Eagle suspends town manager
EAGLE — A little more than a year ago, John Schneiger began work as Eagle town manager. On Sunday, he will begin a two-week suspension from the job.
After a lengthy executive session Tuesday, members of the Eagle Town Board voted 5-2, with members Andy Jessen and Kevin Brubeck dissenting, to place Schneiger on leave, with pay, beginning Sunday. During that two-week period, town board members will select an independent, outside consultant to conduct his one-year performance review. The review will include interviews with staff and board members. When the review is completed, the board will reconvene to decide future actions.
“I respect the decision of the board on this matter. There really isn’t anything else for me to say,” Schneiger said when contacted Wednesday morning.
The board’s actions Tuesday night follow the stipulations contained in Schneiger’s employment contract, which was approved April 25, 2016.
The contract notes “The Board of Trustees may suspend or discipline Schneiger with full pay and benefits at any time for any reason without a hearing if the Board of Trustees finds and determines that it is in the best interests of the town and the good governance of the town.”
“Finding it is in the best interest of the town and good governance of the town” were the exact words used Tuesday night when Mayor Anne McKibbin announced the suspension following a nearly 90-minute executive session for “personnel issues.”
Town Planner Tom Boni will act as town manager during Schneiger’s suspension.
This is the second time in two years the Eagle Town Board has suspended its manager. In November 2015, the previous town board suspended former manager Jon Stavney. The action was controversial at the time because it came six months before five members of the seven-member board were up for election. Under Colorado Statute, when a new board is elected, one of its first actions is to consider the appointment of town officers, which includes approving or rejecting the employment of the town manager.
Ultimately, Stavney officially resigned as Eagle town manager in December 2015. Under the terms of a negotiated agreement, the town paid him five months of his regular salary, along with accrued vacation and sick time. The total, after taxes was $39,052.
Stavney is now employed as the executive director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments
Schneiger’s contract with the town also includes provisions for termination and severance pay. If he is terminated, without cause, then he is entitled to a lump sum cash payment equal to six months of his aggregated annual salary, which is $126,000. The contract also notes he will be compensated for all earned, but unused, vacation time.
Schneiger was hired last spring following a three-month search process. He was one of two finalists for the job.
Schneiger has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master of Business Administration in management from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He has 24 years of government experience and was the Fruita city manager from 1992 to 2000 and the Montrose city manager from 2000 to 2005.
He was also the city manager in New Port Richey, Florida, where he left employment in 2012. According to a story published in the Tampa Tribune, for a month prior to his departure, Schneiger was “on leave or vacation.” He then told the mayor he wanted to leave his position in the financially troubled city.
New Port Richey Mayor Bob Consalvo was quoted saying Schneiger had no desire to return to his job. “He feels he has lost the support of a majority of the council,” Consalvo said.
When he was interviewing for the Eagle job, Schneiger said New Port Richey “was a tremendous challenge from a financial perspective.” He noted the unpopularity of necessary budget cutbacks resulted in a political issue where he lost board support. He added, in retrospect, he wished he had given notice before leaving the job.
Immediately before he began work in Eagle, Schneiger was employed by the Grand Junction Downtown Development Authority. He began work with the group in October 2015 and was terminated in November 2015. He subsequently filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he was terminated “because of his repeated objections to the ‘misappropriation and misallocation of public funds’ by the Downtown Development Association board of directors.”
At the time of his hiring, Schneiger said he could not comment on his federal lawsuit issue further, on the advice of his attorney. This week the Grand Junction Downtown Development Association reported that Schneiger’s lawsuit is still pending.