Former Yampa Valley Housing Authority executive director questions his firing
August 25, 2012
Steamboat Springs — On July 12, George Krawzoff was told he was fired as executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Krawzoff said he was stunned and has been left grasping at answers to the reason for his falling out of favor.
The Housing Authority board looked like it was moving on without him and searching for a replacement. But on Aug. 9, the board did a double-take, making a motion to terminate Krawzoff and pay him up until that date.
In the almost monthlong period between July 12 and Aug. 9, and in the weeks since, Krawzoff has sought answers about why he was terminated within a few months of being hired. He's read a statement to the Steamboat Springs City Council detailing issues he said he found in the Housing Authority's financials, and he filed a whistle-blower complaint with the federal government.
The board, for its part, has had a series of meetings and executive sessions related to Krawzoff's departure, including seeking advice from its attorney before firing him for a second time, in open session, at its Aug. 9 meeting.
Krawzoff had been in the executive director position for a little less three months, joining in April after former executive director Mary Alice Page-Allen, who had been a part of the Housing Authority since its inception, left to become the town administrator of Oak Creek.
As a new employee, Krawzoff was in an initial review period and was expecting a performance review at the end of six months. Less than three months in, on July 12, board President Rich Lowe requested an executive session to conduct a performance review of the executive director, according to Housing Authority meeting minutes.
At 1:11 p.m., the board moved to enter an executive session that would include only board members. Krawzoff said he was asked to leave the room and was not given the opportunity to participate. He did not press the issue or ask for the session to be held in open session.
"I expected to be called back in. I was shocked," Krawzoff said about not being involved in the review.
Instead, the executive session ended at 2:11 p.m., and board member John Spezia immediately moved to adjourn the Housing Authority meeting, tabling the remaining agenda items. The motion carried unanimously, according to meeting minutes.
Krawzoff said Lowe gave him the opportunity to resign after that July 12 meeting, but Krawzoff declined. At that point, Krawzoff was told he was fired, according to Krawzoff and a statement read by Lowe at the Housing Authority’s Aug. 9 meeting.
According to Housing Authority documents, the organization started to move past Krawzoff. On July 24, the board confirmed Page-Allen as interim director on a part-time, unpaid basis. Meeting minutes show Lowe signed her appointment July 15. An updated job description was drafted, and a staff report was written about the hiring of a new executive director.
But something changed before Aug. 2.
On Aug. 2, the Housing Authority board held a special meeting in executive session with its attorney, Bob Weiss, for legal advice. The third version of the Aug. 9 Housing Authority meeting agenda reflects two executive sessions that were not on the previous two versions of the agenda.
The first executive session was to discuss personnel matters related to the firing of the executive director, and the second was for legal advice from Weiss. Following the sessions, Krawzoff was terminated by the board in open session. In his statement at the beginning of the meeting, Lowe extended to Krawzoff the invitation to join the Aug. 9 executive session or ask for it to be held publicly. But Krawzoff was not in attendance and said he didn't know about the meeting until after it already had taken place. An email Weiss sent informing him of the meeting had the wrong email address, and the letter a Routt County Sheriff's Office deputy brought to Krawzoff’s home Aug. 8 went undelivered.
Undersheriff Ray Birch confirmed that someone from his office tried to deliver a letter to Krawzoff's house as a courtesy to outgoing Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who also serves on the Housing Authority's board. He said the letter was not delivered because Krawzoff was not home. The letter eventually was mailed to Krawzoff at his request, and it reached him Aug. 13, four days after the Aug. 9 meeting. Krawzoff said the letter contained a printed version of the email.
Krawzoff said that even if he had been informed of the Aug. 9 meeting and executive session, he would not have attended.
"Everything that needed to be said among them would have been said July 12," he said.
Krawzoff said he has requested the recording of the July 12 executive session, during which his performance was reviewed and after which he was fired, but has been denied access. The Steamboat Today has asked that the Housing Authority retain all audio tapes of its executive sessions beyond the 90 days required by law. Colorado Open Meetings Law prohibits public bodies from taking any action in executive session.
The Housing Authority is an agency funded largely by the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County and is subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. It was created as a multijurisdictional housing authority by an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the county in 2003.
According to Steamboat Today archives, Krawzoff was one of five finalists interviewed for the executive director position in March.
Krawzoff has served as a planning commissioner and a county commissioner in Pitkin County. He was the Steamboat Springs Transportation Services director from October 2001 through March 2008. After leaving that position and spending some time consulting, he was appointed by then-Gov. Bill Ritter as the Colorado Department of Transportation commissioner representing Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties. His term expired in 2011.
Krawzoff said he doesn't know why he was fired, and that's what motivates him to continue to press the issue.
"I believe I was doing an excellent job. I was certainly making every effort."
Lowe declined to comment on the reason for Krawzoff's termination, saying it was a personnel issue.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com