Steamboat Springs city manager to leave Sept. 1
August 14, 2015
City Manager Deb Hinsvark and the Steamboat Springs City Council have agreed to part ways after weeks of tension.
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As members of the public and the city’s management team looked on in Citizens Hall on Friday afternoon, Hinsvark negotiated her exit with the council and agreed to resign effective Sept. 1.
In exchange, she will sign a liability release agreement and receive a six-month severance package worth $83,796.
The council started seeking the separation agreement last week after some council members had been critical of Hinsvark for her handling of recent issues, including the release of information from an internal police investigation and a controversial baseball contract.
In Hinsvark’s recent performance reviews, council members indicated their partnership with the city manager needed improvement.
Hinsvark requested that Friday’s negotiations with council happen in public instead of in an executive session.
Councilwoman Sonja Macys kicked off the discussion about Hinsvark by proposing the council terminate her contract. The move would have resulted in two months worth of severance pay.
A majority of the council quickly steered the conversation toward a more generous separation agreement instead of a termination.
The city manager went into the meeting seeking 10 months, or $139,669, of severance pay to help her make it to retirement, but the council ultimately decided it wanted to go only as high as six months.
Council members supportive of the severance said they wanted to recognize work performance and to also secure a legal release agreement.
The severance package that was approved basically followed the precedent of two previous councils that have negotiated the exits of a city manager in recent years amid some tension.
It became clear at the end of Friday’s meeting that City Council President Bart Kounovsky and Council President Pro-Tem Scott Myller, who was absent, were the only members who didn’t want to accept Hinsvark’s resignation.
Councilman Kenny Reisman said he had recently gone back and forth on whether to send the city manager back to work or seek new leadership.
Council members spent a lot of time debating how much of a severance package to offer and denied a counteroffer from Hinsvark for eight months of severance.
They said they couldn’t point to one single thing that was responsible for their desire for a change in leadership.
Councilman Walter Magill called Hinsvark the best manager he had seen during his nearly eight years on council, but he said Hinsvark had made some missteps and gotten ahead of the council on some occasions.
He also said the council was continuing to learn about Hinsvark’s management of a police department that recently was the subject of an internal investigation, which led to the resignations of the city’s police chief and deputy police chief.
Reisman suggested Hinsvark would be able to quickly find another job.
“I think the record on you is out there in terms of the amazing work you’ve done especially on the financial side of things,” Reisman said before the council voted to offer the separation agreement.
Kounovsky opposed the severance offer, saying he wanted to continue working with Hinsvark.
Councilman Scott Ford, a longtime critic of Hinsvark’s, also opposed the offer after expressing concern that six months severance was too much.
Hinsvark said she would miss the council.
They thanked her for her service.
At the end of the meeting, Hinsvark released a statement reflecting on her tenure as city manager and outlining some of the city’s accomplishments.
“Thanks to the staff and management of the City of Steamboat Springs for making my tenure so rich, so memorable, so entertaining and so rewarding,” Hinsvark wrote.
In the moments after her separation agreement was finalized, Hinsvark received hugs and words of support from members of her management team.
She cracked some jokes and then turned serious to discuss the city’s preparations for a major bike race that will roll through town next week.
“Managing the city was easier than I thought,” she said. “The people I have worked with here have made it easy. Everybody is invested in achieving the same outcome.”