PUEBLO, Colo. - Pueblo County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to fire Transportation Director Greg Severance.
"We're a government that's here to represent all of our citizens and if somebody says something that they think is even inadvertent that slights any of our citizens, it's serious and we need to take care of it," said Commissioner Terry Hart.
The decision to terminate Severance comes several weeks after emails surfaced that show Severance made discriminatory comments about several people in the community.
Hart described Severance's comments as "unforgivable errors in judgment."
The emails also show Severance coached several council members on how to handle controversial issues, including trash collection. Commissioner Sal Pace said that did not play into the county's decision to fire him.
"City councilors were obviously asking him to participate in these discussions. What we focused on was the lack of professionalism and the fact that his conduct was detrimental to the county and our community," Pace said.
Commissioner Liane "Buffie" McFadyen praised Severance's work for the county. Shortly after she assumed office in January 2013, she asked Severance to work for the county.
"This is a very difficult vote. It's very unfortunate that someone as talented as Mr. Severance used poor judgment in emails. I think it's important to recognize that Mr. Severance's efforts will be recognized very quickly."
McFadyen was referring to Severance's work in securing $108 million from the state to make improvements to U.S. Highway 50 and Interstate 25.
On Monday, Pueblo City Council unanimously voted to stop paying Severance's salary, and adopted a resolution saying that he violated city policy by sending emails with disparaging remarks.
Even though Severance was a county employee, the majority of his salary was managed by the city. Severance received about $83,000 from state and federal funds that were monitored by the city, according to City Manager Sam Azad. That equates to roughly 80 percent of his salary. The remainder was paid by the county.
Councilman Chris Nicoll asked the city to draft the resolution after reading the emails that Severance exchanged with Sandy Daff, Ami Nawrocki and then-councilman Chris Kaufman, who resigned two weeks ago amidst the controversy.
In the emails, Severance referred to trash collectors as the "mafia haulers" and described a Vietnam veteran as "mentally challenged... Agent Orange like."
"This just addresses specific behavior and I think it's the right way to address what's transpired," said Nicoll of the resolution.
County commissioners placed Severance on paid administrative leave on Aug. 6.
Severance told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that he sincerely regrets the hurtful comments that he made.