Culbreth-Graft resigns

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Colorado Springs City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft will resign effective April 16.

She told city council today that after 32 years in public service she’s leaving to launch a family business in public speaking, consulting and writing.

Vice Mayor Larry Small said the council will appoint an interim city manager to take over after Culbreth-Graft leaves and then launch a national search for the permanent position. He declined to name any candidates for the interim position.

Small was not surprised by Culbreth-Graft’s resignation.

“I have to say that I did see this coming,” he said. “It’s been very difficult for her.  She’s been the target of a lot of unfair criticism. I don’t think that any city manager in our history has had to deal with the kinds of situations that she’s had to deal with, including laying off 550 employees.”

The news did not catch El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey unaware either.

“I think she was pretty frustrated,” he said. “The city’s in such a tough position.”

Below is Culbreth-Graft’s resignation letter:

Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council:

This is to inform you that I am resigning my position as City Manager. My last day will be April 16, 2010. After meeting with you earlier this week, hearing your future direction, I believe this is a good time for me to leave the organization so that you can pursue this new path. After 32 years of serving the public, I will be launching a family business in public speaking, consulting, and writing.

In my two years with the City, inheriting a substantial financial shortfall, we have reduced deficits of $90 million and removed nearly 550 positions while working to minimize the impacts on the public. While your staff and I have worked diligently to plan the future with declining resources, a plethora of options remain available should you wish to reconsider them. I have worked to leave you with a plan for continued cuts and shedding of municipal operations.

I want to commend each of you for your relentless service to this community. What you are doing is thankless, time consuming, and difficult.

Finally, my comments must focus on the public servants who have labored tirelessly to care for the people of our city. They are to be commended for their professionalism—especially in these times of severe scrutiny. They are remarkable. I urge you to consider the business case for avoiding further cuts in compensation—especially given the looming collapse of the TABOR cap that will ensure no adjustments despite a future economic recovery. Even without any decreases, your workforce is behind the market and will lose ground as each city on the Front Range recovers, making it impossible to employ a competent, trained, and knowledgeable workforce.

Thank you for the privilege of serving the City of Colorado Springs.

Sincerely,

Dr. Penelope Culbreth-Graft

14 Responses to Culbreth-Graft resigns

  1. The letter below was recently posted on http://www.ColoradoConnection.com

    The text of City Manager Penelope Culbreth-Graft’s resignation letter:

    March 19, 2010

    Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council:

    This is to inform you that I am resigning my position as City Manager. My last day will be April 16, 2010. After meeting with you earlier this week, hearing your future direction, I believe this is a good time for me to leave the organization so that you can pursue this new path. After 32 years of serving the public, I will be launching a family business in public speaking, consulting, and writing.

    In my two years with the City, inheriting a substantial financial shortfall, we have reduced deficits of $90 million and removed nearly 550 positions while working to minimize the impacts on the public. While your staff and I have worked diligently to plan the future with declining resources, a plethora of options remain available should you wish to reconsider them. I have worked to leave you with a plan for continued cuts and shedding of municipal operations.

    I want to commend each of you for your relentless service to this community. What you are doing is thankless, time consuming, and difficult.

    Finally, my comments must focus on the public servants who have labored tirelessly to care for the people of our city. They are to be commended for their professionalism—especially in these times of severe scrutiny. They are remarkable. I urge you to consider the business case for avoiding further cuts in compensation—especially given the looming collapse of the TABOR cap that will ensure no adjustments despite a future economic recovery. Even without any decreases, your workforce is behind the market and will lose ground as each city on the Front Range recovers, making it impossible to employ a competent, trained, and knowledgeable workforce.

    Thank you for the privilege of serving the City of Colorado Springs.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Penelope Culbreth-Graft

    Amy Long
    March 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm

  2. Now what’s the real reason?

    Eugene Finkelstein
    March 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm

  3. Too bad. She has had more than her share of negative stuff to deal with. I wish her well and thank her for her sevice.

    However, I would wager that if the City posted all the jobs of our city employees for 20% less than current wages that they would need the World Arena to hold all the relatively qualified applicants! That, to me, is an indication that we may NOT be overpaying relative to the private sector. Perhaps the “collapse of the TABOR cap” will dictate trying such a strategy? If a wage cut was swallowed gracefully, then perhaps the citizens would vote an increase when the economy recovers. We are not prisoners of TABOR unless we quit voting. If the pain was spread around then maybe voter sentiment would change.

    Charles W. Armstrong
    March 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm

  4. I think she smelled the smoke resonating from the fire in the kitchen……the fire noone else on council will acknowledge……

    Ken G
    March 19, 2010 at 4:13 pm

  5. ………. WHAT ?

    .. so NOW who’s runnin’ the town ?

    Like it'll matter .....
    March 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

  6. The real reason may be that she thinks, as do others, that the so-called ‘strong mayor’ initiative will pass. Which means she’s put in a position of having to help transition herself out of a job.

    Its the smart move.

    It should be interesting to watch Council try and find somebody for the job…..no one in their right mind would come here knowing whats on the horizon. Of course, the current Council’s record for making reasonable and rational business decisions won’t help the situation.

    John Whitten
    March 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

  7. We all knew this was coming. She clearly was too smart to stick aruond in this place. I suggest we all just turn out the remaining lights and leave with her. Let the council and all the NIMBY Tea Party Lemmings chase each other off the cliff. Maybe then we can come back and build a real community.

    Jane G
    March 20, 2010 at 12:11 am

  8. If I am not mistaken, Mrs. Culbreth-Graft — upon acquainting herself with the true depth and causes of the Colorado Springs city financial quagmire, stated after her first six months that her position might be one of the first ones considered to be cut.

    This is a very intelligent, successful and competent administrator who failed to engage in substantial research into the lack of capabilities of those in elected office in the region with whom she would be working.

    The single most important cause for the financial failure of the region is there is not a single individual currently in office qualified as a municipal administrator who has the ability to foresee the effect of tax policy and future impact.

    Unless there is unification of this area as a ‘region’ and a dependence placed upon competent out-of-state organizations such as Angelou Economics, who prepared Project 6035, this entire area will be ‘flat-lined’ with no future.

    Basically, the people in the Springs area should not be allowed to govern themselves. The national economic slowdown was only an exacerbating factor in the local meltdown. The real cause has been stated in the report mentioned above: no leadership and no vision.

    The solution is to come together as a ‘region’ and develop a strategy already provided to give direction to the area and to address the lack of trust that is preventing local voters to withold financial support.

    In the meantime, it would be of great benefit if a team of accountants, engineers and those with a background in municipal administrative-finance experience would be formed to advise both the county and the city prior to either local government reaching any public policy decision.

    Rick Wehner
    March 20, 2010 at 5:13 am

  9. While I understand that she may have walked into a hornets nest – I don’t see that she really added anything to our community. She was one of the least seen and least committed city managers in at least the last 20 years. She certainly is no Dick Zickefoose – who used to go from office to office meeting and greeting “his staff” (all of them). So while she may be able to cut jobs she never really adopted or adapted to our community. I just hope we didn’t pay for her foreclosed house or that she has some ridiculous “deal” like was given to a few who went before her.

    Elizabeth Adams
    March 20, 2010 at 9:14 am

  10. I wish Dr. Penelope Culbreth-Graft all the best for her future. She did what she could with an incompetent and biased governing bunch of politicians watching especially for their own benefit.

    I hope at the next election we will be able to elect people who are people and are willing to the best for the people living in this beautiful area.

    Peter
    March 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

  11. Peter:

    Capable people running for elected office: Can you remember the last time that happened?
    Was it ’79?

    Rick Wehner
    March 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm

  12. A thought.

    We elect to public office in hopes that here will be, from those elected, the kind of planning that will ensure our city and county are run at a level to be able to survive downturns such as this.

    Since they have not, we basically have 14 people who are doing what city and county staff could do and do at less cost and far less national bad press if they stayed home?

    From what I have seen, council and the board basically do nothing but approve zone change requests and liquor licenses. Where is the leadership in that and for what purpose do we continue to sanction this level of performance?

    Rick Wehner
    March 20, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  13. Well at least she did not break her record of not staying in a position longer than 3 yrs. in her now last 11 jobs. Joseph

    Joseph
    March 21, 2010 at 10:12 am

  14. First, I want to wish Dr. Penelope Culbreth-Graft the very best in all she does in th future. I know she came into a difficult situation, and did her best to do what she felt was right for the community. I believe that she and the City Council have both performed admirably given what they have had to deal with. If you cut jobs, or pay, you are a heartless donkey. If you run in the red you are stupid and don’t know how to make cuts (not to mention breaking the law which states that we have to run on a balanced budget).

    Secondly, as Popeye used to says, “I’ve had all I can stand. I can’t stand no more!” In response to Jane G’s comments please, if you do not like the way we choose to vote and would prefer to live elsewhere. Feel free! America is still a free country, at least for now. If enough of the overly vocal liberal minority who make we “Conservatives” (It is not a bad word, and I am tired of trying to placate everyone. You can see what that has gotten us to date.) afraid of voicing our opinions in fear of being attacked and labeled as cold hearted and selfish. By the way, have you seen the study that shows “Conservatives” are nearly twice as generous as liberals are in both donated time and monies? (Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” It was supposed to prove just the opposite, and surprised the researcher but not me.) Back to my point. If enough individuals that believe there should be a “program” for everything would move on it would allow those of us that are left to get out, roll up our sleeves and do the work that needs done to get back to where we ought to be.

    Finally. Mr Wehner if you really think city council is so horrible and incompetent perhaps you should run for the office, and put in the hours for the $7,000.00 they get annually. I hear there may be opening in the next election.
    SC

    SC
    March 22, 2010 at 8:44 am