WALSENBURG- Another city official is jumping ship and more could follow. City Clerk Lori Sheldon tendered her resignation and will be leaving in the near future. Sheldon was voted in by the city council as city clerk in January and also did other work for the city in the utility department. She has been employed with the City of Walsenburg for about four years.
Sheldon joins City Administrator Alan Hein and Finance Director Krystel Vigil in deciding to leave. Mike Sheldon, Walsenburg’s IT person, also chose not to bid his services when it came up for consideration recently. Mike is Lori’s husband and is the son of former Mayor Edi Sheldon. These four individuals join City Councilman James England who resigned last week after three years on city council.
While both Mike and Lori Sheldon worked several years for the City of Walsenburg, they could never shake off the criticism that they were hired during the time former Mayor Edi Sheldon was serving. The charges of nepotism were often thrown about. They both applied for jobs advertised by the city. Lori was chosen over five other candidates by administrator Eric Pearson, to work in the utility office while Mike was hired as an independent contractor by the city council. His IT bid at the time was $35 per hour while another bid was for $75 per hour plus travel expenses to Walsenburg when needed. Despite the difference in savings, some critics of former Mayor Sheldon cried “nepotism” and said the out-of-town contractor should have been hired anyway despite the higher cost. For the record, Mayor Sheldon did not participate in interviews or vote on the hiring of either.
Beth Neece, assistant administrator, is currently running the daily operation of the city and has been since Hein left the city. Neece, Hein, Vigil and Mike Sheldon have all been criticized or had their actions questioned by the mayor and some members of the city council along with the Betterment of Walsenburg group, comprised mostly of current and former city employees, who all “want to take back the city.” The criticism has come in meetings and in letters to the editor in the local newspapers. Numerous city employees, past and present feel that the mayor and some members of the city council have created a hostile working environment but are not willing to talk publicly about it at this time.
The city council told the Betterment for Walsenburg Committee earlier this year that they could speak out about city concerns without fear of retribution for their jobs, since most were employees of the city. Others were people laid off by the city late last year and early this year. Instead of commenting on how the city could operate more effectively or save money, they are generally lashing out at their bosses or fellow employees such as Vigil, the finance director at the time. This has allegedly created an atmosphere where the employees appear to have the upper hand over management, which has felt powerless because of the “no retribution” action of the city council.
One city employee was suspended last week by Beth Neece for two weeks dealing with an undisclosed incident. Sources allege the employee acted in a disrespectful manner toward Neece. It is said that Mayor Bruce Quintana supported Neece’s action in this instance.
The city council has yet to advertise for a new administrator to replace Alan Hein who resigned two weeks ago. Neece is willing to continue serving the people of Walsenburg at least until a new administrator can be named.