City manager designee, 2 allies may address concerns Tuesday

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If you go

What: Steamboat Springs

City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information; to listen live to meetings of the Steamboat Springs City Council, call 871-7070

Agenda:

5 p.m. Discussion with City Manager-designee Jon Roberts

5:30 p.m. Discussion about City Council's policies and philosophy regarding affordable housing; discussion about the Yampa Valley Housing Authority

— Jon Roberts, the man chosen to be Steamboat Springs' next city manager, will return next week to further address concerns raised about his performance as city manager in Victorville, Calif.

Roberts plans to participate in Tuesday's meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council, along with at least two allies: Victorville City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky and Councilman Terry Caldwell. Steamboat Springs City Attorney Tony Lettunich said he expects a resolution to approve a contract with Roberts to be on council's agenda the same night.

Caldwell and de Bortnowsky are expected to praise and defend Roberts, but JoAnn Almond became the second of Victorville's five council members to raise concerns about Roberts in a telephone interview with the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Friday.

The visit was announced Friday by Steamboat officials. As of Friday evening, Roberts said he will attend the meeting in person but that others may participate by conference call.

"We will be well-represented, both in person and in conference call," Roberts said.

City spokeswoman Lauren Mooney said Roberts is coming to Steamboat - at his own expense - to "discuss the issues raised by the media," including an audit of Victorville's 2006-07 finances that is 13 months overdue and ongoing litigation involving Roberts' current employer.

Citing anonymous "inside city sources," the Victorville Daily Press reported Friday that possible litigation involving the late audit was the subject of a four-hour, closed meeting Thursday of the Victorville City Council, Roberts, the city's finance director and its auditing firm.

Roberts said the newspaper report is misleading. He said a presentation on the audit was given during the meeting and that Victorville attorneys claimed that the audit could be the subject of some "future, unknown litigation" to justify closing the meeting to the public.

"There is no actual litigation," Roberts said.

Council members disagree

Roberts, Steamboat's sole finalist for the open position of city manager, was publicly interviewed Wednesday by the Steamboat Springs City Council, which subsequently voted, 6-1, to give Roberts the job pending contract negotiations.

City Council President Loui Antonucci was the dissenting vote. He preferred to spend a week simultaneously negotiating a contract and further investigating issues raised by the Steamboat Pilot & Today and others.

"There had been some discussion of getting some input from somebody other than me," Roberts said Friday. "If that's something the city would be interested in, that's something we would be interested in doing.

"One of the roles that I consider to be very important for the city manager is to be very involved and engaged in that whole confidence-building process between the agency, the council and the citizens. I thought this would fit right in with that," he continued.

Caldwell is a 36-year veteran of the Victorville City Council and has served as mayor eight times. Roberts described him as one of the most respected public officials in the Victor Valley.

Earlier this week, Caldwell said he was involved in hiring Roberts to be a city engineer in 1992 and promoting him to city manager in 1999. Caldwell said he wrote a letter of recommendation for Roberts, and he described it as one of the hardest things he's ever had to do.

"I'm not excited at all about losing somebody of his caliber," Caldwell said Tuesday. "This is one of those cases, if misfortune occurs, I won't be shedding a tear."

Almond, however, said she would not accept Roberts back with open arms if he somehow fails to officially win the job in Steamboat.

"As far as him deciding to stay, I don't think that's a good idea now," said Almond, who added that she doesn't want to exercise the 30-day notice period Roberts is required to give if and when he resigns. "Once we get a letter of resignation, I think we need to get an interim in right away."

Almond, Victorville's mayor pro tem, first was elected to the Victorville City Council in 1994. Almond described Roberts as "professional" and "likeable" and said she guessed that Roberts would do a good job as Steamboat Springs' city manager. When asked whether Roberts was always forthcoming and honest with the Victorville City Council, however, Almond answered "somewhat."

"When things are happening, all the council members should be informed, not just one or two," Almond said. "A manager should let all council members know all things at all times."

She would not elaborate further. In response, Roberts said he keeps council members informed to the degree that they are interested in certain subjects, unless something is so important that all council members should know.

"If a council member comes in and wants to know how many housing permits were issued, you don't tell them that and immediately call all the other council members to tell them how many housing permits were issued, too," Roberts said. "They'd be like, 'Why are you calling me?'"

Proactive approach

Antonucci said he is impressed with Roberts' up-front and proactive approach, but he said he is unsure whether Caldwell and de Bortnowsky will quell his concerns.

"I have to see what they say. Maybe this will lead to some more questions. Maybe it will answer them all," Antonucci said. "I think the bigger question is, 'Do I still feel the same way I did the other night: that we should do more due diligence and be turning over all the stones?' Yeah, I do. I haven't changed. This may be a part of that process."

Council members Jon Quinn and Cari Hermacinski said they hope that, unlike Wednesday's vote, the one to approve Roberts' contract will be unanimous. Quinn said he understands the argument made Wednesday for an extended due diligence period, but he "just felt it was more important at that moment that our support for (Roberts) was clear."

"I just didn't feel right leaving that : hanging out there," Quinn said.

Quinn said he admires Roberts' willingness to address the concerns and said nobody can be in public life as long as Roberts without earning some critics.

"Anybody who has been a city manger as long as Mr. Roberts has is doing something right," Quinn said. "The questions, I think, will be answered in due time."

Comments

Martha D Young 5 years, 3 months ago

Another thanks goes to Loui Antonucci for encouraging consideration and thoroughness vis-a-vis the decision to extend a city manager contract to Jon Roberts. There is no fire to extinguish here, so no need to rush. The Pilot editorial raised questions that demand answers regarding Roberts' performance at his current position in Victorville City. If Roberts' response to Mayor-pro-tem Almond's observation was as dismissive as it sounded in this article, then I would strongly recommend a closer look at Roberts' record. The past is often predictive of the future.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 3 months ago

I have spent a lifetime hiring and working with supervisors. I have made more mistakes than anyone. Occasionally I have been successful. In recent years I have rejected nearly all applicants. It seems that the truly good candidates are almost never looking for a job. Here are some ot the insights that I have observed. 1. When people want a job so bad that they can "taste" it, this usually never works out. 2 Any applicant can find someone to speak favorably. Often an employer has every reason to have someone else take a person off their hands. 3. In previous employment, the applicant essentially commuted from Colorado. We have promises of being treated better, but this is what has happened. 4. I have observed, in hirings, that I am familiar with, that the city has hired the most personable, and the best talker. Some people project themselves by talking, at the expense of performance. I have also made this mistake. 5. As we are well aware, our long cold winters can produce any number of excuses for leaving. Those that choose Steamboat as home eliminate this problem.

Council has inherited the sins of the past, and they alone have the responsibility to right the ship. There are no valid excuses, and there is no safety in numbers. Mr. Roberts may or may not be right. Be cautious, that is the only excuse that will deserve any sympathy. It is very easy to make a mistake, and I would avoid the celebration that accompanies most hirings.

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