Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning listens to comments during a joint meeting between the City Council and Routt County Commissioners on Monday.

Photo by John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning listens to comments during a joint meeting between the City Council and Routt County Commissioners on Monday.

Lanning's future up in the air

Council plans meetings this week and next to discuss manager's contract

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— 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."

Lingering concerns

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 bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

shadow 6 years, 5 months ago

Unethical behavior, special interests, poor leadership, let him go.

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Nitro 6 years, 5 months ago

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.

Please tell me what is cruel about auditing contractors to insure they are actually paying the voter approved taxes? Are they afraid that these audits may actually reveal that taxes have long gone unpaid? Does Council believe that their special interest group is exempt from enforcement? Should the community be denied the revenue needed to support the additional infrastructure brought on by new development and construction? Does it surprise anyone that real estate signs and contractor audits provided the catalyst to this debate? It is no secret that most of the new Council members were backed by the development and contracting factions. However, as officials elected to represent the entire community, their duty is to make decisions that are good for all not just the select few. Mr. Lanning brings a wealth of knowledge, leadership, courage to make long overdue changes and a strong commitment to our community. Should this Council opt to fire him, Steamboat Springs will have a very difficult time replacing him with anyone less than mediocre, at best. Our community deserves better than that.

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bluesage 6 years, 5 months ago

It appears the City Council feels outdone by the School Board in the house cleaning department.

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WZ4EVER 6 years, 5 months ago

The City manager is Council's ONLY employee...if they don't feel like they have the right guy (just like the last Council did), then they should replace him. The only problem with the last bunch was the manner (or rather, the lack of manners) in which they terminated Paul Hughes. If you want another manager, go get one. Its your prerogative, just don't be jerks about it like Brenner's bunch was.

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justathought 6 years, 5 months ago

3 Council members did not know about the Monday morning meeting, sounds illegal and underhanded to me. Hey council, You're the "Gods" of the boat, if you don't want a code enforced, change the code!! Hmmm, Could it be that the code is there to appease the residents and the lack of enforcement is there to appease the contractors? Maybe a new event should be added to the rodeo, fence riding.

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colobob 6 years, 5 months ago

Seems to me that the problem is the same as it usually turns out to be in this as in most small towns................, one of a conflict of interest. Looks like Mr Lanning, by enforcing the signage code, may possibly have rubbed someone the wrong way, at least that's what it's starting to look like. Interesting link flotilla, very interesting. I wonder who that someone could be?

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Terry Noble 6 years, 5 months ago

I had to read this three times to understand it, without success. This whole thing has a smell we have smelled before. Two out of seven in attendance in this "secret session" (both pro manager), three not notified and two who's stance is unknown for whatever reason. The only things missing were the mention of conspiracy and the accusation that the Pilot/Today has printed yet another "biased" article. Seems like the only one who can get anything positive out of this is the City Attorney. I'm anxious to see how this unfolds. I DO know that 99% of the time if it smells like manure it IS!

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brittneyspears 6 years, 5 months ago

Here we go again. This Council has been in office for what, 8 months. So now their all so smart as to how to run a city? Why don't they hire one of themselves to be the city manager. This Council is ignorant to the needs of the community and only interested in their own personal gain in their decision making. I mean really.....8 months at the helm and they want another change in management. Since when did this group become experts on running a city? This group is a much of yaw who's. Secret meetings, discussing their own agenda's, getting cozy on the vespa... Do they really think no one see them? I thought there were rules and regulations regarding this type of behavior. I mean legal rules regarding conduct.

I suggest a recall......

This is BS

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shadow 6 years, 5 months ago

brittney,

ever consider council might be listening to the public?

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brittneyspears 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes I have...... their own public, private little group. So your saying the community...the real community (not the developers) wants a change in the City's management. I don't think so.....Why not ask the city staff, they work with Mr. Lanning on a daily basis. They were hired to do a job that they trained and educated in. Not like our Council weekend warriors. I agree that we need change, just not on the city management side. Just change the wolves who dress like sheep.

This is BS

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flotilla 6 years, 5 months ago

http://www.homesandland.com/Real_Estate/CO/City/Steamboat_Springs/Agents/Detail/930162.html

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.

who knew she was a realtor?

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justice4all 6 years, 5 months ago

Here we go again-----run another one off. Sure sounds familiar to me----- or was that the school board. No it was both. Maybe we should evaluate the school board and the city council.

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Malcolm_Reynolds 6 years, 5 months ago

Some members of council just want a marionette (puppet), so they can control the strings. The new touchy-feelie board are giving in to special interest groups.

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btheball 6 years, 5 months ago

From the IronHorse to affordable housing to the Parks and Rec Department's rally for their own Rec Center to the schools... Lanning operates under his own agenda with no tact and makes no bones about it. He doesn't give any credence to the City taxpayer surveys that say what the constituents want or not; and he pick and chooses cafeteria style what Council member(s) and public policies he wants to follow. He is not the Mayor, but he certainly acts like he thinks he is.

He needs to go.

Maybe we should get around to ELECTING a Mayor? Maybe that would add a little more accountability to the whole equation.

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flotilla 6 years, 5 months ago

Key word: accountability. There most definately should be a mayor in Steamboat. The thing is that most of our council is only concerned with now- not how their actions affect later.

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

A Mayor?

Elect a Mayor you say?

Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Electing a Mayor is always the way to get someone who's only goal is to get re-elected into the position of management. Yes after a term they know the ropes and can if they are competent effectively manage a city. The question is, who do we get that knows the ins and outs of city management? Who is familiar with City Council and all the city personnel? Who has the experience to do the job of Mayor for Steamboat Springs?

How does this sound,

Lanning for Mayor.

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btheball 6 years, 5 months ago

There are many people with integrity that meet those qualifications. And put Alan on the ballot. He may meet the quaifications you list above, but the integrity part...?

And you forgot a really important one: To carry out the wishes of the community (via Council) who he works for.

If we had a mayor, it isn't up to Council to fire or re-hire them, it's up the majority. Not such a radical idea, really.

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Terry Noble 6 years, 5 months ago

A couple years ago someone asked me "why doesn't Steamboat Springs have a mayor? I didn't know and assumed it was because we didn't want and /or need one. When I read the above suggesting "that we need a mayor" I felt it was time to see just what a "mayor" is. I found the following very interesting: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560218_2/Municipal_Government.html It didn't totally answer my question but it DID seem apparent that the problems we are confronted with are the result of lack of definition as to what who's job is. Read it and judge for yourselves.

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shadow 6 years, 5 months ago

An elected official is hard to unseat. Look at the Dr. D recall, plenty of signatures, but technicalities prevented a recall. How many people would vote differently for sheriff today, given the pending charges?

I'm not sure a Mayor is the answer.

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Tracy Barnett 6 years, 5 months ago

While Alan Lanning is not a warm and fuzzy guy, I find him to be professional in his interpretation of the codes that have been established by the people. In his time as City Manager he has hired strong people to head both the Public Works and Finance departments. His staff likes him and morale is higher than it has been in years. Alan seems to be a person who takes things in, evaluates them and responds with appropriate actions. If we don't want codes or ordinances followed to the letter, CHANGE THEM. He is doing his JOB, folks. Personally, I find Alan to be a very private guy. He isn't outspoken or warm and fuzzy. The real estate sign problem is just that, a problem. Real estate signs proliferate in the public right of way and we have known this for years. A particular local has been pointing out this problem and it has been ignored FOR YEARS. Code enforcement, and all enforcement for that matter, seems to be selective. What are the rules for if they are ignored? Just my humble opinion....

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sickofwhining 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey BTheBall, honestythebestpolicy, don't you think?

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flotilla 6 years, 5 months ago

I think the truth will come out as Cari digs her fingernails in deeper. Get ready for mass development and wonton upheavel. How do you think she got voted in- between her and louie, they have the realtors interests covered. Reminds me of the book, The Witches, by Raul Dahl- when all the normal looking women go to the secret witch meeting and take off their wigs, revealing their true, nastier identities.

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Hammurabi 6 years, 5 months ago

Did it occur to anyone that it wasn't the fact that the sign code was being violated, but how Lanning went about noticing the offenders? Usually, in the past, violators are noticed that they are in violation and that the problem needs to be remedied by a certain date and after that tickets will be issued. We're supposed to be a small community that acts in a civil manner and this problem could have been easily taken care of without all this drama. One would think that the manager would be aware of how to handle the problem without creating more drama than the situation called for. This is yet another example of the manager doing the elected officials no favors and pitting the elected council against their constituents unnecessarily. It's more a question of how out of tune the manager is with the community and how he conducts the city's business.

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rsssco 6 years, 5 months ago

Well flotilla, at least Cari has the courage to run, get elected, and put in the huge amount of time it takes to be on City Council. Then there's you flotilla. A spineless coward hiding behind an anonymous name throwing stones and doing nothing to help your city but cry and stamp your feet like a 3 year old while making sexist comments that show you ain't no man at all - just a pathetic chump.

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

Ham,

"Usually, in the past, violators are noticed that they are in violation and that the problem needs to be remedied by a certain date and after that, tickets will be issued."

There is a difference between considerate and complacent. These offenders have been disregarding current code because they wanted to. They had no altruistic motives. They were advertising their businesses.

If you think there is a good amount of bills posted around the boat now. Just wait until we have twice the population.

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colobob 6 years, 5 months ago

If in the past if violaters were "noticed" that they were in violation and that the situation needed to be remedied shouldn't that be sufficient for all those who follow. When a motorist gets stopped for speeding is it ok because the officer never personally warned that particular person before? Does a shoplifter need to be warned that shoplifting is against the law? These people knew the rules and chose to circumvent them. Lanning was following the rules regulating the use and location of signs. In short, like it or not, he was doing his job. Apparently someone didn't like it. Ignorance or arrogance, take your pick, is no excuse for braking the law or violating ordinances. Hang in there Alan there are some who think you are doing the right thing and then there are those that just want what suits them, regulations and ordinances notwithstanding.

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flotilla 6 years, 5 months ago

The guts? How about the money and false pretense. Attorney, mother, generation-feed local... turns realtor, developer, self-serving green monster. No city manager is going to be perfect all the time, and neither is a council person. if this realtor signage bs is the worst thing Alan's done, we should be so lucky.
I am not throwing stones so much as pointing out that Cari, the lawyer, mother and long time local, doesn't seem to be maintaining the interests of her constiuents. And maybe I am wrong, but I don't think so. FURTHERMORE, WHY oh WHY should we run with her actions without challenging them? Does her 8 months give her the experience to go making sweeping changes? Ask around the people that work with her on the council and the city and see what they say, RSSSCO, which I assume, is your real name, since you wouldn't be hiding behind anominity would you? Lastly, as a woman, I would like to be refered to as a pathetic chumptress.... AND how the hell do you know what I do for my city, exactly? I have been in leadership positions and know a bully when I see one. If you want to see people throw fits, wait around and see what happens when people actually start questioning Cari.

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rsssco 6 years, 5 months ago

OK--I agree--you're a cowardly, chumptress. And a bitter one to boot.
Since it is a majority of the Council--an overwhelming majority--that are unhappy with Lannings performance on a range of issues, why is it that you single out Cari? And I'm curious, when you stood up at last night's meeting and challenged Cari on this issue and addressed her in the rude way you speak of her here--what did she say?

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rsssco 6 years, 5 months ago

Because flotilla, as a leadership has been who knows a bully when she sees one, I guess you wouldn't come in here and hide behind a name to backstab and bitch would you? You'd have the guts to come out and say these things publicly wouldn't you?

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424now 6 years, 5 months ago

OK, Now we are getting to the nuts and bolts of this issue.

Lets hear from the rest of the council.

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flotilla 6 years, 5 months ago

AGAIN, just drawing attention to the questions, issues. It would be up to Cari to excuse herself from conflicting interests. where is this overwhelming majority. Whom?

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brittneyspears 6 years, 5 months ago

When "City Council" asked Mr. Lanning and the Planning Department to enforce the sign code because of complaints from the "general public"..... City staff complied.

When the local brokers violating the sign code began crying because of the fines and the removal of their signs........ CC went to Planning and told them to back off of the code in relation to Real Estate signs......hmmm.

Don't we all find this a little unethical. Especially since two members of CC are Real Estate Brokers (Loui & Cari).

What the F is going on?

This is BS

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factsfirst 6 years, 5 months ago

"Cari, the lawyer, mother and long time local, doesn't seem to be maintaining the interests of her constiuents." - flotilla

I voted for most of the council that is in office today, including Councilwoman Hermacinski. As a constituent of this council, I believe they are doing EXACTLY what I voted them in office to do.

You choose to focus on one issue that the press chose to report on. This is a very narrow-minded thread if you ask me.

If you were reviewed by your employer and the review was not favorable for many reasons, and the outcome was a parting of ways, would your employer be entitled to share the contents of your review with all the other employees? I trust that there was a parting of ways for reasons beyond what the Council (employer) can disclose. I don't for one minute believe that enforcement or non-enforcement of a sign ordinance is the real issue here.

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sieverding 6 years, 5 months ago

I, kay sieverding, would like to know why council woman Hermacinski, who lives on Princeton Ave., doesn't correct the Routt County tax rolls for 701 Princeton Ave., adjoining what is now her property. The tax rolls there for Kevin Bennett show that there is one property built in 1950 and that it is in 1970 condition. But from the councilwoman's home anyone or standing on the street anyone can see that there are 4 buildings at 701 Princeton. Three were built or expanded in 2000 and three of the four have central heating and plumbing.

Doesn't Routt County need tax revenues? Why hasn't the property tax rolls been corrected to show the other three buildings on Kevin Bennett's property?

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sieverding 6 years, 5 months ago

Harvey Rose was supposedly a good city manager but he was fired. I think the Steamboat City council only wants yes men like Paul Hughes. He retired when he left. If they get rid of Lanning they will hire another yes man.

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