Steamboat Springs Three Oak Creek town employees complained to Town Board members during a Sept. 25 closed-door meeting that former Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman was too involved in town business and had assumed a role akin to town manager, not mayor.
Those complaints were made public last week through the release of audiotapes of the Town Board meeting, which was held in secret session. The tapes, nearly four hours in length, reveal concerns about the mayor as expressed by Town Clerk Karen Halterman, billing and court clerk Vivian Johnson and Public Works Director Jim Photos.
Each of the three employees met with Town Board members during the secret session and generally described a work atmosphere in which they felt they were not listened to, were undermined by Rodeman's actions and were left in the dark about town projects.
Town Board members Dave Fisher and Steve "Spike" Beven did not attend the Sept. 25 meeting. Rodeman was asked to recuse herself from the meeting before it went into secret session. She later was asked to address the Town Board before the meeting adjourned.
The employees' concerns included allegations that Rodeman:
- Was inappropriately involved in "all town matters and decision-making"
- Was unwilling to listen to employee complaints and concerns.
- Circumvented town employee decision-making.
- Assumed the role of a town manager.
- Inappropriately handled resident and other town employee concerns by not involving proper administration.
- Made "special deals" with town residents facing town collections.
At the end of the Sept. 25 meeting, Town Board members Angie Kralj KenCairn, J. Elliott, John Crawford and Tom Bleuer agreed that the goal should be to mediate the situation and bring cohesiveness back to the town's government.
Members suggested mediation, moving Rodeman's office out of Oak Creek Town Hall, creating specific and distinct job descriptions for employees and better enforcing the town's protocol for receiving and handling employee or resident complaints.
However, Rodeman resigned her position as mayor Oct. 15, saying she wanted what was best for the town and that she could no longer work with such "hateful" people.
Doing too much
Elliott, the mayor pro-tem, said he called the Sept. 25 secret session to give Halterman, Photos and Johnson an opportunity to voice their concerns about how town business was being handled.
KenCairn told fellow Town Board members that the three employees had come to her separately to express their concerns. Each of their stories was essentially the same, she said.
"Cargo gets involved in every single town matter. She does their jobs, she goes behind their backs. She doesn't listen to them," KenCairn said at the Sept. 25 meeting, according to the audiotape recordings.
Johnson, who was the first employee to address the board, was audibly upset as she told the board she just wanted Cargo "to give me a chance to do my job."
"She tries to smooth everything over between (the residents of Oak Creek) and the town, but she just exasperates the problem, and I get yelled at for it," she said.
Johnson also said she tried to talk to Rodeman about her concerns, but that nothing came of it.
"She doesn't listen. I won't go to her. I can't talk to her about anything," Johnson said.
Photos reiterated Johnson's statements and said he was concerned about not being informed about current town projects, including the Main Street project and the wastewater treatment plant replacement project.
Photos said he hadn't "demanded" to be a part of the projects, when asked by the board why he felt out of the loop.
"All we're asking for is that we talk, listen and work together. Cargo acts like a town manager, when she isn't one," he said.
Halterman, like Johnson and Photos, said she wanted better communication between Rodeman and town employees and that she was shocked the situation had become so polarized.
"I am stunned it has gotten to this point, because we simply wanted some communication," she said.
Halterman's main concerns were that Rodeman circumvented her decisions and actions and that Rodeman did not follow town protocol when handling residents' concerns.
"Cargo has been self-appointed to single-handedly run the town of Oak Creek. She's created a town manager position for herself, which she is not," Halterman said.
Reading from Colorado state statutes, Halterman told the board that the position of a mayor is to oversee Town Board meetings and to have an equal vote with the other members.
"The mayor does not need to make every single motion or talk over everybody else. A mayor is no more powerful than administering the meetings," she said.
Before ending their statements, each town employee told the Town Board they believed Rodeman's heart was in the right place, that they liked Rodeman personally and that they considered her an asset to Oak Creek.
Throwing in the towel
On Friday, Rodeman said she had a hard time believing that the events that have transpired during the past two months were in the best interest of the town. She said she had not yet listened to the audiotapes of the Sept. 25 meeting.
"If any one of those three employees or any one of the three extremely hateful Town Board members can look me in the eye and tell me their actions were in the best interest of the town, my humblest apologies go to the town," she said. "If they really feel like that, I will apologize to this town on the highest of mountains."
Rodeman denied the allegations Halterman, Photos and Johnson brought against her. She also said none of them came to her to talk about their concerns, which is contradictory to what they told the Town Board.
"They never came in to talk to me. Ever. I wish they had, because we could have sat down and talked about it," she said.
Rodeman also said Photos' allegations that he was "left in dark" about town projects were not true.
"He was absolutely aware of every single meeting I ever had concerning them. I announced the meetings at Town Board meetings and in the (town) newsletters. There were huge signs posted everywhere," she said.
"Everyone wanted to have a meeting so I could fill people in with the Main Street projects, and he didn't even walk the two blocks to attend. Not one of the Town Board members attended it, either," she said.
Rodeman said she only became involved in town business when other employees asked her to or when residents came to her with their concerns.
"I don't believe I ever did anything to hurt this town. If I ever stepped out of line or butted my head into anything, it was only because I was drug into it by a citizen who was being treated unfairly by (town employees) or because they were told something incorrect," she said.
As mayor, Rodeman said she felt her job included handling resident questions, concerns and complaints because the town does not have a town manager.
"You can call it the town manager, or the mayor, but I felt if people could talk to me better than anyone else, they could count on me. They still can," she said.