A sudden showdown between a Denver City Councilwoman and the leader of the city’s transportation department took center stage in a flash during Monday night’s City Council meeting.
Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer targeted Denver's Department of Transportation and Infrastructure with what she claims are a lack of accountability and unwillingness to work with her office.
She told other council members late last week that she had become so frustrated that she was willing to call out every transportation contract at council meetings to vote each one of them down.
“I have serious concerns with the way the agency is interacting in my community,” she announced at Monday's meeting. “It is unacceptable that the department that provides our infrastructure lacks accountability to my community and to the residents of Denver.”
Officials with the department and with the city disagree with Sawyer's assertions and believe she is putting critical city functions at risk.
Sawyer said her office has come up against “significant barriers” for months that have prevented her office from doing its job effectively. In a text message to Colorado Politics, she said she has documented evidence of the agency failing to do its job, such as showing up late and leaving early for community meetings, not communicating with Sawyer’s office about those meetings, and neglecting to provide material information in a timely manner.
Despite bringing her concerns to the agency’s executive director, the Office of Human Resources and Mayor Michael Hancock, she said she has received “zero support.”
The lack of action, she said, pushed her to not only air her grievances publicly but also recently bring forward a charter change proposal that would require City Council to approve all mayoral cabinet appointees.
The issue, Denver7 reports, is between Sawyer and Dana Hoffman, her District 5 office’s liaison within DOTI. Sawyer declined to confirm or deny the staff member in question.
Eulois Cleckley, who was appointed by Hancock in 2019 to lead the city’s newly formed transportation department, said he was “disappointed” by Sawyer’s approach and “completely disagree[d] with the characterization” of his department.
“This is an issue between Councilwoman Sawyer and one employee in the department,” he countered. “I do not agree with this type of tactic,” adding that it puts the “entire city at risk” by sabotaging DOTI's ability to deliver projects and services.
Sawyer called his response a “personal attack,” which she said only further exemplifies the “significant concerns about lack of respect and congeniality” between the agency and her office. At Monday's meeting, instead of the vote on contracts, she requested her fellow council members join her in writing a letter to the mayor’s office to further the conversation.
Meanwhile, Hancock's office firmly sides with Cleckley.
“The people of Denver expect us to put aside personal differences and work together to serve their best interests,” mayor’s office spokeswoman Theresa Marchetta said in an email to Colorado Politics.
“There are better ways to address a personnel issue with one employee than jeopardizing the work of an entire city agency,” she said.