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City Manager maybe put on administrative leave; potential removal

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City Manager Philip Rodriguez might be put on administrative leave after a contentious City Council meeting last week about utilities fund

 

By Liam Adams

Staff Writer

On Tuesday night, City Council will vote on whether to put City Manager Philip Rodriguez on administrative leave and they will also vote next week on whether to remove him from office.

An agenda for a July 9 special session says that in addition to voting on Rodriguez's leave, Assistant City Manager Marvin Falconburg will be considered for immediate appointment to the post.

The news comes a week after a contentious City Council meeting on July 2 where Councilman Matt Johnston accused some councilors of trying to fire Rodriguez. Their reasoning, said Johnston, is over Rodriguez’s investigation into excess cash in utilities funds generated over previous years of rate increases.

However, Mayor Ken Kreutzer – who Johnston named as one of the councilmembers seeking Rodriguez’s termination – said to the public, “I want the damned answers, just like you do.”

At the July 2 meeting, council unanimously voted for a forensic audit into potential criminal activity within the utilities funds. Before the vote, some councilors wanted more information before hiring a forensic audit firm.

In defense of Johnston’s accusation about firing Rodriguez, the mayor said, “I will state that when it comes to discussions concerning the city manager, it is a personnel issue and it shall remain not in the public realm.”

In addition to the mayor, Johnston accused Mayor Pro Tem J.W. Edwards, Councilwoman Lynn Baca and Councilman Mark Humbert of also trying to fire Rodriguez.

Humbert responded to Johnston’s accusation that he didn’t want to fire the city manager. Humbert said he stood by Johnston to retain Rodriguez in an October executive session concerning Rodriguez’s employment.

In response to Johnston's accusations, Baca and Edwards alluded to issues they’ve previously had with the city manager. Edwards said he was shocked to hear from the city manager that council would not receive a year-by-year financial audit into the utilities fund, despite Edwards thinking they would.

Baca said she’s had difficulty with Rodriguez because he’s more often communicated with council about the utilities funds over email than in person. 

The heated debate at the July 2 meeting arose from Elena Townsend, a Brighton resident, asking for the names of councilors who are against a forensic audit and the city manager. Townsend said she wants to know, “so they can be voted out by the constituents.” 

Townsend’s sentiment was echoed by an audience member who yelled at the mayor when Kreutzer was speaking, “if he’s [Rodriguez] fired, you’re recalled.”

The July 9 special meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers. At the July 16 City Council meeting, council will vote on whether to permanently remove Rodriguez.

Correction: The Blade originally reported that Rodriguez will be placed on administrative leave. The article has since been updated to say that City Council will vote on whether to put Rodriguez on leave.