Employment Status for Lamar Welcome Center Manager is Altered

Councilwoman Haggard and City Administrator Sutherland

Councilwoman Haggard and City Administrator Sutherland

The Lamar City Council, minus Mayor Roger Stagner who excused himself from the chambers, engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding terminating the Welcome Center Manager’s contract with the State of Colorado, and hiring the manager as a city employee. Mayor Stagner is married to the manager, Leslie Stagner and he did not take part in the discussion to avoid any conflict of interest. As Leslie Stagner was contracted to the state, no conflict had ever existed. The new alteration was initiated by City Administrator, John Sutherland.

Although the contract transfer was simple enough, the focus centered on what would be the cost to the city and how would having the mayor’s wife on the payroll as a city employee impact future working relationships. Sutherland told the council he became interested in the position two years ago with the pending retirement of Judy Douglass, the former Center manager, and had several conversations with the state regarding the position. Sutherland said two of the Centers around the state have city employees as managers, so there is a precedent. “This will give us more control over the position than doing it the other way,” he explained.

Councilwomen Bev Haggard asked what would be the advantage to the city with Sutherland responding, “This would give me control over what this person does, direct control.” Haggard asked about any changes in salary, “Do we have to pick that up when the contract changes,” adding that it seemed like a lot of money for 30 hours a week. Sutherland replied that her salary will not change under the classification of a part time employee and she will continue to pay her usual taxes and deductions as before the contract change. Sutherland added, “We will pay our share of FICA and we will offer benefits the same as every other regular part time employee.” He listed several including health and life insurance as well as pension benefits and confirmed that the only other added expense to the city would be the benefits and employee’s share of social security. In the past, Stagner’s payroll check was issued every two weeks and a separate council vote, minus the Mayor’s, was taken for approval as has been done for other potential conflicts of interest. Sutherland said that would not be the case once she became a city employee.

Sutherland summed up the move by stating, “It gives the city more direct control over what happens and what the job assignments are and how we interface with the Welcome Center.” Councilwoman Crampton told Sutherland, “I’m fine in general with this, but I think this puts you in a particularly interesting positon of managing the mayor’s wife.”  Sutherland said working with Leslie Stagner was a treat and she had brought a level of hospitality to the Center that is very welcome when working with the traveling public. He added that the Center spends time about the state, but not enough time talking about things that are available in Lamar and there are a range of things open for discussion that could open the community to future visitors.

In other developments, the Council approved the special events permit requested by the Lamar Chamber of Commerce to host an Oktoberfest beer garden for the Saturday, October 3rd event. The beer garden will be open from 10am to 10pm and will be staffed by TiPS trained personnel to screen underage or over indulgent customers.

Kyle Miller, Lamar Police Chief, described the financial breakdown of the intergovernmental agreement required for the Department of Justice grant for the purchase of law enforcement and dispatch center radios. Thirteen law enforcement agencies and municipal entities are sharing in the new equipment, provided through the grant which totals $236,952. Lamar’s share of the grant match is $9,081.51. Miller told the council the cost to the city is roughly ten cents on the dollar for the value of the radios, estimated at around $4,000 each.

An equipment deal with Prowers County netted the city several telephones that the county will no longer use. IT Manager, Thomas Sanchez, told the council, the phones are compatible with the city’s system and will be used as spares until the City of Lamar decides to upgrade its own equipment. Sanchez said the city will save several hundred dollars by accepting the used phones.

City Administrator, John Sutherland, provided several calendar updates for the council including the LCC Living History Encampment at the college campus on October 2nd and 3rd. He stated that, “This is always a first class event.” The annual LCC Antelope Stampede Rodeo will be conducted over that weekend at the County Fairgrounds. The weekend will also see the start of the semi-annual booksale conducted by the Friends of the Lamar Library. The city council’s informal monthly breakfast at Becky’s Restaurant Wednesday morning, October 7th, from 7 to 8am and the public is encouraged to take part. Other activities include the annual Moonlight Madness event around downtown Lamar on Thursday, October 29 and the Farm-City Banquet will be held on Saturday, November 14, featuring country-western recording artist, Michael Martin Murphey.

By Russ Baldwin




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