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Mayor Steve Bach gives the oath of office to Fire Chief Chris Riley at Tuesday's City Council meeting. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor Steve Bach gives the oath of office to Fire Chief Chris Riley at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

...the mayor and his chief of staff throw a party for you and fund it from their own pockets.

That's what's happening later today when Mayor Steve Bach and his first lieutenant, Laura Neumann, host a reception for new Fire Chief Chris Riley at Springs Orleans' Silver Room.

(That should cap a pretty nice day for the former Pueblo fire chief. After he took the oath of office today from Bach at the beginning of the Council meeting, pledging to uphold the Constitution, etc., the audience gave him a standing ovation.)

With all due respect, I was compelled to ask: Why the fuss? 

Karen Palus, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director who was sitting in at the Council meeting for Neumann, answered by acknowledging that such social gatherings are rare. The only other one she named was for Kyle Campbell, the Classic Consulting Engineers & Surveyors guy who served as interim director of planning ("Quite the construct," Sept. 5, 2012). When he left the temporary post, Bach and Neumann teamed up to fund his going-away party. (It's worth noting that Classic folks contributed to the mayoral campaign of Bach.)

Asked why the fire chief, who'll be paid $145,000 a year, warrants a wing-ding while other department heads hired by Bach do not, Palus said, "There's a lot of fanfare for a fire chief. And we haven't hired anyone from the outside for a while."

That's not really true. Helen Migchelbrink from northern Colorado was hired in Spring 2012 as public works director. She left in May 2013. Sarah Johnson came all the way from Kentucky to take the city clerk's job.

But other hires have definitely been more "insider" types, such as David Lethbridge, the new public works director who retired some years back from a lower-level manager job, and Pete Carey, promoted from within by Bach after he axed former chief Richard Myers.

Maybe Riley gets points for making the 40-mile drive from Pueblo. Maybe it's worth celebrating that someone new and exciting is stepping into city government, since Bach's gotten rid of so many long-timers at a cost of $1 million to taxpayers.

We don't know, but if you're interested in finding out, don't plan on asking around at the party later. As we understand it, to get in you have to have an invitation.

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