MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. — For the majority of Manitou Springs’ current city council members, most of their term has been served to a city without a leader.
In January 2018, the city parted ways with the city administrator at the time. They have yet to find one since.
On three separate occasions, the council had offered a candidate a job, only for them to turn it down.
“We have had several interim city administrators,” said Ken Jaray, the mayor of Manitou.
Jaray said it’s hard to find a candidate. Despite the $120,000 to $150,000 paycheck, experienced candidates are hard to come by.
Some may also use an offer from one city as leverage in negotiating with their current employer.
The most recent of the city’s interim leaders is set to leave the post on June 27, leaving less than two weeks for the City Council to decide what to do. In its May 21 meeting, they had been given a list of candidates. Instead, they voted on one of their own, Councilmember Robert Todd.
“They moved that process forward,” Todd said. “They moved it forward certainly with my agreement.”
Todd was out of town for a month, returning on this past Sunday, so he was not in town or present during the meetings were an offer to him was approved by a majority vote of the council.
Jaray took issue with the offer, saying for a member of the selection board to take the job is a conflict of interest.
“Typically our rules and state rules for elected officials indicate that when you participate in a selection process you shouldn’t be the one to gain financially from that process and that basically was what was going to happen,” Jaray said.
Todd has a different take. He said because the city has gone so long without an administrator and been turned down so many times, it makes sense to look inward.
“It’s not unusual for a member of a search committee, once that search has reached a certain maturity, to ask to be selected to the position, because the search committee has spent a lot of time evaluating what the requirements are,” Todd said.
Todd said in both the private and public sector, those instances are relatively common.
At any rate, Todd turned down the position upon his return to council Tuesday.
“Things had gotten so argumentative, so relatively toxic, this is not the condition in which you want to bring in a city administrator,” Todd said.
Now, with the clock ticking toward June 27, the Manitou Springs city council is looking inwards once again–not to choose a candidate, but how they believe the city should operate going forward. All options are up for consideration.
The top options are to continue the search or get rid of the City Administrator completely.
Getting rid of the Administrator would create another slew of considerations for the council. It would mean deciding between a strong mayor format or a format in which department leaders report directly to the city council.
Todd expressed his concern over a strong-mayor format as the City’s charter would have to be changed in time for a November election. Combined with the election process, he doesn’t think that is a reasonable thing to ask.
Jaray expressed his concern about getting rid of the administrator as a whole.
“I can’t imagine that we could operate very well or efficiently without a chief executive officer or chief operating officer,” he said, “But, we’ll have that conversation on Tuesday.”
The council will meet Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at 606 Manitou Ave.