Council votes to oust Letcher

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

TUCSON, Ariz. -- In the wake of Tucson City Manager Mike Letcher's vindictive letter of resignation out on Tuesday, the members of the Tucson City Council voted Wednesday to terminate his services, effective Friday.

In his letter, Letcher stated plans to stay until August 31, 2012. 

In his 6-page memo, Letcher worked to defend himself but aggressively went after his critics.  He focused most of his wrath on Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik and his involvement in the recent issues involving the city's 911 system.  Letcher quoted directly from both private emails and text messages between him and Kozachik.  Even Mayor Bob Walkup, who usually works to stay above the fray of council issues, told Fox 11 revealing those messages was "inappropriate".

Kozachik said Letcher needs to be reminded that he works for the council, not the other way around.  Kozachik called Letcher a "wounded animal."

In the memo, Letcher detailed his actions involving the 911 controversy.  It had to do with the city installing a new system, but there were problems almost from the start and city employees who worked with the system were claiming their efforts to point out the problems were being ignored.  At one point, Kozachik organized a news conference with eight of the dispatchers weeks after Letcher had publicly said the new system was working fine.  There are reports a 10-year-old girl died after problems with the system delayed her receiving proper care.

Letcher had repeatedly ordered city employees not to talk about the problems.

Revelations in the past month of apparent corruption and financial mismanagement in the city's Parkwise department are also on the table for discussion both in executive and open sessions of Wednesday's meeting.  In his memo, Letcher acknowledges he was wrong for not terminating Parkwise supervisor Chris Leighton last year when the issues first came out and since then he claims the city legal department won't let him terminate Leighton. 

In the memo, Letcher revealed for the first time allegations of financial impropriety in Tucson Water, the city-owned water system that provides water for customers both in and out of the city limits.  Fox 11 News has learned it has to do with employee allegations of overtime abuse by other employees.  Letcher says they plan to use an outside audit firm to find out what happened.  Tucson Water Interim Director Andrew Quigley confirmed to Fox 11 News Wednesday it involves $31,000 in overtime paid to city employees two years ago for work allegedly not performed.

The council needed four votes to remove Letcher.  Under the City Charter, the mayor cannot vote on the hiring or firing of the City Manager.  The vote was unanimous.

The motion to remove Letcher was made by Councilwoman Karin Uhlich.

Based on the terms of his contract, Letcher will be paid for 6 months.    In 2010, Letcher was paid a total of $205,702.91 according to city documents obtained by Fox 11 News.  That includes over $5,200 for vehicle and parking allowances.