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Council looks to charter changes after mayor fires its employee

Council looks to charter changes after mayor fires its employee

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs City Council is looking to make changes to the city's charter so that the mayor can't fire its employees.

This comes on the heels of Mayor Steve Bach's firing of council's legislative assistant, George Culpepper.  Culpepper was tasked to do research for City Council on marijuana on airplanes.  Bach fired him for asking an Alaska Airlines representative about the issue rather than an airport manager.  He was only on the job for a few weeks.

Council President Keith King said the firing has resonated in City Hall and has been tough on the staff.  Council members were disappointed in the mayor's decision and argued that Culpepper was only doing what was asked of him by council.

"Because of what happened to the legislative assistant that was fired by the mayor, we thought it was very important for us to be able to have people who can do their work for us without fear of being fired for work they do for us," King said.  "We've definitely seen a chilling effect on employees to accomplish things for us as council members and I think that's really detrimental."

Charter changes would have to be voter-approved.  King said council will assemble a committee to research changes and plans to put the changes on the November ballot.

City Auditor Denny Nester told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that while his position is protected under charter, other employees in the city auditor's department work directly under City Council but could potentially be fired by the mayor.

"They are very aware that they could lose their position if they did something," Nester said.  "Mr. Culpepper was the first time it happened but it's been brought to the forefront of everyone's mind."

Mayor Bach's office provided a statement reading, "It is council's prerogative to establish a charter review committee."

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