Memorial money evaporates, Democrat challenges Littleton, more 


Laura Neumann resigns

Mayor Steve Bach's Chief of Staff Laura Neumann resigned effective March 1, the city announced in a news release Tuesday.

Neumann, who joined the city in 2012 from the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, replaced former fire chief and chief of staff Steve Cox, who resigned shortly after the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed 347 homes in the city. Now Cox will step back into the chief of staff role.

Neumann, the latest in a string of city officials to leave during Bach's tenure, gave no reason for her departure in the news release. A city spokeswoman says she will receive no severance pay, unlike others who have been paid a combined total exceeding $1 million to leave.

Called "Bach's key partner" in making the city the most "business- and citizen-friendly city in the nation" and credited with "watershed contributions," Neumann received a $25,000 bonus from Bach in 2012 for her management skills.

Top officials who have left Bach's fold include Airport Director Mark Earle, Fire Chief Rich Brown, City Attorney Chris Melcher, Public Works Director Helen Migchelbrink, Budget Officer Lisa Bigelow, Finance Director Terri Velasquez, City Attorney Pat Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy Johnson and Police Chief Richard Myers. — PZ

Memorial fund drops

The first full year that the city leased Memorial Health System saw the enterprise's assets cut in half.

When 2013 started, Memorial had $28.1 million on hand; when it ended, it had only $14.2 million, despite the city receiving its $5.6 million annual lease payment.

Most of the money lost went to the lessee, University of Colorado Health. The payments, one for $5 million and another for $7.4 million, are required by the 40-year lease, which began Oct. 1, 2012. Apparently, the city thought it would have more cash than it did.

The Memorial enterprise fund also fell due to payouts for its former health plan and for workers' compensation, severance pay, pension costs, legal fees and a $1 million settlement with bondholders triggered by the city's paying off debt earlier than promised. City Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner told City Council on Monday that many of those costs won't recur.

The biggest pot of money, $259 million, remains in limbo due to a lawsuit with the Public Employees' Retirement Association. PERA says it's owed more than $200 million for coverage of Memorial's employees, who have left the PERA system. The city says it owes nothing. — PZ

'Missed' detail hurts city

The University of Colorado Health recently announced that Children's Hospital Denver, which is linked to UCH but not part of its lease of Colorado Springs' Memorial Health System, plans to build a new facility next to Memorial North. And it turns out that the lease requires that UCH be given permission to use that site without paying the city a penny.

The new facility will allow Children's to move out of Memorial's facilities on Boulder Street, which in itself constitutes a loss for the city. Revenue-sharing payments made by UCH to the city are based only on services provided using Memorial's facilities. If Children's of Denver moves into its own facility, the city won't get any of those payments — even if the hospital is built on city land.

"We gave the rights to use that land to UCH and our partner, Children's Hospital," explained Council President Pro Tem Merv Bennett to his colleagues Monday. Children's still has to get Council permission to build, but it's strictly a formality, he said. The city could opt to participate in the new building if it had money to invest, but it doesn't, Bennett said.

Bennett reported that the City Attorney's Office will again hire Fulbright & Jaworski, a national law firm that was paid $1 million to negotiate the city's lease. The idea, Bennett says, is "to help us go through" the lease and determine "if there's anything else in this agreement that we missed." — PZ

Democrat to challenge Littleton

The all-Republican El Paso County Commission could gain a left-leaning voice in the 2014 election.

Jariah Walker, a Democrat, has announced that he will challenge incumbent District 5 Commissioner Peggy Littleton. A press release notes that Walker is a third-generation Colorado Springs resident. He is a partner with Walker Asset Management Realty, Inc., and is described as a “proponent of regional economic development.” Walker is married with two young daughters.

“I am running for county commissioner because I believe that all residents of El Paso County deserve a voice in their government,” Walker states in a press release. “As a commissioner, I will work with every constituent, to forge and strengthen the diverse partnerships that will ensure the greatest possible outcome in meeting our county’s challenges.”

Littleton also has another challenger, Thomas Austin, a Republican. No one has challenged the incumbent for the other seat up for election, which is held by District 1 Commissioner Darryl Glenn. — JAS

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