Lanning under fire again

City manager earns criticism, praise in rocky annual evaluation

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— Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning strongly refuted rumors Thursday that his job is ending after a rocky evaluation earlier this week.

"I'm at work today," Lanning said simply. "I'll be at work next week."

But questions about his performance are again a topic in Centennial Hall. Five of the seven Steamboat Springs City Council members met with Lanning on Monday for his annual evaluation, and City Council President Loui Antonucci said Thursday that "there are some problems" with Lanning's management style.

"At this point in time, I don't know where exactly it's going to go," Antonucci said Thursday of Lanning's future with the city. "There are a lot of rumors flying around out there."

Council members and Lanning also discussed his performance in February, when a council retreat became an impromptu review of the city manager. The council held the Monday and February meetings in executive session. In February, Antonucci said it was necessary to conduct that meeting in private so council members and Lanning could freely air frustrations or concerns.

At least some of those concerns still are festering.

"You have a city manager, and you have seven people, and I don't know that you can please all seven people," Antonucci said of Lanning's relationship with the council. "Some of them had some misgivings about the way that (Lanning) interacts with the community."

Council members Meg Bentley and Walter Magill were not at Monday's evaluation.

Antonucci said council members agreed that Lanning's strengths are in administrative duties including hiring and overseeing city staff, whose "morale has never been higher," Antonucci added.

But City Council President Pro-tem Cari Hermacinski said she would like to see improved community relations from Lanning.

"I think it's really important to view your City Hall as a customer service hall," she said Thursday. "That was one thing I conveyed."

Code questions

Hermacinski said two recent incidents could have been handled in a more personal manner.

About a month ago, Hermacinski said, city code enforcement staff issued "literally dozens, if not hundreds" of citations to Realtors for sign code violations. The citations required appearances in municipal court. Lanning said the violations included signs in the public right-of-way, multiple signs on single units and signs that exceeded size limits.

Mark Stine, president of the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The second incident, Hermacinski said, involved a change in auditing rules for members of the local construction trades association. Contractors pay city taxes based on project costs. Hermacinski said the formula for calculating those costs and resulting taxes was changed with "a very heavy-handed letter" that could have been preceded by personal meetings but was not.

"I just want things to be really collaborative," she said.

Lanning said the incidents were simply cases of enforcing existing laws.

"I don't believe I have the discretion to decide which laws are enforced and which are not enforced - those are already on the books," he said. "In the scheme of things, it was not the first time that anybody had been made aware of violations."

Antonucci said he plans to meet with council members next week to discuss concerns regarding Lanning, and that if it were up to him, Lanning will continue as city manager.

"Yes, I would have him continue, simply because I personally get along with him," Antonucci said. "His management style is OK with me."

Lanning said concerns about his customer service abilities are "greatly overstated."

"It depends on who you talk to," he said. "I believe there are a number of people I've worked with who feel differently.

"Whether my job is on the line or not is not a question for me. That's for council to determine. : And I'll be at work next week," Lanning continued. "I don't have any changes in my plans."

Brandon Gee contributed to this report.

Comments

steamvent 5 years, 9 months ago

City employee "morale has never been higher?" Maybe it appears so when the top mangager comes in like a buzz saw and fires anyone who might not fit his management style or reorganizes so those strong enough to voice an opinion end up in the coat closet down the hall. Maybe the rest are afraid for their jobs. Running any organization with blunt force is not leadership. While it may yield short term quantifiable results, it usually results in chasing away good people who might otherwise make a valuable contribution.

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Nitro 5 years, 9 months ago

Steamvent, are you a City employee? Do you have first hand knowledge of staff morale? Second and third hand information, as we all know, is diluted and distorted each time it is repeated. Having had frequent interaction with City Hall and Mr. Lanning, I have seen the change in staff attitude and morale, which can be attributed to Mr. Lanning's positive changes and decisions.

The two issues described in the article are not new to this community. Real estate signs in the right of way has been a problem for many years. And now contractors, who've been informed numerous times that their records are subject to audit are complaining because of a "heavy handed letter?" Should we as taxpayers allow certain members of the community to not pay their due just because our current City Council is pro development? Perhaps those members of City Council who are outraged by this action, should question their motives. Is this Council afraid that Mr. Lanning will guide them to do their job, which is to safe guard the interests of the entire community and not just a select group? Council, what are you trying to pull on our community?

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Nitro 5 years, 9 months ago

Brittney, you are so right. Please tell me what experience Council has in running the daily operations of the City. Council is elected to be the voice of the entire community and to set policy. We appreciate their willingness to do that job because many times it is thankless. We encourage Council to utilize Mr. Lanning's experience and courage to continue to make the necessary changes that have long been ignored. Should this Council decide to fire Mr. Lanning, who but the less qualified candidates would be willing to make the committment to move to Steamboat and work for such a group of elected officials? Is that who we want at the helm of the City while such tremendous growth and change is occuring? Do we want a puppet of Council or do we want strong leadership who can assist Council carry out their mission.
I encourage every citizen of Steamboat Springs to attend the very next Council meeting to voice your opinion.

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