Attorney silences public comments on ousted personnel
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
The city of Cripple Creek will take its first step this week in dealing with serious questions surrounding the future of marketing and special events in the Teller gaming community
A special workshop has been scheduled for Wednesday, July 24 in the city council chambers at 5 p.m. The council must decide what action it will take in handling this vital promotional role, touted by some insiders as extremely important in determining the community’s ultimate success. Or, the council could opt for naming an interim director.
The meeting comes in the wake of the complete axing of department personnel, including head veteran marketing chief, Steve Kitzman, and the agency’s head coordinator, Kelly Branyik. Although no details have been released, they were reportedly dismissed partially over a snafu over a recent July 4th fireworks celebration, which was delayed several days due to a lack of communications with the fireworks supplier, even though the city heavily promoted the event for the July 4 date. City Administrator Mark Campbell declined comment on the firing, but indicated that the fireworks debacle played heavily into the termination action.
Regardless, the topic of marketing in Cripple Creek has historically become a controversial subject, with the city directly or indirectly terminating more than 10 marketing directors and head agency personnel since the beginning of gaming. No agency has appeared to be under the spotlight more than the city’s marketing and special events department, which has operated with a revolving door syndrome for directors. Part of the controversy is due to a variety of expectations about marketing, and a spree of opinions about the best way to promote Cripple Creek.
Undoubtedly, this will become a big issue in the forthcoming city elections.
Opinions Not Lacking Over Marketing Shake-up
At last week’s council meeting, several residents publicly addressed the council, and expressed their views about the past marketing administration, and the direction the city should chart when it comes to events and promotions.
But for the most part, their comments were silenced by city attorney Erin Smith, who wasn’t shy about blowing her lawyer referee whistle. She allowed citizens to talk about their future desires in regards to the marketing of the city and future events, but wouldn’t let them mention anything about Kitzman and his assistant. According to Smith, the latest action was a personnel decision, of which the council is not involved in.
Business owner and Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School Board President Tim Braun made the first attempt to talk about the department termination action that has commanded much discussion in the community in the last week. He said he supported the city’s decision, and referred to Kitzman as a “nice guy,” and then appeared ready to discuss problem areas.
But Braun was instantly cut off by the city attorney. She again stressed that this was a personnel decision that couldn’t be discussed publicly.
Braun said he still endorsed the city’s action and had a hard time keeping quiet on this issue. “We realize there are tough decisions to be made,” said Braun.
The biggest critic of the past marketing regime, based on last week’s commentary, was business owner John Freeman. Like Braun, he faced frequent interruptions from Smith, who advised him to direct his comments to the future of marketing in Cripple Creek. Freeman staunchly complained about the latest July 4th snafu, and added that the city had a problem two years ago in not doing Independence Day fireworks festivities on Independence Day. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” said Freeman, in mentioning initial discussions about having the celebration on the weekend, instead of on July 4. (This was the original plan of the marketing department, which was nixed by the council.)
“My concern is about moving forward,” said the business owner. Although he admitted he wasn’t happy with the previous marketing administration, he cited the recent changes as a good opportunity for the city. As for possible changes, Freeman expressed concerns with having more events in the winter and spring. He also raised a few red flags about the future of the Ice Festival, saying, “One of the biggest events may not return.”
But ultimately, the business owner mentioned the importance of “moving forwards in a constructive manner.”
However, not all the comments about current marketing were negative. Jim Wear, the promoter of the Salute to American Veterans Rally, lauded efforts the past marketing department made to assist their event and give the rally more national exposure. But even with the personnel changes, Wear contended that the 2019 rally is poised for a successful run with a great lineup.
The council was mostly silent about the marketing shakeup, but wanted to proceed with a workshop as soon as possible. They favored Campbell’s idea of a July 24 public workshop.
The marketing discussion, though, wasn’t without its theatrical moments last week. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Hazlett acknowledged that he received an anonymous letter, which earlier in the day he described as heavily critical of city administrator Mark Campbell and one filled with inflammatory comments. “This is what I do to with anonymous letters,” blasted Hazlett, who instantly ripped up the envelope and correspondence. Councilwoman Meghan Rozell, though, disagreed with Hazlett’s actions. She stated that she had an “exact opposite” opinion.
Rozell has opposed the actions taken to terminate the marketing employees, and questions how this situation was handled by certain council members and by the administrator. However, the councilwoman refrained from making any public comments on the issue last week. She has indicated, though, that the marketing situation will be addressed in her mayoral platform.
City Elections Around the Corner
Rozell, who won a seat to the council in the last election, announced her bid for mayor last winter. She is expected to face competition from a former veteran member of council.
This November, voters will decide the mayoral position, and two council positions in what could become a highly contested and high stakes election. In fact, two of the seats will feature no incumbent contenders, making them a wide open competition. Mayor Bruce Brown is term-limited, along with Councilman Chris Hazlett. The other council seat up for grabs is that of Tom Litherland, who plans to run again.
Eligible candidates can pick up petition on Aug 6 and must return them by Aug. 26 with the proper amount of signatures. For more information, call 719-689-2502.