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Monument filters public communication amid Town Manager search

Posted at 10:30 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-28 00:34:26-04

MONUMENT – Elected town leaders here are halfway toward choosing a new, temporary boss for town employees.  The Monument Board of Trustees Monday night narrowed a field of six applicants for the position of Interim Town Manager down to three — Malcolm Fleming, Mike Foreman, and Jason Wells.

An interim town manager is needed following the firing in June of Chris Lowe, who had been suspended in February, along with police chief Jacob Shirk.  Shirk was reinstated two weeks later, but Lowe remained suspended.  Internal memos leaked to News 5 earlier this month detail the inappropriate behavior of which Lowe was accused.

On August 13, trustees interviewed the six applicants during a meeting at which a motion was passed unanimously to filter all town communications through Town Attorney Alicia Corley.  From the official minutes and the first 30 seconds of an official YouTube video of the meeting, “Trustee (Greg) Coopman made a motion to ensure that any official message on behalf of the Town and the Board of Trustees is consistent, truthful, and verified; the only designated representative authorized to give an official statement or comment on behalf of the Town or the Board of Trustees is the Town Attorney at the direction of the Board; any other public comments or statements made are not in an official capacity and cannot be verified. The motion was seconded by Trustee (Jeffrey) Bornstein. Roll call vote was taken and the motion passed 6 to 0.”  Corley explained to News 5 that, under the new policy, questions from the media for Trustees or town employees will go through her first, then to Trustees for consideration for public reply, and then Corley will receive direction from the Trustees as to how to proceed or reply.

“I’m slightly concerned that it’s a single point of contact, and so far, I’ve seen that it’s been ‘no comment,’ so I don’t know how that’s helpful,” said Ann Howe, a Monument resident and regular meeting attendee who intends to run for the vacant Trustee position in November.

Jeff Roberts, Executive Director for the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, says it is standard procedure for municipal governments and other agencies to direct public communications through a single department or individual person.  Given the recent bitter division among the Trustees — many votes fail on a 3-3 tie — as well as the controversy surrounding the former Town Manager and leak of internal documents to the media, Roberts has concerns that the policy is intended to stifle divisive public comment.  “What I would hope is that this policy isn’t intended to shut somebody up if they have something that they feel like the public needs to know about,” Roberts said.  “If I were them, I wouldn’t want to make it seem like we’re stifling any particular point of view.”

A timeline for selecting a winner among the three finalists for the Interim Town Manager position has not been announced.  “With any group dynamic, it’s storming, forming, norming,” Howe said.  “I’m hoping we’re done with the storming, and there’s some forming going on, and we’ll get to norming very soon.”