Stop The Unethical Treatment of Town Employees and Poor Leadership in Erie, Colorado

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Poor Leadership and Unethical Employee Treatment is Affecting Erie’s Future Success

As a long-time Erie resident, I was saddened to hear about Erie’s high rate of town staff turnover following the latest election. I have to admit I did not pay much attention to election information and candidate propaganda that floated around town during the last election, but I was well aware of how heated the election got, specifically the mayoral race. Regardless of who won a seat on the board of trustees or took the captain’s seat as mayor, I was sure that anyone of our candidates would be a good fit for Erie, however; I am now realizing how my poor judgment and negligence as a voter has allowed inadequate leadership to affect the entire town of Erie and its immediate future.

I first learned of Erie’s turnover problem a few weeks ago when I was told about how our well respected and long-time Director of Planning and Development, Todd Bjerkass had abruptly tendered his resignation. Upon inquiring about his unexpected resignation, I learned he was not the only one to recently resign and that the Town of Erie has lost 8 key employees since the newly elected leadership attained control in May of 2018, with rumors of more to follow. The Town has provided no explanation for the unforeseen resignation of these key employees or any others for that matter and has made no effort to address or rectify the situation. Because the town’s board has failed to provide the public with an appropriate response to their internal dilemma, I decided to investigate the resignation of these employees on my own and what it may have to do, if anything, with our newly appointed leadership.

Abrupt Resignation of the Town Clerk

The first of many high-profile resignations took place in March of 2018 during the peak of Erie’s election. Long-time Town Clerk, Nancy Parker abruptly resigned after being questioned by Town Administrator, AJ Kreiger regarding possible election corruption between Parker and mayoral candidate, Jennifer Carroll. It was reported by the media that Carroll was accused of making an attempt to befriend Parker with the intention of fixing the election to ensure Carroll’s success. Although a Weld County D.A. investigation cleared both Parker and Carroll of any wrong doing, Parker implied that Carroll initiated conversations consistent with the acquisitions. Parker described one particular conversation initiated by Carroll as “Awkward” and “Uncomfortable”. According to one source, Kreiger was quoted as saying; “If what the former Town Clerk said is true then we potentially have a situation that involves sitting trustees/future candidates discussing both the 2018 election and other candidates with the town’s chief election official”. Rather than provide transparency to the public, the Town officials decided to discuss the remaining details of possible ethics violations in executive session, meaning they intentionally made the information pertaining to a possible collusion sealed from the public.

Termination of the Town Administrator

Within weeks of being elected as Erie’s new mayor, Carroll took no time severing ties with Town Administrator Kreiger, who was terminated by Carroll and other members of Erie’s new Board of Trustees in May. Upon investigation, I learned that Mr. Kreiger had an exemplary employment record alongside his attribution to many of Erie’s most successful achievements, so I am perplexed as to why he was let go. The Daily Camera’s Anthony Hahn explained; “no public meetings or discussion were held before Tuesday's vote, and no reason was given to the public for the decision”. Carroll’s only statement regarding Kreiger being fired was; “a new path forward was articulated with conviction”.

The Aftermath

Since Erie’s new board and mayor assumed their elected positions in May, Kreiger has not been the only one to disappear. Over the past few weeks, the Town of Erie has lost some of its biggest assets when it comes to community and development. Here is a full list of resignations and terminations since Erie’s new board of trustees and mayor took control:

  • Town Clerk – Nancy Parker (Resigned)
  • Town Administrator – AJ Kreiger (Terminated)
  • Town Attorney – Mark Shipiro (Resigned, Retired)
  • Environmental Planner – Chad Taylor (Resigned)
  • Planning Department Director – Todd Bjerkass (Resigned)
  • Community Development Director – Martin Ostholthoff (Resigned)
  • Communications & Marketing Director – Katie Hansen (Resigned)
  • Assistant Town Administrator – Fred Diehl (On Leave of Absence, Expected to Resign)

Conclusion

During my investigation, I learned that all but one of these resignations did not include an exit interview, meaning, those who resigned were either forced into resignation, or their performance did not merit retention mediation. I personally find it hard to believe that 8 long-term employees who have served under various boards and mayors coincidentally all decided to resign within weeks of each other, or that after years of experience, their performance was all of a sudden cause for concern. After analyzing all the evidence, I believe there was a collusion between mayor Carroll and the former Town Clerk to sway the 2018 election, but believe the plan was interrupted before it could be executed, and Parker resigned to protect her integrity. I also believe that former Town Administrator, AJ Kreiger was terminated based a personal vendetta of Carroll because he chose to investigate reports of election corruption, which involved her. I suspect Carroll’s poor business decision capabilities and unethical behavior led to a domino effect in Town Hall. 

Although turnover is inevitable, the rate of turnover is controllable and in this case Erie’s board of trustees and mayor Carroll failed to apply fundamental principles of management resulting in a toxic working environment for town staff. These are people who play a crucial role in our economic and community well-being and until the internal employment problems at Town Hall are addressed and corrected, the future of Erie’s success, community and safety are in jeopardy. This is not about a difference politics, it is about holding elected officials accountable for their actions, and mayor Carroll and other members of the board need to be held accountable for their poor leadership.

As of now, the board of trustees under Carroll’s control showed no intention to address the concerning amount of turnover, so I am left wondering what exactly Carroll meant when she said, “a new path forward was articulated with conviction”. I would really like to know what that path is, who is involved, what is involved, how it is all going to work and who will be executing the logistics considering we have lost the majority of our key employees and yet to hire another Town Administrator nearly 6 months after Carroll and those who she campaigned with fired our last. If the mayor and board of trustees cannot treat town employees with professional courtesy and respect, what are we supposed to expect as residents?

As residents and tax payers, we deserve better, and my negligence as a voter will never again be compromised! I am ashamed for casting votes that landed some of these people on our town board, but one difference between me and them is that I have to ability and courage to admit my mistakes and work to rectify them and I am kindly asking my fellow Erie residents to do the same.

Please sign this petition to investigate the unethical actions by Erie’s board of Trustees and Mayor Jennifer Carroll that have led to massive town turnover that threatens Erie’s future success, development, community and safety. This is not about politics, but about ethical treatment of town staff and elected officials filling their obligations to keep the Town of Erie and its residents the primary focus when it comes to managing town business. Tell Mayor Carroll and the Board of Trustees that we demand an independent investigation, conducted by an outside agency as to why these employees resigned, or we request the resignation of herself and those who oppose. 

References:

http://www.dailycamera.com/erie-news/ci_31863486/erie-town-administrator-j-krieger-ousted-by-new

https://pagetwo.completecolorado.com/2018/03/23/possible-collusion-resignations-and-closed-door-meetings-concern-erie-residents/

http://www.timescall.com/top-stories/ci_32204755/erie-trustees-call-investigation-into-town-staff-attrition?fbclid=IwAR2_qIlGVKbJb3xuznVgTsAKlORE5OpzV_hMUbp0mYtEuE3pw9mcNXlaEw8