UPDATE: Mayor lashes out at Council staffer


Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy says Alaska never contacted Mayor Steve Bach about the contact it received from George Culpepper. Rather, the company contacted Airport Director Dan Gallagher.

———  UPDATE, THURS., JAN. 9, 9:22 P.M. —————

The Independent has learned that George Culpepper was fired late this afternoon when the city sent a courier to his doorstep with a termination letter.

The Council meeting will begin at 11 a.m. Monday in Council Chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

———————— ORIGINAL POST THURS., JAN. 9, 4:46 PM —————————

Mayor Steve Bach
apparently told some City Council members he wants to fire one of the Council's employees, which prompted City Council President Keith King to call a Council meeting that wasn't publicly posted ahead of time. That possibly could violate the state open meetings law.
Mayor Bach: Everyone works for me.
  • Mayor Bach: Everyone works for me.

At issue is Council Legislative Liaison George Culpepper's efforts to research what the city should do to avoid any problems at Colorado Springs Airport posed by travelers carrying recreational marijuana. A source familiar with the circumstances of Culpepper's situation who spoke on condition of anonymity says Culpepper contacted Alaska Airlines seeking information so he could report back to Council on what course to take.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo in August saying that although the DOJ might not go after individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana, the government still has priorities, which include preventing distribution to minors and "preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states."

An airline could be construed as such a diversion; hence, Culpepper's inquiry.

Alaska Airlines, though, notified Bach of Culpepper's efforts, and Bach told other staffers and King that he wants to fire Culpepper, the source said, for going directly to Alaska Airlines instead of working his inquiry through Airport Manager Dan Gallagher.

Culpepper, who started his job on Dec. 18 after moving here from the Denver area, isn't talking for now, but he'll be saying plenty, apparently, when Council convenes on the matter. At first, a meeting was posted for 1 p.m. Friday. But King says that's been pushed to 9 a.m. Monday.

Although the meeting notice states Council will immediately go into executive session to discuss a personnel issue, Council spokesperson Vicki Gomes says via e-mail that, "George Culpepper has elected to hold this meeting in public session according to the statutes of the state of Colorado."

For the record, ex-City Attorney Chris Melcher issued an opinion some time ago saying that all city personnel report to Bach — even Council staff. The only employee who is not hired and cannot be fired by Bach is the City Auditor, who is specifically labeled a Council employee in the City Charter.

As for this morning's meeting, those attending on Bach's behalf were his Chief of Staff Laura Neumann, Police Chief Pete Carey, Interim City Attorney Wynetta Massey and HR Director Mike Sullivan.

Council members who attended: King, President Pro Tem Merv Bennett and Councilors Don Knight and Helen Collins.

Knight and Collins didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Bennett refused to discuss the meeting, adding it was a legal meeting "because it was a personnel issue."

King says Massey advised Councilors the meeting was within the law, citing the topic of personnel.

"Four of us were there," King says. "We were told by Wynetta that we could have a meeting with staff.
She said it was legal, because we were talking about personnel issues. It was not an official meeting, because it was a personnel matter."

The Open Meetings Act states that all meetings of a quorum or three or more members, whichever is fewer, at which public business is discussed or formal action might be taken are open. Open meetings require 24 hours notice be posted so the public can attend. Also, minutes must be taken. There's no indication that minutes were taken, because King and Bennett contend it wasn't a bonafide meeting.

Luis Toro, executive director of Colorado Ethics Watch, says, "They should have given notice of the meeting and then voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters."

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