Avon wrapping up town manager inquiry
AVON — An inquiry into complaints against the town manager wrapped up in June, concluding that nothing illegal has taken place.
Town Manager Virginia Egger’s management style has, however, resulted in an uncomfortable workplace environment for many and diverged from best personnel management practices in a few critical areas, Mayor Jennie Fancher wrote to staff in an email.
Fancher said the council plans on speaking with Egger about the inquiry — which was handled by attorney Kevin Paul — in executive session following their next regular meeting.
“We felt pretty strongly that a letter go out to the employees,” Fancher said Wednesday. “But we have not had our conversation, per se, with Virginia.”
The email from Fancher to the town of Avon staff was sent out June 17 and said that the Town Council has directed changes to Avon’s human resources department to ensure compliance with best personnel management practices.
Among the complaints against Egger were changes made to human resources, which were laid out in an email sent out by HR Generalist Karyne Spadi to Avon employees on March 27.
Under the new policy, complaints that arise were to be first discussed with “the person you are upset with,” and second “if not resolved, discuss the situation with your supervisor,” third “if a resolution is not reached with your supervisor or if it is inappropriate to go to your supervisor, discuss the situation with your department director. If the situation is not resolved, communicate the problem directly to the town manager. If the concern is with the town manager, follow steps 1-3 and then, if not resolved, communicate the problem with the assistant town manager–finance and administration (HR department director).”
Fancher told employees the town will now employ a personnel advisory committee comprised of two council members, a human resources representative and the town manager, in an effort to return to best practices in human resources.
“Council will also be working with Virginia to pursue training to address identified improvements that can be made in her management style,” Fancher wrote in the email. “Council applauds all that you, the town staff, have accomplished over the past 2 1/2 years, despite the personal challenges many of you faced in adapting to the new leadership at Town Hall.”
Egger was hired in 2012 after the Town Council approved an employment agreement which called for her annual salary to be $143,000 per year, plus $1,000 per month for a housing and auto allowance. The agreement also included a provision that if there were to be any claims or threats of claims, then the council will retain independent legal counsel for her. On April 28 the council approved a motion to pay for Egger’s attorney related to the complaints made against her in March.
Most of the complaints came in the form of an anonymous email sent out March 13; some complaints were made verbally to Assistant Town Manager Scott Wright, as well. The Vail Daily was not able to find any examples of written complaints made against Egger, however a freedom of information act request filed by the Vail Daily in an effort to view the comments section of an town of Avon internal survey was denied by town attorney Eric Heil.
“Disclosure of the internal survey would directly result in stifling open, honest and frank responses in any future survey and would cause potential embarrassment to respondents,” Heil said in a memo. “It is possible to identify certain persons from the nature of comments in the internal survey.”
Also among the complaints were retaliation and hostility from Egger toward employees who attempted to reconcile her behavior.
‘MANY POSITIVE CHANGES’
In a statement to the Daily, Egger said she appreciates the professionalism and diligence with which the inquiry was handled.
“The inquiry has been a challenging time for council, for staff and for me,” she said. “I am gratified that the inquiry found no merit to any allegations of legal wrongdoing.”
Fancher agreed the conclusions of the investigation were the product of a thorough, fair and impartial process, and said many positive changes have occurred as a result of a significant effort by all town employees, including Egger.
Those improvements, Fancher said, include the Avon Road improvements, the development of the Main Street Mall, the Avon Pavilion, new trails in the West Avon Preserve, new activities in the park and Apres Avon.
As the news broke that Todd Varney with NexCore development had pre-leased his new building in Avon to Centura Health, Varney said Egger was instrumental in seeing through the complicated process, which involved a land swap and participation from his group, Oscar Tang’s group, the Eagle River Fire & Protection District and the town of Avon.
“She brought all the elements together to ensure a successful transaction among many parties,” Varney said.
The Avon Town Council will meet with Egger in executive session Tuesday to discuss the findings of the inquiry.