Steamboat Springs Alan Lanning's future as Steamboat Springs city manager likely will be decided in the next seven days.
The city's top administrator met with two Steamboat Springs City Council members and their attorney Monday in preparation for meetings today and next Tuesday to discuss his contract. City Council President Loui Antonucci, President Pro Tem Cari Hermacinski and City Attorney Tony Lettunich attended the meeting with Lanning. Hermacinski and Antonucci said no decisions were made at the meeting and that they did not negotiate with Lanning. The two council members also said the full range of possibilities exists for Lanning: he could stay on, be fired or resign.
"I can't really tell you what's going to happen because I don't know," said Antonucci, who said last week that, if it were up to him, Lanning would continue as city manager.
Hermacinski said the question should be answered by next week.
"I would say that that's the case," she said.
Hermacinski said the purpose of Monday's meeting was to prepare for future meetings with the broader council. Antonucci said council will hold an executive, or secret, session tonight to discuss Lanning's contract. Executive sessions are permitted by state statue to discuss personnel matters. Hermacinski said there also will be a public discussion at next week's council meeting.
"That's something that's never been discussed in public," Hermacinski said. "I don't think any council member can make up their mind until they've heard from the public."
Lettunich, who represents City Council and does not work under the city manager, would not comment about Monday's meeting.
Lanning's future employment with the city has been in question since an annual evaluation last week.
"His numbers weren't very good," Antonucci said.
Council members also cited Lanning's sleep-related health concerns, which they said could be impeding his performance.
The meeting Monday morning immediately preceded a noon joint meeting of the Routt County Board of Commissioners and City Council. Lanning was present for that meeting. In a gray T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Lanning sat quietly at the far end of the table with Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord. He took notes and did not speak during the meeting, except privately to DuBord.
Afterward, Lanning would not answer questions about his relationship with City Council.
"It's a personnel matter," he said.
Out of the loop
Council members Jon Quinn, Scott Myller and Walter Magill said they did not know about the Monday morning meeting with Antonucci, Hermacinski, Lanning and Lettunich.
"Maybe I didn't get invited," Myller joked. "I don't know of anything to that regard."
Myller and Magill said continued discussion of Lanning's employment is appropriate in the wake of his evaluation.
"I think we've given him a review," Myller said. "It wasn't so good, I guess, you know? Whether we can work with his style or not I think is up for debate."
Magill, who along with Councilwoman Meg Bentley was absent for last week's evaluation but submitted a written evaluation, agreed, and cited work and meetings Lanning has missed because of his health concerns.
"I'd like to see it continue to be discussed," Magill said. "I think it needs to be discussed. : Is he well enough?"
Antonucci also touched on Lanning's health.
"He's missed a lot of time," Antonucci said. "Sometimes he was going to meetings and he was tired. : He's just had some things going on in his life that have been very difficult and not allowed him to be as effective as he could be as city manager."
Asked if Lanning discussed resigning for health or other reasons, Antonucci said, "not specifically."
According to the City of Steamboat Springs Home Rule Charter, a city manager's "appointment shall be without definite term," and, "The Council, at a regular or special meeting, may, upon the vote of the majority of the entire Council, remove the City Manager from office. Upon such termination, the Council may in its discretion provide termination pay."
The current City Council is drastically different than the one that hired Lanning in 2006. The November 2007 election saw three incumbents defeated and five new members elected to the seven-member body. The new council not only brought a new policy direction but also questioned the actions of the previous City Council and moved quickly to reverse some of its decisions. Lanning and his staff were not always as swift to change direction. On issues such as the city's purchase of the Iron Horse Inn and its relationship with the Routt County Regional Building Department, Lanning made comments that ran counter to the majority opinion of City Council.
Council members and Lanning first officially discussed his performance in February, when a council retreat became an impromptu review of the city manager. In February, Antonucci said the secret discussion was necessary so council members and Lanning could freely air frustrations or concerns.
Those frustrations and concerns, which apparently have lingered, appear to center on Lanning's interaction with the community. Hermacinski said last week that two recent incidents could have been handled in a more personal manner. The first concerned "literally dozens, if not hundreds" of signage citations city code enforcement officers dished out to Realtors about a month ago, Hermacinski said. The second involved the city's move to audit the estimates it uses to determine the taxes contractors pay based on project costs.
While Lanning said last week he simply was enforcing existing laws, some council members view his style as heavy-handed.
"I just thought that was the cruelest punt in a long time," Myller said about auditing contractors' estimates at a May 10 City Council retreat.
In preparation for that retreat, Myller submitted a list of his five top priorities. The fifth was "change the adversarial relationship of the city with its constituents." Myller also complained at the retreat about hassles brought on by a Planning Department that, Myller said, seems as if it "is out to get whatever it can" from developers and slow them down. Motioning toward the two top hires of his tenure - Finance Director Lisa Rolan and Public Works Director Philo Shelton - Lanning tried to assuage Myller's frustrations.
"We've made some changes and hopefully we'll see that things improve," Lanning said. "We're certainly not trying to slow anybody down. We're trying to have folks submit according to what the rules are. I just hope that over time we can build the trust with you that there isn't a conscious desire on anyone's part here to have an adversarial relationship with our constituents."
"I want to believe that," Myller replied.
- Mike Lawrence contributed to this report.
- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210
or e-mail email@example.com