The struggle to find a city administrator gets weird 

click to enlarge Councilor Bob Todd’s the latest to decline the job. - COURTESY BOB TODD
  • Courtesy Bob Todd
  • Councilor Bob Todd’s the latest to decline the job.

Manitou Springs City Council’s search for a city administrator — now a nearly 18-month grind punctuated by repeated rejections by preferred candidates — came to a halt once again on June 11, when Ward 3 Councilor Bob Todd read a prepared statement to Council declining to accept the position.

Since it began its search in January 2018, Council has offered the city’s top job to four people, including Todd. All have turned the job down. Ed Longfield, former Manitou Springs School District 14 superintendent, also looked like a likely pick, but dropped out of the race. 

Todd, meanwhile, has been in and out of the running for the office, and has also participated in the search committee looking to fill the position — though he recused himself when he was in the running.

In a surprise move, a majority of the Council selected Todd for the position at a May 21 meeting. As the item was added at the meeting, the public was not properly informed that the vote would take place.

Mayor Ken Jaray opposed the move, and pointed to the fact that Todd had previously served on the search committee as an ethical issue.

Todd’s statement in rejecting the position reflects the anger and divisiveness his selection stirred up. He said he did not violate ethical codes in seeking the office and that he simply sought to serve the city.

Then he appeared to call out Jaray, saying his office, “undermined me in that job before it could even begin.

“Even more sad is that the office of the mayor has fomented unnecessary discord and confusion within our city and beyond.”

Councilor Becky Elder characterized Council’s efforts to fill the position and the controversy following Todd’s selection as “so much confusion, anger and unnecessary B.S.”

But, after the speech, Todd said he would fully support whoever becomes the next city administrator. And Jaray also appeared ready to move on, asking, “Where do we go from here?”

The ensuing discussion was free of the recent rancor among what Elder called a “dysfunctional” Council. Elder asked that a candidate search be conducted locally, and Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Fortuin asked for a quick plan to hire an interim city administrator.

Councilor Susan Wolbrueck asked that Council “be a little more realistic,” pointing out that in her opinion, the city’s recent history would make it difficult to fill the position. She reminded her colleagues that four Council seats, including mayor, will be up for re-election in November and suggested Council should wait until after the election to continue its search.

Since interim City Administrator Leah Ash’s last day is June 27, that would mean that department heads would report directly to Council for the time being.

But some Councilors thought that was a bad plan — Fortuin said that running the city without an interim city administrator would be a “disservice” to the city and that “things may go off the rails” without an interim administrator. 

While Manitou’s Council still hasn’t cemented its strategy, it does appear to have tempered its drama. Jaray and Todd had a relaxed, hand-shaking encounter during a break in the June 11 meeting, with Jaray saying, in effect, that the two will make things work.

“There will be a more thorough conversation next week,” Jaray told Council and those in attendance.

A version of this story first appeared in the Pikes Peak Bulletin.


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