Perhaps the time has come to give Mayor Steve Bach a new nickname. Something appropriate to describe his first tumultuous months in office. Following the tradition of certain mayors elsewhere, how about this:
Funny, the people of Colorado Springs believed this towering 68-year-old candidate when he talked about being open, honest and transparent. Now the joke is on them.
There was no other way to react on Black Monday, when Police Chief Richard Myers became the latest target of Boss Bach's blitzkrieg, casually discarding city department heads like yesterday's garbage.
It wasn't open. It wasn't honest. And it damn sure wasn't transparent.
We had the mayor's office dismissing rumors of Myers' ouster to start the day, later confirming that the chief indeed was leaving, then issuing a news release without a single quote from Boss Bach. Oh, and no media event giving Myers a chance to go out with kind words.
But why handle it properly? This mayoral operation is looking more and more like amateur hour.
You don't call it "retirement" at age 57, after less than five years on the job, when you say in the same announcement that you hope you can find another position — uh, job — in the area. You don't call it "retirement" when you have no chance to tell your own staff in person.
And you don't call it "retirement" saying the mayor "informed me he is ready to make a change in direction, and he is continuing to methodically create his own management team."
That's not a retirement. It's a cold dismissal, following departures of the city clerk, attorney, head of communications, and finance officer. Also gone or leaving, according to City Councilor Jan Martin, are the heads of information technology, streets and human resources. City Clerk Kathryn Young and City Attorney Pat Kelly likely would've left regardless, but weren't allowed to break the news gracefully.
This time, Boss Bach didn't bother consulting even with City Council leaders Scott Hente and Martin, who meet with the mayor every Friday. Granted, the new "strong mayor" can fire anyone on city staff, but for "cabinet-level" positions including police chief, Council must approve new hires. So it would have made sense to share the reasoning for dumping Myers with Hente and Martin, to allow them to react diplomatically, right?
Wrong. That's not how Boss Bach handled — make that mishandled — this one. Hente was insulted, angrily saying:
"This just doesn't pass any common-sense test. ... Our constituents expect us on Council to be part of the decision-making process for the city. This is not only disrespect for us, but disrespect for all of our constituents, the people of Colorado Springs. We were kept purposely, totally, out of the loop. ... It's a shame he didn't feel the need in this case to share anything with us. All it would've taken is one phone call. This makes us look like idiots."
In a TV interview, Bach tried to explain it away, using the "personnel matter" excuse for not telling Council, and refusing to discuss certain issues including the severance package. His chief of staff, Steve Cox, tells us they'll look for "someone with innovations and ideas" in the next chief, though Myers was known and honored nationally for just that.
Yes, the police department has endured negative headlines this year, from an officer (Joshua Carrier) being accused of molesting many middle-school kids to the ill-fated Hooters sting. If the mayor had sent Myers on his way for not running a tighter ship, and if Bach had involved Council leaders beforehand, it would have been harder to argue.
Instead, we have the mayor saying he wants a "new direction" with an innovator. We have Council leaders feeling justifiably outraged and snubbed, just before they begin dissecting Boss Bach's first budget (which they could reject). Martin puts it this way: "You'd think he'd want the support of Council for the challenges ahead, but his dismissive and disrespectful attitude towards Council is not creating a conducive environment for teamwork."
And we have rumors that El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa might be the next chief, fueling more whispers about combining city and county law enforcement, though nobody has asked City Council or the county commissioners.
Boss Bach, meanwhile, can carve another notch in his belt, even with many unanswered questions — and one in particular: