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.
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.”