A week ago, George Culpepper was willing to keep quiet for the sake of his family.
“I was offered $12,100 and health and dental benefits for three months if I would sign a non-disclosure agreement,” Culpepper said.
The verbal offer, he says, came from Colorado Springs Human Resources Director Michael Sullivan shortly before Culpepper was set to go before the City Council to discuss why he was fired.
“I still upheld my end of the bargain if you will. I opted not to talk to you or anyone else about this issue,” Culpepper said.
But days later, Culpepper was told the Mayor wasn’t going to authorize the severance package.
It’s why on Wednesday, Culpepper asked the City Council to hold a special meeting to discuss the firing.
“I was carrying out an assignment. Just like any other issue that was assigned to me that you asked me to do,” Culpepper told the council members as he read from a statement.
It all surrounds a story KRDO Newschannel 13 broke on January 2nd, when the Colorado Springs Airport assistant manager told us that people could take marijuana on a plane.
Culpepper was asked to research that the next day. He reached out to Alaskan Airlines directly to see how such a policy would impact their relationship with the city. Mayor Steve Bach said Culpepper should have contacted Airport Managers instead. Days later, Culpepper was delivered papers to his door by courier telling him he was fired.
Culpepper believes the negative consequences weren’t from his research, but rather who he was researching for.
“The real issue here is not what I said or did, but that I did it on your behalf,” Culpepper told the council members. “This is a dynamic that I did not understand until I found myself as a political pawn that the mayor would use to get at you over the issue of whether the Council can or will ever have the right to assistance or advice independent of the Mayor.”
Council members worry about the lack of control over the hiring and firing of members of their own staff. Currently the Mayor holds that power.
“We must have access to staff that can assist in the conduct of legislative duties without the constant fear that crossing the executive branch could at any time result in termination,” said Councilman Joel Miller.
Council President Keith King says they will be looking to change the city charter so the council will have control over their own personnel. For now there is nothing they can do for employees like Culpepper.
Without a job that he moved his family from Cheyenne, WY, to take, Culpepper doesn’t know if he’ll have the money to hire an attorney to possibly sue the city. Not after Mayor Bach sent his case to an outside law firm.
“My hope is that the people of Colorado Springs, when they next have the opportunity, will choose honest leadership for its employees and community as a whole,” Culpepper said through tears.