We can speculate that if it were not for a Littleton city charter amendment that voters passed recently, we could only guess as to the reasons why city manager Michael Penny was terminated on June 14. As it is however, the amendment eliminated the use of city council executive sessions (meetings behind closed doors) except to discuss pending legal matters on a case filed in court. And so the termination of Michael Penny had to happen at a public city council meeting.
And we know the reasons that city council members stated.
The June 14th meeting of city council was fairly typical. It was public study session to discuss the abolishment of urban renewal. Also scheduled was a private meeting to discuss pending legal matters on Burkett v City of Littleton, a case filed in court.
At the opening of the city council meeting the mayor always asks if there are any changes to the agenda. To everyone’s surprise, this time Doug Clark requested to add an item to the agenda to terminate the employment of the city manager immediately.
We are fairly certain that if it were not for the recent city charter amendment, city council would have met behind closed doors to discuss the firing of Penny. The law would have allowed Penny to be in the executive session or he could have requested that the council hold their meeting in public.
Because city council is not allowed to make decisions in an executive session, when they came out to a public meeting, someone would have made a motion to terminate the city manager. A second would have been made and a vote taken. The majority wins—no explanations given.
As things were before the amendment, all the public would have known is the result of council’s vote. If asked, the council would only have been able to say that it is a personnel matter and that they could not respond.
Thanks to the city charter amendment, the public knows the reasoning behind each council member’s vote. It is in the public record. There’s no denying why.
Ironically, the two votes opposing Penny’s termination did not provide reasons for their opposition. Their protest was directed at the other members of council for taking the action to fire. Unfortunately, the public has no idea what about Penny’s performance made the two opposing votes want to keep him.