Brighton's city council voted Tuesday night to place its city manager on administrative leave.
According to City Council member Matt Johnston, the controversy began after city manager Philip Rodriguez wanted to investigate what he said was $70 million in utility fee overcharges.
Johnston said the fund was intended for special water projects, several of which were left incomplete. Johnston accused the city of price gouging water rates by slowly and systematically increasing rates.
He also accused the council members in favor of suspending Rodriguez of illegally setting up their votes ahead of time in meetings that should have been open to the public. Johnston called for recalls.
The vote to place Rodriguez on leave was 5-3. Some members of council questioned Rodriguez's ethics and said they had lost their trust in his ability to run the city. Others criticized the move to suspend him as vindictive and unfounded.
The mayor has called the matter a personnel issue.
"These are very difficult times and I will tell you that my decision, when it is made, will not be made lightly and is not made on the spur of the moment," said Mayor Pro Tem J. W. Edwards. "This would be an appropriate time for me to make the motion to provide notice of the council's intent to consider ... the removal of Philip Rodriguez."
Edwards voted in favor of suspending Rodriguez.
Councilmember Mary Ellen Pollack argued that "not getting along" with employees was not justification to remove Rodriguez.
"When are we going to put a stop to this nonsense? Because, honest to God, this is pure nonsense," said Pollack.
Rodriguez received a positive work evaluation a few months ago, according to Pollack.
During the special City Council meeting Tuesday, the chambers were packed with Brighton residents. Many called for transparency.
Rodriguez said the council meeting was the first time he had heard some of the allegations.
"It is, I think, only appropriate that I just tell you that I am confident in my ethics and my integrity and I hope that that stands," Rodriguez said.
Some in the crowd in the council chambers booed and shouted "recall" as the vote result was announced.
The council will vote next week on whether to remove Rodriguez permanently.
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