Theresa Casey appointed as interim administrator
Salida City Council voted 4-1 to terminate Salida City Administrator Larry Lorentzen’s employment contract at the regular city council meeting Tuesday, June 20.
Councilman Mike Bowers cast the lone vote against adopting the resolution that ended Lorentzen’s tenure with the city (Resolution 2018-35), but council voted unanimously to approve Salida Arts and Recreation Manager Theresa Casey as interim administrator.
When council members began consideration of Lorentzen’s employment, Councilman Harald Kasper referred to confidential personnel information and asked about the possibility of finding out more about the situation.
“I can tell you from my point of view what happened,” Mayor P.T. Wood responded. “I was approached by a number of people that work for the city over the course of a week with some very grave concerns. And I approached Mr. Lorentzen and asked him if he felt that it was time to retire, and he said, ‘Yes.’”
Wood then said that the city’s “scope of work” directs the mayor to “control and direct the city administrator. He was not fulfilling his duties as I could see them, I had asked for a weekly update back in January. I’d received two of those.
“I don’t know how deep into this personnel issue we need to get, but there were some fundamental differences in what the job entailed and how to do it.”
Councilman Mike Bowers responded, “Mr. Mayor, I’d like to know why I wasn’t consulted with any of this or why this wasn’t brought to my attention until June the first with a phone call from you. And also, I had no idea that this was going on. I felt like I’m being left out, and personally, I don’t like that.
“I don’t think the treatment was fair. I’m concerned about the letter of resignation and a possible demand by you for a resignation. … Mr. Lorentzen, to my knowledge, has performed satisfactorily, and I have no problem with him whatsoever. Not knowing anything that you were involved with, I feel that I was left out as a council member, and I don’t like that disrespect.”
“Unfortunately,” said Wood, “we were at a critical breaking point there, and it’s my job to look out for the best interests of the city. I felt giving Larry an opportunity to step away was a fair thing. I think he has done a reasonable job … but … the concerns that were brought forward needed to be addressed and they needed to be addressed immediately.”
Councilman Dan Shore said, “It would be great going forward if we as a council could be looped in more.”
“And I think,” Wood responded, “had the administrator been keeping me informed, I could’ve kept you informed, and this would not have come to a head in the way that it did. … The house was on fire. Something had to be done.”
Councilman Kasper mentioned that “several deficiencies” in Lorentzen’s performance were discussed “pretty intensely” when council considered extending his contracts.
Councilman Justin Critelli concurred with Kasper, mentioning that Lorentzen was missing one in three meetings. “I wasn’t in the loop either … but I wasn’t shocked. … It’s not coming out of left field.”
Bowers spoke again, saying he doesn’t feel that the action lends itself to transparency to the community, “there’s … a lot of rumor going around right now about what’s going on, and ‘Why the emergency?’ and that sort of thing and I can understand those questions. I have no answers for the public on this, other than I was not apprised of this until you called me.”
Councilman Rusty Granzella spoke next, “I’ve seen this happen before. The mayor does have the most contact with our administrator. … I will support the mayor on this decision as I did a previous mayor because of their contact day-to-day with the administrator.”
Kasper then made the motion to adopt the resolution terminating Lorentzen’s employement with the city, and Critelli seconded.