Emails obtained by Yellow Scene Magazine through an open records request show that the firing of former Dacono City Manager A.J. Euckart was more than six months in the making.
YS broke the original story on February 14th, 2023.
Euckart was terminated on February 13th in a surprise motion made by Dacono Mayor Pro Tem Kathryn Wittman as the city council meeting came to an end. Council members Jim Turini, Jackie Thomas, and Danny Long all voted with Wittman to remove Euckart despite his 20 years of experience in the position. The emails obtained shed some light on the reasons behind Euckart’s ouster, but questions about the way Euckart was terminated remain unanswered.
In one email from August 2022, councilmember Turini told councilmember Doris Crespo that Euckart was overpaid and that the city should use some of his salary to fund additional construction projects like a new recreation center. At the time of his firing, Euckart’s salary was around $160,000 per year, which is lower than the town manager salaries in nearby towns like Frederick, Firestone, and Erie–all of whom make $180,000 per year or more.
“The seniors all say we HAVE to do something about upper management salaries,” Turini wrote in the email. “They are way out of proportion for a city of our size. I assured them we are aware of it and we are discussing it. They said if council wants more money to take it from city management salaries.”
Crespo told YS that she never responded to the email, and found it “off-putting.”
An email thread forwarded by Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine to Dacono council member Thomas on January 25, 2023—about two weeks before Euckart was terminated—shows there was some disagreement between Euckart and officials from Erie and Frederick over whether Dacono would match funds for a highway improvements study through the Denver Regional Council of Governments.
Town of Erie Principal Transportation Planner Carlos Hernandez inquired about Dacono chipping in matching funds for the project on January 4. Two days later, Euckart told Hernandez that Dacono’s interest and involvement in the project “doesn’t go beyond our staff and Council members attending DRCOG and CDOT regional meetings.”
Hernandez’s comments led Euckart to conclude that “it seems the representation of Dacono’s support for these items has gotten out in front of our standard internal practice,” which includes official discussions by city council and adopting a formal memorandum of understanding before funds are spent.
Outside of Euckart’s firing, the emails also raise questions about how the four council members—Thomas, Turini, Long, and Wittman—are conducting public business.
All four council members responded to YS open records request by stating that they “have no responsive records” about Euckart’s firing. However, the emails exchanged between Turini and Crespo came from Turini’s personal email address. There were no other council members copied on the emails either.
“If three members of the five-member city council discussed public business by email or text message, and that public business concerned their policy-making function, that’s a “meeting” under the [Colorado] open meetings law,” Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, told YS in an emailed statement. “But it’s a meeting the public wasn’t invited to, didn’t know about, and couldn’t observe or listen to in real time.”
The emails also raise questions about how the four council members organized a door-to-door event on March 5th where they asked residents of Dacono’s Sweetgrass neighborhood to sign a petition opposing the recall for Turini and Thomas. The Longmont Times-Call was first to report on the event.
Thomas told the Times-Call that the weekend event was not in violation of Colorado’s open meetings law.
“We’re out doing our First Amendment rights,” Thomas told the newspaper. “There was no meeting.”
This story was updated with comments from Doris Crespo.