City clarifies press policy

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Mayor Steve Bach’s office is defending an email sent to city staff that appears to change the city’s policy about allowing staff members to talk to the media.

The email, sent this morning, requested that Bach clear every media request through his administration before answering questions.

That’s not the case, said Stephannie Finley, a Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce executive on loan to the mayor’s office for the next month. And an email from John Leavitt echoed that statement.

“There has been some confusion about an email that was drafted by the Communications office and sent to all City employees today,” Leavitt said. “The email simply restates the current practice we have of making subject matter experts available to media to answer questions. We encourage our experts to pause to collect their thoughts (and appropriate information) before answering media questions. We believe this will actually help you get the best information more quickly. We remain totally committed to responsiveness and transparency of operations.

Finley’s job at the city is to examine the way the communications department works, and to suggest changes, if necessary.

“The email this morning was just overblown,” she said. “The message hasn’t changed – it’s about being transparent, open and available. It makes sense to be responsive to the press, because ultimately that’s how you’re responsive to the public.”

Requests to police and fire departments will still be handled by those departments, she said. However, Bach and city administrator Steve Cox want to be involved in questions in the parts of city government they manage.

“And that makes sense,” she said. “The mayor is responsible for the answers from the city, so we’re working on a mechanism to make that happen.”

Bach and Cox are simply going to be more available than their predecessors, she said.

“If the questions pertain to the parts of the government the mayor manages, he wants to be part of the discussion,” she said. “Really, that’s a positive thing.”