The Paonia Town Council made the decision to hire Steve Rabe as interim town manager at its May 27 meeting. On June 10, the council approved his contract following a background check. Rabe will serve three to six months as an independent contractor for the Town of Paonia.
Trustee Charles Stewart said he was excited that Rabe was coming to work for the town.
One of the primary functions of the interim town manager is to assess whether the town needs and can afford a full-time town manager. Trustee Eric Goold asked Rabe if after his assessment, Rabe would be open to recommending the town not hire a town manager.
Rabe said he was. “I did the same thing at South Fork,” Rabe explained. “One of the things I’m going to have to do very quickly is to determine, number one, if there is a need for that position or if it can be filled by some other member of staff based on the duties. And, number two, and more importantly, can you afford it. You’ve got a DOLA grant that is going to last you for three years. I want to make sure you can be successful in retaining that person after a three-year period.”
He added, “I’ve got no vested interest … If it’s a fact you don’t need [a town manager] and you can’t afford one, I’ll tell you. I’m here to do the best interests of the town not a future employee.”
Goold then asked Rabe if he had the authority from the board to hire or fire department heads and employees. “Are we empowering him to make staffing decisions?” asked Goold of his fellow trustees.
“That’s not a good thing,” Rabe answered. “CIRSA really frowns on that sort of stuff.” The board appointed the department heads, and it would be difficult for him to remove them, he said.
“I think the council wants to try and remove themselves from personnel matters as much as possible because of the potential for liability,” Rabe said. “I’ve been in federal court many times, and it’s not any fun. It’s more prone for councils to make errors than it would be for a professional manager that is making decisions on the best interests of the town.”
However, Rabe said he was here as interim town manager “to do what you want me to do.” He said a permanent town manager will have his own ideas.
Trustee Ross King said the board had never approved an organizational chart. Finance officer Cindy Jones clarified that it was included in the 2014 budget which was approved by the board.
The council unanimously approved Rabe’s contract. He began his duties on the following morning, June 11.
Rabe has previous experience as an interim town manager at South Fork, Limon, Elizabeth and Rocky Ford.