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New T or C city manager Bruce Swingle will spend first days assessing “what is going on”

by Kathleen Sloan | April 12, 2021
3 min read

After only 15 minutes of closed-door deliberations, the Truth or Consequences City Commission came into open session on April 1 and approved a $150,000 per year, two-year contract with Bruce Swingle as city manager. Swingle, who was lured away from his position as Sierra County manager by his interest in helping T or C address its challenges (see Related stories below) and a raise in salary, will start work for the city on May 3.

Swingle told the Sun, in an interview today, that his salary with the county “is just under $135,000” a year.

T or C will pay Bruce Swingle about $15,000 more a year in base salary than he is making at the county, but his contract with the city stipulates he must be available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Source: LinkedIn

In his first days, Swingle said: “I think the first thing I will do is take some time to look at what is going on with the city. Everyone has an opinion. I will really look and see what’s happening and assess it.”

“That’s across the board—in all operational elements of the city,” Swingle said. “Some things will surface quickly and then you prioritize from there. A holistic assessment will take longer.”

Swingle’s contract stipulates the city may terminate him, or Swingle may resign, at any time during the two-year term. If the city terminates Swingle without cause, he will be paid three months’ salary. No severance is due if “such termination was caused by the misconduct of the Employee.” Swingle must give 30 days’ notice if he intends to resign before the two years elapses. By mutual consent, the contract may be renewed.

Swingle will not accrue sick days, overtime or vacation time, but may take leave at his discretion. Health and retirement benefits are part of the contract. Unlike other employees, Swingle will have no recourse to a grievance process.

Since he is to be available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, the contract states, he will be given a city vehicle. Gas, maintenance and insurance will be paid for by the city.

Swingle may use his private cell phone for city business, and the city will reimburse him $50 a month.

The city will pay for Swingle’s professional dues and subscriptions, as well as for professional training and travel. He must notify the city commission if he is to be out of town, and he is to remain in touch with the commission while away.

Should suit be brought against Swingle in his professional capacity, the city will pay for his defense, “unless the act or omission involved willful or wanton misconduct.”

In the meantime, to ensure the next county manager can pick up where he left off, Swingle is writing status reports on ongoing projects and helping the county find a replacement for him. The Sierra County Commission held a special meeting today to discuss the soon-to-be-vacant county manager position. Swingle said the commission authorized him to “execute a professional services agreement to bring Serina Bartoo in as interim manager.”

Bartoo was the county’s human resources director and righthand assistant to Swingle until she resigned about a year ago to home-school her children during the pandemic.

The county is currently advertising the county manager job in the Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Cruces and the local newspaper, Swingle said, as well as with the New Mexico Association of Counties and the New Mexico Municipal League. The application period, Swingle said, will “remain open until filled.”

author
Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at kathleen.sloan@gmail.com or 575-297-4146.
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HAVE YOU SEEN?

Third day on the job, Swingle brings transparency and reality to T or C’s budgeting process, Parts 1 and 2

In addition to contending with a $1.6 million deficit in the fiscal year 2021-2022 draft budget, new city manager Bruce Swingle informed the city commissioners that they must play a lead role in identifying departmental spending priorities and cuts and devising a plan within two years to end the practice of balancing the budget with transfers from utility fees.

Peter A. Lawton (T or C) commented on Part 1: It is nice to see there finally seems to be an adult in charge in our city. Great article!

Barb Dewell (T or C) commented on Part 2: I’m really surprised so much is going on in T or C that the commissioners don’t know anything about. It’s very disappointing. They don’t even appear to want to ask questions. It seems reports are made, Luna makes her comments, no one else has a question or comment, and the issue either goes the way Commissioner Luna wants or it’s tabled, I guess. This isn’t how our city should be run. Thank goodness for City Manager Swingle. I hope he is able to corral all this spending and these very loose approvals and get the city finances back on track. I know most residents are really worried about all this, as I’ve been, and we have high hopes for City Manager Swingle’s leadership.

Ronn Fenn (T or C) commented on Part 2: For a long time I’ve been questioning why this airport is a T or C-funded facility and not a county facility with its location about five miles from the recognized city proper and serving a largely non-resident user base. It and its annual transfer funds to support its operation needs to be investigated. This facility is not and probably never will be an income-producing asset. Its operating costs should be spread throughout the county and not borne solely by T or C’s residents. Pie in the Sky is not likely to land in T or C.

Lydia Dixon (T or C) commented on Part 2: This is great reporting. People would not know most of this if it were not published here. Thanks!

 

 

Welcome, Bruce!

Now that you’ve had a couple days to settle in as city manager, please consider implementing these 10 doable fixes that will make the governance of the City of Truth or Consequences more transparent, responsive and effective.

Reader Joey Perry (T or C) commented: Great suggestions. Here’s one more. Make the meeting agendas more informational. In addition to the ordinance number, include a sentence or two (in plain English) saying what the item is about and why it is on the agenda—e.g., what is the issue? This would help me decide if I want to attend a meeting, or write a letter to the manager or the commissioners, expressing my views ahead of the meeting.


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