Council members react to City Manager’s resignation
Cunningham: "The writing was on the wall"
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – “The writing was on the wall” – that’s how one council member responded to City Manager Mike Letcher’s resignation Tuesday morning, after the recent controversies regarding the emergency call center and mismanagement with Tucson’s Parkwise.
Letcher, who has been at his position since 2008, has taken hit after hit after hit – and Councilwoman Karin Uhlich said many people have an unfair assessment of him. She believes he has brought transparency and accountability to a tough job.
“In my view, in many ways, the criticism is like killing the messenger. He’s identifying problems and fixing things to the best of his ability, which is what we wanted him to do,” Uhlich told KGUN9 News. “I actually think that he has been honest and has offered real integrity.”
Councilman Paul Cunningham argued that Letcher has not done enough in certain areas – and he said that is evidenced by constant scrutiny of Letcher’s missteps.
“The biggest problem so far is that we’re averaging a fiasco a week with what’s going on. To me that means that obviously things aren’t getting done,” Cunningham said. “At this point, I’ve decided that I’ve got some questions about his judgment and I’m really, really concerned about whether or not he’s on top of things.”
A recent “fiasco” included a system upgrade at the 911 call center in late May, plagued with technical glitches and low morale, forcing an abrupt management transfer over to the Tucson Fire Department in early August. A more recent controversy is Tucson’s Parkwise, which involve possible criminal conduct over missing money and over security concerns.
“I think it’s premature to say whether or not he’s actually criminally liable for what happened to Parkwise, though I will say he is the manager and he’s the one holding the bag. He’s the one ultimately responsible,” Cunningham said.
One of Letcher’s biggest critics is Councilman Steve Kozachik, whom Letcher mentioned by name multiple times in his resignation letter to mayor and council.
“It’s totally unprofessional of him. To me it’s not a personal thing; it’s whether or not he’s up for the job,” Kozachik said. “There’s no transparency or accountability … He’s clearly lashing out, defending himself.”
However, Uhlich cautioned that Letcher’s performance should be taken in the context of a bad economy and the challenges that come with being city manager.
“No doubt Mr. Letcher has helped us identify some real issues within certain departments and those need to be cleaned up,” Uchlich said. “I actually think he has been an honest man and he has offered real integrity.”
Mayor and council could still take action in the coming weeks: Instead of accepting Letcher’s resignation, they could fire him or come to a compromise such as moving his resignation date up from August of 2012, as he noted in his memo. Termination of Letcher’s employment requires four votes from council members.