Jack Johnston no longer is the district manager for the Pueblo West Metropolitan District. His contract was terminated Tuesday night by the board of directors during their regular meeting.
“The majority of the people on the board wanted to terminate the contract,” board Chairman Lew Quigley simply said about the matter on Wednesday. “No particular reason, just a different direction. There’s no criticism of Jack; just the board wanted to terminate the contract.”
The vote was 3-2 in favor of the termination. Quigley made the motion, which was voted for by board members Mark Carmel and Judy Leonard, while board members Jerry Martin and Barbara Bernard voted against the measure.
Martin said he was surprised by the motion to terminate.
“Myself and Director Bernard felt blindsided by this action. We were not aware of any such impending action, while it appeared that the other two directors were seemingly not surprised by Director Quigley’s motion to terminate Mr. Johnston’s employment.”
Martin requested the action be tabled until the next meeting so Johnston could have a proper hearing, but the motion was denied.
“Mr. Johnston was not given any formal performance reviews by members of the board in which any perceived shortcomings could have been discussed,” Martin said. “I feel that any individual should have that opportunity prior to any dismissal action. And, in my opinion, he has performed his duties in a satisfactory manner for the betterment of the Pueblo West community.”
Quigley said because Colorado is an at-will state, employees are at-will and “are subject to the desires of the elected or appointed boards.” Johnston was not fired — the contract was simply terminated.
Johnston was hired by the metro district board in October 2010 in a unanimous vote. He was the third district manager hired in a 11/2 year span, and replaced Larry Howe-Kerr who resigned from the position in April of that year. Don Saling was fired from the position in March 2009.
Prior to becoming the district manager, Johnston was the executive director of the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo Authority. He transferred to Pueblo in 2006 as general manager for AT&T and went to HARP in 2008.
Pueblo West Fire Chief Brian Caserta was appointed interim district manager during the search for a replacement. Quigley said he is confident Caserta will be a strong leader for the community during the change.
“With him, we will continue to provide a good service to the citizens of Pueblo West,” Quigley said.
Searching for a new district manager is a lengthy process that is expected to take four to six months.
“Since the election a short three months ago that seated a new majority, I quickly understood certain board members did not like the general existence or terms of a management contract negotiated by a previous board, which was formally expressed,” Johnston said.
“I am very pleased it was publicly emphasized this was not a personnel action reflective of me personally or my performance for which the board — as a positive indication — never felt a need or desire to evaluate during my entire tenure. Public sector executive management comes with both risks and rewards. I’m proud of the many accomplishments achieved and it was a privilege to serve my community over the last four years.”
© Copyright 2014 The Pueblo Chieftain & Star Journal Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.