City's Hughes ejected

City manager fired after heated debate

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The Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday night to terminate Paul Hughes' position as city manager at the end of the month.

The 5-2 vote came at the end of a lengthy council meeting, at the time when council members present generally routine reports. Loui Antonucci and Paul Strong were the dissenting votes.

Hughes already was planning to leave; he announced his plans to retire last month. He was going to stay with the city until a new city manager was hired.

As part of her report, council member Susan Dellinger offered the motion to terminate Hughes in his position as of Dec. 31, saying that the new year was approaching and that the council -- which brought new members and a new president last month -- should have a fresh start.

Council member Towny Anderson seconded the motion.

"It gives the new council a chance to look forward," he said. "It is a new council, and it needs to get its feet wet."

Antonucci said the move was unfair and would create a "void" until a new manager is found.

Strong agreed. "To me, this just shoots ourselves in the foot, and I'm really disappointed that you'd even think about it," he said.

This is a significant time in the city's history, council President Ken Brenner said. The council already knew that a transition in city managers was ahead, he said.

Brenner said that there have been communication problems for the past two years. He did not specify what the problems were, but he said that they occurred between the following: the council and staff, the council and the manager, and the council and the community at large. Brenner also said that there have been "uncomfortable" situations in the past year, but he did not describe any.

"I just don't think it's fair," Antonucci said, adding that the council can make decisions without the influence of the city manager. Hughes is not a burden, he said.

Antonucci also accused council members of discussing the motion ahead of time and planning how they would vote.

"What you're telling me about your intent is a bunch of crap," Antonucci said. "It's been orchestrated."

Dellinger said that the city has had interim managers before.

"It's nothing new," she said.

She said that the council needed a chance to "wipe the slate clean."

"It's not a personal issue at all," she said. "It's how we function as a management team."

Strong disagreed.

"I don't even believe that for a second."

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