“Shady… Crony” in Denver Parks And Rec, Says City Council Member – CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – The two deputy directors of the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, who were appointed by Mayor Michael Hancock, saw their job classifications change last month to one that offers heavy protections against dismissal and received salary increases of almost $ 40,000 more per year each. Denver City Council member Amanda Sawyer called the process “shady … favoritism … (and) cronyism.”
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âThis is what it looks like and this is what people see,â Sawyer said in an interview with CBS4.
CBS4’s investigation focused on the process that resulted in changing job classifications for Assistant Parks and Recreation Directors Scott Gilmore and John Martinez.
Both were nominated by Hancock, which means they served at the will of the mayor and could be sacked at any time by Hancock, or whoever is elected next mayor of Denver. Gilmore had been nominated by Hancock for 10 years and Martinez had been nominated by the mayor since 2017.
But last month, Parks and Recreation Manager Happy Haynes had both jobs reclassified as Career Services Authority positions. CSA jobs offer much more job security than appointed positions and firing a career service employee can be a long and difficult proposition.
The newly created career service jobs were then posted for applications on September 7 and were only open to city employees, according to city records obtained by CBS4.
Six city employees applied and the two permanent career service jobs were awarded to Gilmore and Martinez. The new job classification means it will be extremely difficult for Denver’s next mayor to replace the two deputy directors.
By selecting Gilmore and Martinez for the newly created positions, each was offered a raise from $ 132,000 per year to $ 170,000 per year, an increase of almost 29%.
âI think it’s an amazing amount of money,â Sawyer said.
Neither Gilmore nor Martinez responded to CBS4 emails.
The beneficial change in job classifications for Gilmore and Martinez is commonly known in political circles as “burying,” distributing permanent career positions to politically appointed people near the end of a mayor’s term.
Hancock is on a time-limited basis and will step down in 2023.
The process is legal, but means Denver’s next mayor will inherit the high-paid, high-ranking deputy department directors they may not necessarily want.
âWhat it does is it annoys the next mayor with employees that they might prefer not to be the people running the department,â Sawyer said. âNow they can’t do it because these positions are career services and they’re taken. “
Susan Barnes-Gelt, former Denver City Council member and scathing critic of the Hancock administration, said the move could have big implications.
âThis has an impact on the ability of the next mayor to fully realize his agenda,â she said. “It’s cynical, it’s corrupt and it’s mean.”
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Barnes-Gelt called the salary increases “unfathomable” and questioned whether the selection process was honest and fair or simply rigged to accommodate Gilmore and Martinez.
âNo doubt,â Barnes-Gelt said. “It was completely cooked before it was put in the oven.”
The parameters of the work seemed tailor-made for Gilmore and Martinez. One of the requirements, according to the job posting, was “extensive experience in managing the park operations and recreation division.”
Haynes, a mayor-appointed person who is the executive director of Parks and Recreation, initially refused to discuss what happened with CBS4, but later relented, apparently under pressure from the mayor’s office.
âI’ve been asked to call you,â she told CBS4’s Brian Maass this week.
She declined to speak on camera, but explained that the positions had been reclassified because assistant managers at other agencies are career services employees and both Gilmore and Martinez have “proven track records and are well qualified. “.
She called the transition a “business decision … to ensure continuity … to keep progress on key game plan initiatives.”
She said it was important for the Parks and Recreation Department to retain employees who “know the ropes” and have “institutional knowledge”.
âWe want people who know the city and the agency,â Haynes said. “The process was conducted exactly as it was meant to be under the Career Service Rules, and we followed it.”
Asked about the generous salary increases, she said the dollar amount was determined by human resources and aligns their salaries with other similar deputy director positions in the city.
Although the positions were not posted until September 7, Martinez apparently had some prior knowledge as his application was dated September 2.
âI wasn’t aware of this,â Haynes said.
The mayor’s office declined to address the reclassifications in an interview, but issued a written statement to CBS4.
âIt is not uncommon for highly skilled and experienced people to move from appointees to permanent career services,â the mayor’s office wrote. âWe fully support the decision of Managing Director Haynes. “
Sawyer is not moved by the explanation and wonders if the process was transparent and straightforward.
âIt looks terrible,â Sawyer said. “It undermines people’s confidence in their government and demoralizes the rest of the parks and recreation staff.”
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Barnes-Gelt offered a more accurate assessment of the message sent by the move: âThank you, Denver, you took care of us for 12 years and now yours. “