Mayor Kris Sallee has been silent publicly following her abrupt resignation Wednesday morning, amid concerns aired by City Recorder Scott Jorgensen that she harassed him on paternity leave and created “what could likely be considered a hostile work environment” for him and other staff members, but her supporters have not.
Just nine months ago, she was elected to the mayor’s seat over incumbent Bill Graupp with 60 percent of the vote, and it appears many of those who put her there will not be so quick to abandon their support, at least not until a fuller picture is known regarding the allegations made by Jorgensen.
Though the city recorder’s statement to councilors included copies of emails and other attachments to confirm much of his narrative, some of the most serious allegations, such as a heated conversation shortly after the birth of his daughter and an impromptu “performance evaluation” on Aug. 22, happened by phone or in person.
In Facebook discussions of the news, some Aurorans simply refused to believe the characterization presented by Jorgensen, saying “Kris wouldn’t do that.”
“This is terrible news for our little town,” one resident said. “I think Kris puts her heart and soul into trying to do a good job for our community. Also, I’d love to hear Kris’s side of the story. When it comes to ‘harassing the city recorder,’ I personally don’t believe it.”
Others found the evidence rather persuasive.
“Reading the latest agenda, the attached complaint from recorder to council and the attachments, it appears as though there were adequate grounds for the complaint,” resident Dane Chichester said. “The mayor resigning without fight, unfortunately, makes it appear as if it’s all true. I, too, am disappointed, as she could’ve been the change this city and the council needs.”
Tom Potter, who unsuccessfully ran for city council last November when Sallee was elected mayor, and who is also a longtime watcher of city hall, said he thought her intentions were good.
“From my experience in attending council meetings beginning 5 years ago, Kris has attempted repeatedly to get the council to make significant positive change for the benefit of the city,” he said. “It has been one of her goals as mayor to hold the council accountable to the needs and interests of the citizens of Aurora, and in my opinion, she has taken the appropriate steps in her efforts to accomplish this. Council however, has not been terribly cooperative in support of her in this regard. ‘Change’ is a huge ship to turn in a sea of that size, especially with the current at her bow the entire time.”
Many were just sad that things turned out the way they did.
“Sorry to hear this,” Aurora resident Byron Schriever said. “Thank you, Kris, for all your hard work for the city of Aurora.”
The remaining four members of the Aurora City Council (Council President Tom Heitmanek was out of town, but appeared via phone conference) met in an emergency session Thursday night. Sallee’s resignation was accepted unanimously, and the board also voted to post her position as vacant.
Applications to fill the remaining 15 months of her term will be accepted through Sept. 30. Qualified applicants must reside within the city limits of Aurora and be a registered voter.
The council will review the applications and appoint Sallee’s replacement at their next regular meeting on Oct. 8.
Councilors also plan to meet in executive session on Sept. 16, with City Attorney Sarah Kendrick present. This meeting was scheduled during the last board meeting, prior to Sallee’s resignation.
It was to concern the role of the mayor in overseeing city staff in light of the concerns expressed by Jorgensen, and whether that presented a legal risk for the city.