Letters shed light on City Hall drama
Appeal Staff Writer
Correspondence obtained by the Nevada Appeal reveals that Mayor Marv Teixeira asked City Manager Linda Ritter to resign earlier this month. Ritter responded by contacting an attorney and writing to Teixeira that his actions had exposed the city to “serious liability.”
She also agreed to resign if the city paid her the full salary on her contract up until its expiration in April 2009, approximately $200,000.
The two have different explanations for their rift. In a letter Ritter wrote to Teixeira on July 10, she states the mayor was angry over her reassignment of his wife, Liz Teixeira, who was the city’s community relations officer. Liz Teixeira resigned last week and sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors explaining her reasons.
Mayor Teixeira denies that was the reason he asked Ritter to resign.
“I felt that she could no longer be effective,” Teixeira said. He said there were “a number of issues” about her performance that bothered him, but he wouldn’t elaborate on them.
Also this week, Ritter formally applied for the vacant Lyon County manager position. The Lyon County Board of Commissioners meets Thursday and is expected to discuss her application, said Steve Englert, human resources director for Lyon County.
In her letter to the Carson City Board of Supervisors, Liz Teixeira denied disliking the new assignment, to spend 24 hours a week coordinating the city’s health and wellness program and the remainder of her 40-hour week continuing to organize the activities of Partnership Carson City, the anti-methamphetamine coalition.
“After reading the letter in which Ms. Ritter threatens the board with a lawsuit if you do not meet her demands to be paid until April 2009, I cannot stand by and allow the board to be extorted for compensation that is not earned,” she wrote. “She appears to be using me as her ‘bargaining chip.’ Therefore, I’m taking myself out of the equation.”
The Appeal obtained a copy of Ritter’s letter through a public-records request to the District Attorney’s Office. In the letter, Ritter wrote, “my career is extremely important to me, and I should not have my reputation sullied when I have done nothing wrong.”
She reiterated the positive job reviews she had received, including those from the mayor.
“… I believe I have done a good job for the Board of Supervisors during my four years in this position.”
The letter details what she views as the city’s vulnerability to a lawsuit, based partly on anti-nepotism rules. Other points include bad-faith breach of contract and violation of the open-meetings laws and her rights under the Civil Rights Act.
“I also believe this matter relates to my gender as evidenced by my discussions with the other two men on the Board in comparison to my discussions with the women on the board,” she wrote in the letter.
After detailing a potential lawsuit, Ritter wrote to Mayor Teixeira:
“There will be a lot of cost associated with taking this to court, in addition to the minimum lump sum six-month salary payment that the city will have to pay me under my contract. The city may also be liable for punitive damages based on intentional misconduct. You should also consider how this will look for you in the political arena, particularly since this dispute will largely center upon nepotism issues.”
In addition to asking for her salary to be paid into 2009, Ritter requested in her resignation offer that she receive health benefits for six months and all her accumulated leave hours.
Her letter said she would proceed with legal remedies if she did not get an answer by July 12.
The mayor and supervisors met with District Attorney Neil Rombardo on July 11. While the proceedings of that meeting were closed, supervisors stated afterward that Ritter would be allowed to keep her job.
Liz Teixeira’s letter differed from Ritter’s account on several points, including the amount she asked for in a buyout.
“I have endured an extremely hostile work environment since the May 17 board meeting. … I believe I have been treated most unfairly. Ms. Ritter has told various department heads that if I did not take her offer, my job would be eliminated immediately. To date, I still do not know what I have done to deserve such treatment as I have wronged no one.”
Contacted Tuesday, supervisors Robin Williamson and Shelly Aldean said they want Ritter to keep her job with the city.
The mayor’s asking Ritter to resign “took me by surprise,” Aldean said. “I didn’t see it coming. Sure, we have problems, but we were working toward resolving those problems. … Linda can’t micromanage all her departments.”
Supervisor Pete Livermore said he still has concerns about being properly informed about problems in city government and wants to see them addressed.
“My issue is totally separate, we’ve all agreed to work together” Livermore said. “With this, many people there always be differences in opinions.”
Efforts to reach Supervisor Richard Staub were unsuccessful.
Liz Teixeira’s official last day of work is July 25.
While Teixeira denied asking for a better assignment for his wife, he said he thought she could be assigned to duties that would provide a financial savings to the city instead of moving her duties from one department to another.
And the Human Resources responsibilities weren’t “permanent.” He suggested returning his wife to administering the Community Development Block Grant program, something she did earlier in her 18 years with the city and “a permanent position,” he said.
The employee handling that program now is Javier Ramirez, who is also the city’s citizen outreach coordinator.
“It’s a shell game,” Liz Teixeira said of the reason for the reassignment.
Ritter said, however, the new work assignment would result in cost savings to the city primarily because health-care costs would go down as a result of the employee-participation preventive health program now required by the city’s insurer, St. Mary’s HealthFirst.
“Liz’s background in community relations made her a logical choice for it,” Ritter said.
Moving the responsibilities around and allowing the cost to come from a different part of the city budget are also integral to allowing the hiring of a full-time internal auditor as a way to further tame the budget. It is part of the agenda for Thursday’s supervisors meeting, she also said.
About a week after Liz Teixeira changed duties, Ritter heard that Teixeira went to Ann Silver, the human resources director, to say she was unhappy and asked for a “buyout” in exchange for leaving her job.
Buyout amounts were presented by both sides, but no agreement was reached.
Then Ritter wrote to Marv Teixeira, “I was notified by several department heads that you appeared to be upset and that you were bringing them into your office and asking numerous questions.”
After talking to a couple of department heads, “you and I had a heated discussion during which I asked you whether your questions and your anger was related to the fact that your wife was not happy with her reassignment.
“We agreed to put all of that behind us and move on with the city’s interest. But it is clear that you have not put it behind you.”
The mayor said he talked about the situation with Staub, and that they talked to some managerial-level city staffers “about issues.”
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.