least 19 stories that dealt in some way with Bach's severance pay policies in the last 18 months alone, but as City Councilor Joel Miller notes, the policy doesn't state that "periodic" reports are to be made to Council. The policy is very clear: the mayor is to provide reports quarterly, which he has never done.
 
"How can you say with a straight face that media reports constitute a report to council?" Miller says. "Are they going to start issuing us the budget through the media as well?"


 

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