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Commissioners vote to not renew county manager contract


The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) voted 2-1 to not move forward with appointing a negotiator for the renewal of County Manager Derek Woodman’s contract at a May 7 meeting, indicating that the BoCC would not be retaining Woodman beyond the December 2024 end of his current contract.

Woodman departed county employment the following day, BoCC chair Commissioner Veronica Medina indicated in an interview.

The discussion at the May 7 meeting opened with Medina asking the board if there was a desire to move forward with negotiations for renewing Woodman’s contract.

Commissioner Warren Brown stated that there was a “strong desire” to negotiate a renewed contract “based upon the performance of the last two and a half years.”

He added that the county has had “very strong performance” from Woodman and that the county has seen “significant improvement” from its previous position to now.

“And I think that that would be beneficial to our county and to the ... constituents,” he added.

“I appreciate your insight on that Warren,” Commissioner Ronnie Maez said. “You and Derek are really good friends, you have been from day one and everything, and I wouldn’t expect you to say anything less but, in my own desire, I have no need to renew the contract for Derek Woodman.”

“I’ve thought about this and just reviewed everything over the last year and I, too, do not see a need to renew the contract with our current manager,” Medina said.

Brown commented that the county has had seven county managers over seven years, “roughly a new county manager about one every 1.42 years. And how do we ever expect any forward progress if we are continually repeating the first three steps year after year because the county managers that come in, that are the full time [sic], have a year as they’re feeling it out before they really start making decisions, so what we have is .42 years of repeating the same steps year after year”

Brown stated that the county is now gaining a degree of consistency with Woodman after frequent changes in leadership.

He then stated a list of county accomplishments that occurred during Woodman’s tenure, which he prefaced by stating that these accomplishments were “although not … by himself, solely certainly under his direction quite often because things don’t just happen by themself.”

Among the accomplishments Brown referenced were the creation of Archuleta County Public Health Department and the county Water Quality Division, the hiring of a communications specialist and digital accessibility coordinator, and the establishment of a supervisor for buildings and grounds, which Brown indicated he was not aware of existing previously.

Maez interjected that the county did have a buildings and grounds supervisor previously, and Brown countered that he could not speak for things that occurred outside his time as commissioner.

Brown continued that the county, in Woodman’s tenure, has increased buildings and grounds and information technology staff levels; rebuilt the Finance and Human Resources departments and the Department of Human Services (DHS); expanded county infrastructure with a courthouse, evidence building and transit center; expanded the Mountain Express Transit system; updated Veterans Memorial Park; implemented Starlink as an Internet backup and merit increases for employees; moved DHS to a new building; implemented a county newsletter; and brought back Christmas and summer parties for employees.

He also noted the extensive paving projects that the county completed during Woodman’s tenure and improvements to the landfill.

“I’ve been in government a long time, 31 years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the most assured way of keeping a job as a government employee is to do nothing,” Brown said. “Because when you do something as a government employee, you challenge the status quo, the way that it’s always been done, and it makes some people highly uncomfortable. Is this really what we want to do to our community and to those that visit us? Really, is this where we want to go?”

“If Derek Woodman is the facilitator of all that’s been done, then why are we here?” Maez asked. “Why not just have Derek do it all?”

Brown and Maez then debated if Maez would allow Brown to answer the question, with both interrupting the other repeatedly before Brown noted that Woodman has not completed this accomplishments “by himself by any means,” although he has been an “integral part in getting things done.”

“I think that any other manager that we would have hired would have been an integral part of following direction,” Maez said.

Maez then asked how much money the county is spending on defending against a Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) complaint brought by local attorney Matt Roane against Brown and former commissioner Alvin Schaaf concerning a county policy that allowed commissioners to be reimbursed for driving to and from their homes to work.

As previously reported in the Oct. 27, 2022, issue of The SUN, Maez was offered similar mileage reimbursements but declined to participate in the program.

Brown stated that he was unsure of how much money had been spent, “but I would say thousands.”

“I think we’re about $35,000 in that already right now and it’s going on. But, under whose recommendation was that?” Maez asked, adding that he was asking about the decision “to collect mileage from the taxpayers from your house to the county office.”

Brown stated there was a recommendation from County Attorney Todd Weaver that the program was legal.

“I’m not sure about that,” Maez said. “I’m not sure about that, Warren.”

“I’m sure,” Brown replied.

“And the one thing is, is that decision was not made publicly, either, and that decision should have been made publicly and discussed … and it wasn’t,” Maez commented.

“That is not accurate,” Brown said.

Maez asked, “What’s the accurate part of it?”

“The accurate part is that was specifically brought to our legal council for a legal opinion,” Brown said.

“And a decision was made and people collected money … driving from their house to the office,” Maez said.

“And that is still …” Brown began.

“No decision,” Maez commented.

“And are we talking about Mr. Woodman or are we talking about previous county managers who have been alleged to commit crimes that … nothing was done about?” Brown countered. “Is that what we’re talking about?”

“We’re still spending money on the defenses, aren’t we?” Maez said.

“I think this is way off topic, honestly, I think this is way off topic and if we want to not renew Mr. Woodman’s contract and have the county taxpayers pay double, so for an interim and Mr. Woodman, I don’t see the sense in that,” Brown said.

“We don’t know that … and right now it looks to me like you’re outvoted,” Maez replied.

“Could be, but I think it’s important to express exactly what’s been going on,” Brown said.

“I think full clarity ought to be expressed, too, to the people,” Maez replied.

Maez added, “That was tense.”

“Yeah, a little bit,” Medina agreed before suggesting that the “shenanigans that happened” with the former county public works director occurred under Woodman’s watch, “which should have been known and the taxpayers paid for it. That was a million dollars that had to be moved and we did not expect that.

“So, … there is some concerns, I do have some concerns, and that is the reason for my decision, as well,” Medina said.

“Under that contract it specifically reads, under page 1, that the price that was quoted excluded aggregate,” Brown said. “That’s in number one, scope of work, paving, which was signed as approved by the then-chair Mr. Maez. There is also a criminal investigation, is my understanding, that’s being conducted with regard to that employee, former employee, that we had for the behavior going on at that time.”

As reported in the Aug. 23, 2023, issue of The SUN, paving contracts for work in the Trails and Lakewood Village areas did not include the delivery of aggregate, which the then-public works director then spent additional money to acquire and haul to the areas without the authorization of the BoCC.

In an interview, Brown added that, in his understanding, the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation into the “unauthorized deals” made by the former public works director.

“Well, you bring up a perfect example of … myself not knowing about that because the communication sometimes does not flow all the way to me,” Medina said during the meeting. “Maybe to you, but not always to me. Again, hence my decision.”

In an interview, Medina explained that she had not been informed about a criminal investigation being conducted.

She added that Woodman had stated to her that he would like an investigation to occur, but that she had not received further information.

Maez asked if the “signature there” was done publicly and Brown stated that he was unsure.

Maez stated that it was and Brown replied, “The point is we knew what the contract read.”

“And, actually, I’m not talking about the side deals that were made …” Medina said.

“The alleged,” Maez added.

“The alleged deals that were made by the former employee,” Medina continued. “Obviously, those things came to light later, but had there been better supervision in that area, I think that could have been avoided.”

“I’m not sure,” Brown replied. “You have a lot of employees that are hanging on and you do the best that you can do to manage them. I don’t believe anybody is free of error.”

“Agreed,” Medina said.

“We look at what’s done, we look at what can be improved, is this really … is this a critical situation or this just a pre-plan that this is where we are in things and this is how we’re going to address it?” Brown asked.

“I would say it’s critical because the lack of communication at times,” Medina said. “Some items are very well communicated, other times not at all, and that’s truly where my concern is. It does seem at times that you are more informed than I am on items … and enough is enough, in my opinion.”

“I’m not sure how that’s possible,” Brown said. “I can’t get into Mr. Woodman’s office to save my life, so I do have him stop by my office occasionally, but I can’t speak to what he has communicated to either one of you. I can only give you what he has communicated to me.”

“That is why I frequently visit his office, because if I don’t, I don’t get any answers, I don’t get information,” Medina said. “It’s rare that he will come in my office, and it should not be that way and I’m not gonna deal with it anymore.”

Medina then opened the floor for a motion and Maez motioned to not appoint a negotiator for the renewal of Woodman’s contract.

Medina seconded and the motion passed 2-1, with Medina and Maez voting in favor and Brown voting against. 

Woodman declined to provide a comment on the situation by press time Wednesday.

In a May 8 interview, Medina explained that Woodman had left the employment of the county, effective immediately.

She stated that, following a meeting between herself, Woodman and Weaver on May 8, a “mutual agreement” had been reached for Woodman to depart his position and the county to pay out his contract until the end of 2024.

The BoCC will consider next steps in terms of the potential appointment of an interim county manager and the hiring process for a new manager at a special meeting at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, Medina indicated.