Some Council questions to staff “hot potatoes,” require mayor approval to answer

Published: December 19, 2013, 12:57 am, by Monica Mendoza

Some City Council questions to city staffers are just to hot to answer without the mayor’s approval.

In the days leading up the city’s big win at the state for its City for Champions proposal, one city council member tried to get information from the city’s economic vitality specialist about the proposal.

Council member Joel Miller asked Bob Cope, the city’s economic vitality specialist, for information on bonding capacity as it related to the City for Champions financing proposal. Cope’s response: “I am a direct report to the mayor, I must ask you to direct such requests and communications directly through the mayor. I will be glad to respond in accordance with his direction.”

It’s not typical for the city staff to deny a council member’s request for information or force council members to go through the mayor’s office, but the City for Champions is a “hot potato” and Cope is one of six staffers who report directly to the mayor, said Chief of Staff Laura Neumann.

“The correct protocol is to ask the staff and copy the mayor,” Neumann said. “In the case of this request, it was a question about the financing mechanism. Joel was asking for preliminary numbers – meaning they could change depending on what happened with the state vote.”

Cope, she said, was being cautious not to release information when “it was a moving target.”

Miller said he assumed Cope was free to answer questions about the City for Champions financial numbers since he presented them to state officials in a public meeting just one day before his request.

Neumann said she expects Council to now get the answers it seeks. The City of Colorado Springs got everything it asked for Monday when the Colorado Economic Development Commission awarded an estimated $120.5 million over the next 30 years to help finance City for Champions.